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Posts Tagged ‘NEWS MEDIA’

THE NEWS MEDIA CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 13, 2018 at 12:03 am

The 1992 military courtroom drama, “A Few Good Men,” climaxes with a brutal exchange that has since become famous.

Jack Nicolson vs. Tom Cruise in “A Few Good Men”

The legal combatants are Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) and Marine Colonel Nathan R. Jessup (Jack Nicholson).

COLONEL JESSUP: You want answers?

KAFFEE: I want the truth!

COLONEL JESSUP: You can’t handle the truth!

Apparently, many of those who work in the television news business feel the same way about their audiences.

[WARNING: This column contains some words that some readers may find offensive.  Read on at your own risk.]

On February 18, 2012, editor Anthony Federico posted this headline on ESPN’s mobile website:

Chink in the Armor: Jeremy Lin’s 9 Turnovers

Cost Knicks in Streak-Snapping Loss to Hornets.

The headline was posted at 2:30 a.m. and quickly removed when someone realized that it might be seen as offensive. By Sunday afternoon, Federico had been fired from ESPN.

Jeremy Lin

It’s true that “Chink” is seen by Asians as a derogatory word. It’s equally true that ESPN has the right to discipline its employees when they violate its journalistic standards.

But ESPN should not have the right to treat its audience like so many school children who must be protected, at all costs, from life’s unpleasantness.

Consider ESPN’s apology:

“Last night, ESPN.com’s mobile web site posted an offensive headline referencing Jeremy Lin at 2:30 am ET.  The headline was removed at 3:05 am ET.

“We are conducting a complete review of our cross-platform editorial procedures and are determining appropriate disciplinary action to ensure this does not happen again. We regret and apologize for this mistake.”

Note the words “posted an offensive headline.” If you didn’t already know what the headline had said, ESPN wasn’t going to enlighten you.

And other news networks—such as ABC and NBC—have acted similarly, referring to the “c-word” without telling viewers just what was actually posted.

Since the “c-word” is often used as a euphemism for “cunt,” it’s easy to see how many viewers could imagine the writer had used a very different expression.

The official reason given for refraining from actually saying the word that lies at the center of the story is to offending some members of the audience.

But when the use of certain words becomes central to a news story, editors and reporters should have the courage to reveal just what was said—and let the audience decide for itself.

The evening news is—supposedly—aimed at voting-age adults.  And adults need—and deserve—the hard truth about the world they live in.  Only then do they have a chance to reform it–if, in fact, they decide it needs reforming.

Examples of such censorship are legion.  For instance:

In 1976, during the Republican Presidential Convention, entertainer Pat Boone asked Earl Butz, then Secretary of Agriculture: Why was the party of Lincoln having so much trouble winning black votes for its candidates?

“I’ll tell you what the coloreds want,” said Butz. “It’s three things: first, a tight pussy; second, loose shoes; and third, a warm place to shit.”

Earl L. Butz.jpg

Earl Butz

Unknown to Butz, a Rolling Stone reporter was standing nearby.  When his comments became public, Butz was forced to resign.

Meanwhile, most TV and print media struggled to protect their audiences from the truth of Butz’ racism.

Many newspapers simply reported that Butz had said something too obscene to print.  Some invited their readers to contact the editors if they wanted more information.

TV newsmen generally described Butz’ firing as stemming from “a racially-offensive remark,” which they refused to explain.

In short: A high-ranking government official had been fired, but adult audiences were not allowed to judge whether his language justified that termination.

Or consider this:

On February 16, 2012, Foster Friess, offered his views about the importance of legalized birth control. Friess was the wealthy investor bankrolling a super PAC for GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum.

Foster Friess by Gage Skidmore 3.jpg

Foster Friess 

Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

“This contraceptive thing, my gosh it’s such inexpensive,” said Friess. “Back in my days, they used Bayer Aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.”

Many news organizations refused to share Friess’ statement, merely saying that he had made an “offensive remark about women.”

It’s understandable that women would be highly offended by this remark. But shielding them from the repressive mindset of those who support Right-wing candidates like Santorum would ill serve their interests.

Censoring the truth has always been a hallmark of dictatorships.  It has no place in a democracy—no matter how well-intentioned the motives of those doing the censoring.

Some words will always be hateful—-to blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians, women, men.  In short, everybody. 

Refusing to acknowledge their use will not cause them to vanish.

The truth is the truth. If you can’t handle it, that’s your problem.

But those of us who can deserve the opportunity to learn it.  And, when necessary, to act on it.

NUREMBERG FOR TRUMP, COMEDY FOR REPORTERS

In History, Humor, Politics, Social commentary on April 30, 2018 at 12:06 am

It was the second annual White House Correspondents dinner of the Donald Trump administration.

Traditionally, it’s been an occasion where Washington’s political and media elites enjoy dinner and trade barbed quips at one another.

