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Home To The World's Best Liberal Thought And Humor





In This Edition

Robery Parry confirms what we already knew about the American Press in, "Dissing Democracy."

Jim Hightower reports on, "Butchering The Bill Of Rights."

Norman Solomon reports on, "Noam Chomsky -- Saying What Media Don't Want Us To Hear."

Stephen Lemons interviews Aaron McGruder.

Joe Conason says, "Rudy?s G.O.P. Pals Betray New York."

Gene Lyons tells it like it is in, "Terrorism's First Goal: Repression."

Ted Rall reports from Afghanistan, "When Life Is A Short-Term Lease: Everyday Life In Afghanistan."

P.M. Carpenter explains, "Mr. Ashcroft?s America, America's Mr. Ashcroft."

William Rivers Pitt introduces, "John Ashcroft: American Fascist."

Robert Pagani asks who is, "Giving Comfort To The Enemy?"

Nina Totenberg wins the "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Molly Ivins reflects on, "Patriot Games."

Ann Thomas explains reich-wing, "Scare Tactics."

And finally in Parting Shots 'The Onion' says, "Woman In Burqa Condems Woman In Chador" but first Uncle Ernie explains, "The Ashcroft Factor."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Rob Rogers with additional cartoons from C.A.L.I.C.O., Oliphant, Ted Rall, Steve Benson, Lederman, Ben Sargent, Jeff Danziger, Mike Smith, Chris Whitehouse, GWBush Art and Political Strikes.

Plus we have all of your favorite departments! Welcome one and all to "Uncle Ernie's Issues & Alibis." We hope you enjoy your stay!

How We Should Rebuild The World Trade Center


<> The Ashcroft Factor
By Ernest Stewart

When der Fuhrer says we ist the Master Race
We heil, heil, right in the 'Fuhrer's Face.'
Because to doubt the Fuhrer would be a disgrace
So we heil, heil right in the 'Fuhrer's Face!'
Der Fuhrer's Face ... Spike Jones

Yogi Berra once said, "I'm having a Deja Vu all over again," and after watching Deputy Fuhrer Ashcroft at work on the 'Pink Tutu's' in the Senate last week I have to say I know what ole Yogi meant. Disagree with Johnny and be branded a terrorist. And of course if he or our beloved Fuhrer say you're a terrorist you can soon be slowly strangling on the end of a rope for the amusement