Barack Obama—President for eight years—never missed one of these occasions. And with his comedic timing—and help from sharp-witted speechwriters—he starred in them.

But Donald Trump has chosen to skip not only one but two such dinners so far. And he’s likely to skip the rest of those given during his term as President.

Why?

Because Trump—who delights in insulting others—has too delicate a skin to put up with having even harmless jokes aimed at him.

Related image

Donald Trump

As both a Presidential candidate and President, he has repeatedly used Twitter to attack hundreds of real and imagined enemies in politics, journalism, TV and films.

From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, Trump fired almost 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions that had somehow offended him.

The New York Times needed two full pages of its print edition to showcase them.

But Trump skipped the White House Correspondents dinner to attend a “campaign rally” of fanatical followers in 2017. And skipping the dinner this year, he attended another Nuremberg-like rally in Washington, Michigan.

His speech featured attacks on immigrants, former FBI director James Comey, the European Union, Democratic members of Congress—and the news media.

Trump complained that the media hadn’t given him deserved credit for making possible the April 27  meeting between the leaders of North and South Korea.  He claimed  he had “everything” to do with it.

He attacked the media as composed of “very, very dishonest people” who put out “fake news.”

Meanwhile, at the correspondents dinner, comedian Michelle Wolf was on a roll. Among the barbs she aimed at the Trump administration:

  • “I actually really like [Press Secretary] Sarah [Huckabee Sanders]. I think she’s very resourceful. She burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Like maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies.”
  • “If you don’t give [White House spokeswoman Kelleyanne Conway] a platform, she has nowhere to lie. It’s like that old saying, if a tree falls in the woods, how do we get Kellyanne under that tree?”
  • “There’s also, of course, Ivanka [Trump].. She was supposed to be an advocate for women, but it turns out she’s about as helpful to women as an empty box of tampons. She’s done nothing to satisfy women. So, I guess like father, like daughter.”
  • “It’s 2018 and I’m a woman, so you cannot shut me up. Unless you have Michael Cohen wire me $130,000.”

Related image

Michelle Wolf

This was an all-too-accurate reference to the payment of $130,000 to porn actress Stormy Daniels by Trump’s lawyer/fixer, Michael Cohen, to prevent her from talking about her 2006 tryst with the future President.

Taking a shot at Fox News—which functions as a propaganda arm of the Republican party—Wolf cracked: “Fox News is here. So you know what that means, ladies. Cover your drinks”—a reference to men who spike women’s drinks with “roofies.”

Wolf couldn’t resist noting that the man who would otherwise star at the dinner—President Trump—had refused to attend: “Of course, Trump isn’t here, if you haven’t noticed. He’s not here. And I know, I know, I would drag him here myself, but it turns out the president of the United States is the one pussy you’re not allowed to grab.”

Once again, a painful reference (for Trump supporters) to Trump’s infamous remark that, when you’re a celebrity, “you can do anything” with women: “Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

But Wolf had sharp words for Democrats, too:

“Democrats are harder to make fun of because you guys don’t do anything. People think you might flip the House and Senate this November, but you guys always find a way to mess it up. You’re somehow going to lose by 12 points to a guy named Jeff Pedophile Nazi Doctor.”

Those who weren’t Trump fans enjoyed Wolf’s routine.  Among these:

Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels’ attorney, said he thought Wolf was “really funny.” And actor Rob Reiner said that although Wolf’s routine wasn’t going over well but that he believed “she spoke the truth.”

But Trump devotees had a different reaction.

Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer called the event “a disgrace.” 

New York Times White House Correspondent Maggie Haberman reacted on Twitter:

“That @PressSec sat and absorbed intense criticism of her physical appearance, her job performance, and so forth, instead of walking out, on national television, was impressive.” 

To which Wolf tweeted in reply: “Hey mags! All these jokes were about her despicable behavior. Sounds like you have some thoughts about her looks though?” 

According to the Fox News website: “Apparently offended by many of the comedian’s jabs at President Donald Trump and members of his administration, many attendees sat in silence, or simply got up and walked out.” 

All of which amounted to a Right-wing chorus: “Legitimacy—and humor—are for us. Not for you.”

TWO TALIBANS: THEIRS AND OURS

In History, Politics, Social commentary on January 16, 2015 at 12:03 am

Malala Yousafzai is the 17-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot in the head and neck by a Pakistani Taliban gunman.

Her “crime”?  Campaigning for the right of girls and women to pursue an education in Pakistan.

Malala Yousafzai

The attack came on October 9, 2012, when a Taliban gunman forced his way into a van full of schoolgirls, asked for her by name, and opened fire.

The assault provoked unprecedented levels of public outrage, both in Pakistan and Afghanistan—even among people who have in the past sympathized with the militants.

But the Taliban had a different outlook on it.

“For days and days, coverage of the Malala case has shown clearly that the Pakistani and international media are biased,” said a Pakistani Taliban commander in South Waziristan. “The Taliban cannot tolerate biased media.”

The commander, who called himself Jihad Yar, argued that death threats against the press are justified.  “Ninety-nine percent” of the reporters on the story, he claimed, were only using the shooting as an excuse to attack the Taliban.

Leaders of the Islamic Taliban

Yar did not apologize for the attempt to assassinate the girl, who passionately opposed the Taliban’s efforts to close girls’ schools.

“We have no regrets about what happened to Malala,” he said. “She was going to become a symbol of Western ideas, and the decision to eliminate her was correct.  If she was not important for the West’s agenda, why would a U.S. ambassador meet her?”

According to unnamed sources, the Taliban dispatched 12 suicide bombers against the news media.  And it is particularly eager to target female journalists.  Said Yar:

“They were at the U.S. Embassy party with wine glasses in their hands and wearing un-Islamic dress with Americans.”

But the Pakistani Taliban have no monopoly on hatred of women’s rights.

On February 4, 2013, two North Carolina state representatives introduced a bill to “clarify” state law to specifically prohibit the baring of women’s breasts.

The proposed legislation, House Bill 34, would make it a Class H felony to expose “external organs of sex and of excretion, including the nipple, or any portion of the areola, of the human female breast.”

North Carolina law already forbids “indecent exposure,” but doesn’t specifically define breasts as “private parts.”

Accused violators could face one to six months in prison.

Rep. Rayne Brown, a Republican who co-sponsored the bill, said, to some people, the issue might seem frivolous.  But “there are communities across this state, there’s local governments across this state, and also local law enforcement for whom this issue is really not a laughing matter.”

Rep. Rayne Brown

Brown said that she was prompted, in part, by the second annual topless protest and women’s rally in Asheville in August, 2012.  Asheville is about 130 miles from Brown’s own district.

Rep. Annie Mobley, D-Ahoskie, voiced concerns that the bill could affect people wearing “questionable fashions.”

“All we are doing is codifying the Supreme Court definition of ‘private parts,’” said House Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Rep. Sarah Stevens, R-Surry. “That’s it. “

Stevens said using pasties or other nipple coverings would protect women against prosecution. “They’d be good to go.”

For Rep. Tim Moore, R-Cleaveland, the issue was a laughing matter: “You know what they say–duct tape fixes everything.”

So far, the bill seems to be stalled in the legislature.

And, not to be outdone, the Wisconsin state legislature enacted a budget for 2011-2013 that eliminated funding to family planning clinics that provide abortions or refer women to a clinic that performs the procedure.

In a press conference, Nicole Safar, director of public policy for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, said that some 2,000 low-income women who rely on the clinics for cancer screening, breast exams, pregnancy testing, and other services would now be left out in the cold.

“They are small centers in small communities and they needed the state funding to make them financially viable,” said Planned Parenthood spokesperson Teri Huyck.

“It’s terribly unfortunate for the women who live in these areas. Without the state support, we didn’t have a choice.

“None of these centers provided abortion services.  There is nowhere else for low-income women to get these services. These centers focused on preventing unplanned pregnancies and reducing the need for abortions,” said Safar.

Due to the loss of $1.1 million in state funding, Planned Parenthood closed facilities in Beaver Dam, Johnson Creek, Chippewa Falls and Shawano between April and July.

For those who believe women should control their own lives, the message should be clear: This will never be possible in some parts of the world.

And these include Islamic countries and those states controlled by Rightist Republicans.

It is pointless to expect those who believe they are God’s anointed to renounce their absolutist beliefs.  Or to cease trying to gain absolute power over others–especially women.

In Afghanistan, the United States is waging a losing battle to eliminate the freedom-hating Islamic Taliban.

It would do better to start waging war against the freedom-hating Rightist Taliban within its own borders.

THE TRUTH CAN MAKE US FREE

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on April 18, 2014 at 12:15 am

Once in a while, a politician slips up.

He forgets the presence of his PR handlers.  He wanders off his carefully-prepared script.  He gets so angry at reporters that he does something he would never otherwise do.

He blurts out the truth–about what he actually intends to do, or how he actually feels about an issue.

For at least a few days, the news media converges on the politician–who rushes to the safety of his PR reps.

They, in turn, quickly issue press releases to “explain” what the politician “really meant to say”:

  • He was “misunderstood.”
  • He was “misquoted.”
  • He’s the victim of a press “vendetta.”

Perhaps the most famous such “here’s-what-I-meant-to-say” statement was issued by Ron Ziegler, press secretary for President Richard M. Nixon during the Watergate scandal.

Starting on June 17, 1972, the Washington Post had investigated a series of crimes committed by Nixon operatives to ensure his re-election.

For the next 10 months, Ziegler and other Nixon administration officials denied any wrongdoing–and viciously attacked the Post as waging a vendetta against Nixon.

Then, on April 17, 1973, Ziegler once again stood before the White House press corps to offer yet another prepared statement: “This is the operative statement. The others are inoperative.”

Ron Ziegler

By which he meant: “The statement I’m making now is the truth.  All the previous statements were lies.”

In 2012, the Republican party once again faced a “truth-will-out” scandal.

On August 19, 2012, Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) justified his opposition to abortion by claiming that victims of “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant.

During a TV interview, the GOP nominee for the U.S. Senate was asked if he supported abortion in the case of rape.  He replied:

“From what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare.  If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

“But let’s assume maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist, and not attacking the child.”

Todd Akin

Akin won the Republican primary on August 7–but then lost to incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.). in November, 2012.

McCaskill was quick to issue a response.

“It is beyond comprehension that someone can be so ignorant about the emotional and physical trauma brought on by rape.  The ideas that Todd Akin has expressed about the serious crime of rape and the impact on its victims are offensive.”

This was not the first time Akin “misspoke” on abortion.

On August 8, 2012, he said during a radio interview: “As far as I’m concerned, the morning-after pill is a form of abortion, and I think we just shouldn’t have abortion in this country.”

But the firestorm of outrage that greeted his “legitimate rape” comment caught Akin by surprise.  So he did what politicians do when they’ve mistakenly told the truth.

With the help of his PR handlers, he “clarified” his previous statement:

“In reviewing my off-the-cuff remarks, it’s clear that I misspoke in this interview and it does not reflect the deep empathy I hold for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year.

“I recognize that abortion, and particularly in the case of rape, is a very emotionally charged issue.

“But I believe deeply in the protection of all life and I do not believe that harming another innocent victim is the right course of action.”

Mitt Romney, awaiting his nomination as the Republican Presidential candidate, also bitterly opposed abortion and wanted to make it illegal once again.

But Romney also didn’t expect a firestorm to erupt over Akin’s truth-blurb.  Thus, on the day Akin revealed his true feelings about women, Romney’s spokeswoman, Andrea Saul, told the Huffington Post:

“Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin’s statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape.”

Clearly, Romney believed that would be enough.  The press would move on to another issue and he would be off the hook once again.

Only the press didn’t move on to another issue.

Akin’s comment obviously recalled to voters the libelous statements made earlier in 2012 by Rush Limbaugh against Georgetown University Law student Sandra Fluke.

Rush Limbaugh

In these, Limbaugh–America’s porcine version of Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels–called Fluke a “slut” and “a prostitute”  because she had urged Congress to make insurance companies cover contraception expenses.

Desperate to make the issue go away, Romney told National Review Online: ”Congressman’s Akin comments on rape are insulting, inexcusable, and, frankly, wrong.

“Like millions of other Americans, we found them to be offensive.”

What Romney and his fellow Republicans truly found offensive was this:  Akin’s statement threatened to deny them the power they sought to rule Americans’ lives.

And, on November 6, 2012, Aiken’s unintended truth-telling cost the Republicans the White House.

HONEST VS. POLITICALLY INCORRECT

In Business, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 28, 2014 at 12:05 am

The 1992 military courtroom drama, “A Few Good Men,” climaxes with a brutal exchange that has since become famous.

Jack Nicolson vs. Tom Cruise in “A Few Good Men”

The legal combatants are Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) and Marine Colonel Nathan R. Jessup (Jack Nicholson).

COLONEL JESSUP: You want answers?

KAFFEE: I want the truth!

COLONEL JESSUP: You can’t handle the truth!

Apparently, many of those who work in the television news business feel the same way about their audiences.

[WARNING: This column contains some words that some readers may find offensive.  Read on at your own risk.]

On February 18, 2012, editor Anthony Federico posted this headline on ESPN’s mobile website: “Chink in the Armor: Jeremy Lin’s 9 Turnovers Cost Knicks in Streak-Snapping Loss to Hornets.”

The headline was posted at 2:30 a.m. and quickly removed when someone realized that it might be seen as offensive. By Sunday afternoon, Federico had been fired from ESPN.

Jeremy Lin

It’s true that “Chink” is seen by Asians as a derogatory word. It’s equally true that ESPN has the right to discipline its employees when they violate its journalistic standards.

But ESPN should not have the right to treat its audience like so many school children who must be protected, at all costs, from life’s unpleasantness.

Consider ESPN’s apology:

“Last night, ESPN.com’s mobile web site posted an offensive headline referencing Jeremy Lin at 2:30 am ET.  The headline was removed at 3:05 am ET.

“We are conducting a complete review of our cross-platform editorial procedures and are determining appropriate disciplinary action to ensure this does not happen again. We regret and apologize for this mistake.”

Note the words “posted an offensive headline.” If you didn’t already know what the headline had said, ESPN wasn’t going to enlighten you.

And other news networks–such as ABC and NBC–have acted similarly, referring to the “c-word” without telling viewers just what was actually posted.

Since the “c-word” is often used as a euphemism for “cunt,” it’s easy to see how many viewers could imagine the writer had used a very different expression.

The official reason given for refraining from actually saying the word that lies at the center of the story is to offending some members of the audience.

But when the use of certain words becomes central to a news story, editors and reporters should have the courage to reveal just what was said–and let the audience decide for itself.

The evening news is–supposedly–aimed at voting-age adults.  And adults need–and deserve–the hard truth about the world they live in.  Only then do they have a chance to reform it–if, in fact, they decide it needs reforming.

Examples of such censorship are legion.  For instance:

In 1976, entertainer Pat Boone asked Earl Butz, then Secretary of Agriculture: Why was the party of Lincoln having so much trouble winning black votes for its candidates?

“I’ll tell you what the coloreds want,” said Butz. “It’s three things: first, a tight pussy; second, loose shoes; and third, a warm place to shit.”

Unknown to Butz, a Rolling Stone reporter was standing nearby.  When his comments became public, Butz was forced to resign.

Meanwhile, most TV and print media struggled to protect their audiences from the truth of Butz’ racism.

Many newspapers simply reported that Butz had said something too obscene to print.  Some invited their readers to contact the editors if they wanted more information.

TV newsmen generally described Butz’ firing as stemming from “a racially-offensive remark,” which they refused to explain.

In short: A high-ranking government official had been fired, but audiences were not allowed to judge whether his language justified that termination.

Nor is there any guarantee that such censorship will not occur again.

On February 16, 2012, Foster Friess, offered his views about the importance of legalized birth control.  Friess was the wealthy investor bankrolling a super PAC for GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum.

Foster Friess

“This contraceptive thing, my gosh it’s such inexpensive,” said Friess. “Back in my days, they used Bayer Aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.”

It’s understandable that women would be highly offended by this remark.

But shielding them from the women-hating mindset of those who support right-wing candidates like Santorum would ill serve their interests.

Censoring the truth has always been a hallmark of dictatorships.  It has no place in a democracy–no matter how well-intentioned the motives of those doing the censoring.

Some words will always be hateful–to blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians, women, men.  In short, everybody.  Refusing to acknowledge their use will not cause them to vanish.

The truth is the truth. If you can’t handle it, that’s your problem.

But those of us who can deserve the opportunity to learn it.  And, when necessary, to act on it.

TWO TALIBANS: THEIRS AND OURS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law on February 25, 2013 at 12:01 am

Malala Yousafzai is the 14-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot in the head and neck by a Pakistani Taliban gunman.

Her “crime”?  Campaigning for the right of girls and women to pursue an education in Pakistan.

Malala Yousafzai

The attack came on October 9 when a Taliban gunman forced his way into a van full of schoolgirls, asked for her by name, and opened fire.

The assault has provoked unprecedented levels of public outrage, both in Pakistan and Afghanistan—even among people who have in the past sympathized with the militants.

But the Taliban has a different outlook on it.

“For days and days, coverage of the Malala case has shown clearly that the Pakistani and international media are biased,” said a Pakistani Taliban commander in South Waziristan. “The Taliban cannot tolerate biased media.”

The commander, who called himself Jihad Yar, argued that death threats against the press are justified.  “Ninety-nine percent” of the reporters on the story, he claimed, were only using the shooting as an excuse to attack the Taliban.

Leaders of the Islamic Taliban

Yar did not apologize for the attempt to assassinate the girl, who passionately opposed the Taliban’s efforts to close girls’ schools.

“We have no regrets about what happened to Malala,” he said. “She was going to become a symbol of Western ideas, and the decision to eliminate her was correct.  If she was not important for the West’s agenda, why would a U.S. ambassador meet her?”

According to unnamed sources, the Taliban dispatched 12 suicide bombers against the news media.  And it is particularly eager to target female journalists.  Said Yar:

“They were at the U.S. Embassy party with wine glasses in their hands and wearing un-Islamic dress with Americans.”

But the Pakistani Taliban have no monopoly on hatred of women’s rights.

On February 4, two North Carolina state representatives introduced a bill to “clarify” state law to specifically prohibit the baring of women’s breasts.

The proposed legislation, House Bill 34, would make it a Class H felony to expose “external organs of sex and of excretion, including the nipple, or any portion of the areola, of the human female breast.”

North Carolina law already forbids “indecent exposure,” but doesn’t specifically define breasts as “private parts.”

Accused violators could face one to six months in prison.

Rep. Rayne Brown, a Republican who co-sponsored the bill, said, to some people, the issue might seem frivolous.  But “there are communities across this state, there’s local governments across this state, and also local law enforcement for whom this issue is really not a laughing matter.”

Rep. Rayne Brown

Brown said that she was prompted, in part, by the second annual topless protest and women’s rally in Asheville in August, 2012.  Asheville is about 130 miles from Brown’s own district.

Rep. Annie Mobley, D-Ahoskie, voiced concerns that the bill could affect people wearing “questionable fashions.”

“All we are doing is codifying the Supreme Court definition of ‘private parts,’” said House Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Rep. Sarah Stevens, R-Surry. “That’s it. “

Stevens said using pasties or other nipple coverings would protect women against prosecution. “They’d be good to go.”

For Rep. Tim Moore, R-Cleaveland, the issue was a laughing matter: “You know what they say – duct tape fixes everything.”

And, not to be outdone, the Wisconsin state legislature enacted a budget for 2011-2013 that eliminates funding to family planning clinics that provide abortions or refer women to a clinic that performs the procedure.

In a press conference, Nicole Safar, director of public policy for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, said that some 2,000 low-income women who rely on the clinics for cancer screening, breast exams, pregnancy testing, and other services would now be left out in the cold.

“They are small centers in small communities and they needed the state funding to make them financially viable,” said Planned Parenthood spokesperson Teri Huyck. “It’s terribly unfortunate for the women who live in these areas. Without the state support, we didn’t have a choice.

“None of these centers provided abortion services.  There is nowhere else for low-income women to get these services. These centers focused on preventing unplanned pregnancies and reducing the need for abortions,” said Safar.

Due to the loss of $1.1 million in state funding, Planned Parenthood will close facilities in Beaver Dam, Johnson Creek, Chippewa Falls and Shawano between April and July.

For those who believe women should control their own lives, the message should be clear: This will never be possible in some parts of the world.

And these include Islamic countries and those states controlled by Rightist Republicans.

It is pointless to expect those who believe they are God’s anointed to renounce their absolutist beliefs.  Or to cease trying to gain absolute power over others–especially women.

In Afghanistan, the United States is waging a losing battle to eliminate the freedom-hating Islamic Taliban.

It would do better to start waging war against the freedom-hating Rightist Taliban within its own borders.

A TALE OF TWO TALIBANS

In History, Politics, Social commentary on October 23, 2012 at 12:00 am

Malala Yousafzai is the 14-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot in the head and neck by a Pakistani Taliban gunman.

Her “crime”?  Campaigning for the right of girls and women to pursue an education in Pakistan.

Malala Yousafzai

The attack came on October 9 when a Taliban gunman forced his way into a van full of schoolgirls, asked for her by name, and opened fire.

The assault has provoked unprecedented levels of public outrage, both in Pakistan and Afghanistan—even among people who have in the past sympathized with the militants.

But the Taliban has a different outlook on it.

“For days and days, coverage of the Malala case has shown clearly that the Pakistani and international media are biased,” said a Pakistani Taliban commander in South Waziristan. “The Taliban cannot tolerate biased media.”

The commander, who called himself Jihad Yar, argued that death threats against the press are justified.  “Ninety-nine percent” of the reporters on the story, he claimed, were only using the shooting as an excuse to attack the Taliban.

Leaders of the Islamic Taliban

Yar did not apologize for the attempt to assassinate the girl, who passionately opposed the Taliban’s efforts to close girls’ schools.

“We have no regrets about what happened to Malala,” he said. “She was going to become a symbol of Western ideas, and the decision to eliminate her was correct.  If she was not important for the West’s agenda, why would a U.S. ambassador meet her?”

The Taliban has reportedly decided to suspend all its current operations and activities in Pakistan.  And it has momentarily directed field commanders and fighters to target media organizations instead of the government and security forces.

According to unnamed sources, the militants dispatched 12 suicide bombers against the news media.  They especially wanted to target the electronic media and some foreign media organizations and their workers.

The Taliban is particularly eager to target female journalists.  Said Yar:

“They were at the U.S. Embassy party with wine glasses in their hands and wearing un-Islamic dress with Americans.”

But the Pakistani Taliban have no monopoly on hatred of a free press.  The American Taliban equally shares their passion for going after “troublesome” journalists.

One of these is radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh–America’s successor to Senator “Tail Gunner” Joe McCarthy as a slander-monger.

Limbaugh is furious with Candy Crowley, the moderator of the second Presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

Candy Crowley

During that debate–held on October 16–Romney accused President Obama of not calling the September 11 attack on the American consulate in Libya a “terrorist attack.”

Crowley–CNN’s chief political correspondent–immediately pointed out that Obama had, in fact, referred to it as an “act of terror” just two days later in a White House Rose Garden speech.

The effect on Romney–caught flat-footed in yet another slander on the President–was that of a man caught with his zipper open.

For the American Taliban–as personified by Limbaugh–Crowley’s daring to point out yet another Romney lie was simply too much.

“She committed  an act of journalistic terror last night,” Limbaugh said the day after the debate.

Rush Limbaugh, American Taliban leader

“If there were any journalistic standards,” said the man who regularly shuns both fairness and objectivity, “what she did last night would have been the equivalent of blowing up her career like a suicide bomber.

“But there aren’t any journalist standards anymore. And she’s going to be praised and celebrated, probably even get a raise, give her another half hour on that show she hosts.”

Nor was Limbaugh the only right-winger to be furious that Crowley had exposed Romney as a serial liar.

John Sununu, former New Hampshire governor and a Romney campaign co-chair, said Crowley was “terrible.”

“She had no business trying to be a fact-checker on the stage, because she was dead wrong,” Sununu said.

Of course, the fact that Sununu–a longtime specialist in political slander–said Crowley was wrong does not make it so.  She wasn’t wrong.

There are some differences between the Islamic and American versions of the Taliban:

  • The Islamic Taliban are followers of Muhammed.
  • The American Taliban are (nominally) followers of Jesus Christ.
  • The Islamic Taliban speak variations of Arabic.
  • The Taliban in the United States speak English.

So much for some of the differences.  Now for some of the similarities.

  • Both Talibans want to control the most private aspects of a woman’s life.
  • Both Talibans believe they have the right to hold absolute power over their fellow citizens.
  • Both Talibans believe they have a God-given right to destroy anyone who dares to disagree with them.

Above all, both Talibans–American and Islamic–fear and hate being exposed for the despots they are and support.

Harrison Salisbury, who covered the Soviet Union of Joseph Stalin for the New York Times, said it best:

“The truth, I was ultimately to learn, is the most dangerous thing.  There are no ends to which men of power will not go to put out its eyes.”

WONDER WOMAN MEETS REPUBLICANAZI MAN

In Humor, Politics on August 21, 2012 at 9:46 am

“Don’t worry, Wonder Woman. You can’t get pregnant if it’s legitimate rape.”

THE TRUTH CAN MAKE US FREE

In Uncategorized on August 21, 2012 at 12:05 am

Once in a while, a politician slips up.

He forgets the presence of his PR handlers.  He wanders off his carefully-prepared script.  He gets so angry at reporters that he does something he would never otherwise do.

He blurts out the truth–about what he actually intends to do, or how he actually feels about an issue.

And when this rare event happens, the effect is similar to a train wreck.

For at least a few days, the news media converges on the politician–who rushes to the safety of his PR reps.

They, in turn, quickly issue press releases to “explain” what the politician “really meant to say”:

  • He was “misunderstood.”
  • He was “misquoted.”
  • He’s the victim of a press “vendetta.”

Perhaps the most famous such “here’s-what-I-meant-to-say” statement was issued by Ron Ziegler, press secretary fo President Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal.

Starting on June 17, 1972, the Washington Post had investigated a series of crimes committed by Nixon operatives to ensure his re-election.

For the next 10 months, Ziegler and other Nixon administration officials had denied any wrongdoing–and viciously attacked the Post as waging a vendetta against Nixon.

Then, on April 17, 1973, Ziegler once again stood before the White House press corps to offer yet another prepared statement: “This is the operative statement. The others are inoperative.”

Ron Ziegler

By which he meant: “The statement I’m making now is the truth.  All the previous ones were lies.”

Once again, the Republican party is facing a “truth-will-out” scandal.

On August 19, Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) justified his opposition to abortion by claiming that victims of “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant.

During a TV interview, the GOP nominee for the U.S. Senate was asked if he supported abortion in the case of rape.  He replied:

“From what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare   If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist, and not attacking the child.”

Todd Akin

Akin won the Republican primary on August 7 and is set to face incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.). in November.

McCaskill was quick to issue a response.

“It is beyond comprehension that someone can be so ignorant about the emotional and physical trauma brought on by rape.  The ideas that Todd Akin has expressed about the serious crime of rape and the impact on its victims are offensive.”

This is not the first time Akin has “misspoke” on abortion.

On August 8, he said during a radio interview: “As far as I’m concerned, the morning-after pill is a form of abortion, and I think we just shouldn’t have abortion in this country.”

But the firestorm of outrage that greeted his “legitimate rape” comment caught Akin by surprise.  So he did what politicians do when they’ve mistakenly told the truth.

With the help of his PR handlers, he “clarified” his previous statement:

“In reviewing my off-the-cuff remarks, it’s clear that I misspoke in this interview and it does not reflect the deep empathy I hold for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year.

“I recognize that abortion, and particularly in the case of rape, is a very emotionally charged issue. But I believe deeply in the protection of all life and I do not believe that harming another innocent victim is the right course of action.”

Mitt Romney, the all-but-anointed Republican Presidential candidate, also bitterly opposes abortion and wants to make it illegal once again.

But Romney also didn’t expect a firestorm to erupt over Akin’s truth-blurb.  Thus, on the day Akin revealed his true feelings about women, Romney’s spokeswoman, Andrea Saul, told the Huffington Post:

“Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin’s statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape.”

Clearly, Romney believed that would be enough.  The press would move on to another issue and he would be off the hook once again.

Only the press didn’t move on to another issue.  Akin’s comment obviously recalled to voters the libelous statements made earlier this year by Rush Limbaugh against Georgetown University Law student Sandra Fluke.

Rush Limbaugh

In these, Limbaugh–America’s porcine version of Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels–called her a “slut” and “a prostitute”  because she had urged Congress to make insurance companies cover contraception expenses.

Desperate to make the issue go away, Romney told National Review Online: “Congressman’s Akin comments on rape are insulting, inexcusable, and, frankly, wrong.  Like millions of other Americans, we found them to be offensive.”

What Romney and his fellow Republicans truly find offensive is this:  Akin’s candid statement now threatens to deny them the power they seek to rule Americans’ lives.

NON-SAYING WHAT WE MEAN

In History, Politics, Social commentary on February 22, 2012 at 1:00 am

The 1992 military courtroom drama, “A Few Good Men,” climaxes with a brutal exchange that has since become famous.

The legal combatants are Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) and Marine Colonel Nathan R. Jessup (Jack Nicholson).

COLONEL JESSUP: You want answers?

KAFFEE: I want the truth!

COLONEL JESSUP: You can’t handle the truth!

Apparently, many of those who work in the television news business feel the same way about their audiences.

* * * * *

[WARNING: This column contains some words that some readers may find offensive.  Read on at your own risk.]

* * * * *

On February 18, editor Anthony Federico posted this headline on ESPN’s mobile website: “Chink in the Armor: Jeremy Lin’s 9 Turnovers Cost Knicks in Streak-Snapping Loss to Hornets.”

The headline was posted at 2:30 a.m. and quickly removed when someone realized that it might be seen as offensive. By Sunday afternoon, Federico had been fired from ESPN.

It’s true that “Chink” is seen by Asians as a derogatory word. It’s equally true that ESPN has the right to discipline its employees when they violate its journalistic standards.

But ESPN should not have the right to treat its audience like so many school children who must be protected, at all costs, from life’s unpleasantness.

Consider ESPN’s apology:

“Last night, ESPN.com’s mobile web site posted an offensive headline referencing Jeremy Lin at 2:30 am ET.  The headline was removed at 3:05 am ET.

“We are conducting a complete review of our cross-platform editorial procedures and are determining appropriate disciplinary action to ensure this does not happen again. We regret and apologize for this mistake.”

Note the words “posted an offensive headline.” If you didn’t already know what the headline had said, ESPN wasn’t going to enlighten you.

And other news networks–such as ABC and NBC–have acted similarly, referring to the “c-word” without telling viewers just what was actually posted.

Since the “c-word” is often used as a euphemism for “cunt,” it’s easy to see how many viewers could imagine the writer had used a very different expression.

The official reason given for refraining from actually saying the word that lies at the center of the story is to offending some members of the audience.

But when the use of certain words becomes central to a news story, editors and reporters should have the courage to reveal just what was said–and let the audience decide for itself.

The evening news is–supposedly–aimed at voting-age adults.  And adults need–and deserve–the hard truth about the world they live in.  Only then do they have a chance to reform it–if, in fact, they decide it needs reforming.

Examples of such censorship are legion.  For instance:

In 1976, entertainer Pat Boone asked Earl Butz, then Secretary of Agriculture: Why was the party of Lincoln having so much trouble winning black votes for its candidates?

“I’ll tell you what the coloreds want,” said Butz. “It’s three things: first, a tight pussy; second, loose shoes; and third, a warm place to shit.”

Unknown to Butz, a Rolling Stone reporter was standing nearby.  When his comments became public, Butz was forced to resign.

Meanwhile, most TV and print media struggled to protect their audiences from the truth of Butz’ racism.

Many newspapers simply reported that Butz had said something too obscene to print.  Some invited their readers to contact the editors if they wanted more information.

TV newsmen generally described Butz’ firing as stemming from “a racially-offensive remark,” which they refused to explain.

In short: A high-ranking government official had been fired, but audiences were not allowed to judge whether his language justified that termination.

Nor is there any guarantee that such censorship will not occur again.

On February 16, Foster Friess, offered his views about the importance of legalized birth control.  Friess is the wealthy investor bankrolling a super PAC for GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum.

“This contraceptive thing, my gosh it’s such inexpensive,” said Friess. “Back in my days, they used Bayer Aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.”

It’s understandable that women would be highly offended by this remark.

But shielding them from the women-hating mindset of those who support right-wing candidates like Santorum would ill serve their interests.

Censoring the truth has always been a hallmark of dictatorships.  It has no place in a democracy–no matter how well-intentioned the motives of those doing the censoring.

Some words will always be hateful–to blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians, women, men.  In short, everybody.  Refusing to acknowledge their use will not cause them to vanish.

The truth is the truth. If you can’t handle it, that’s your problem.

But those of us who can deserve the opportunity to learn it.  And, when necessary, to act on it.

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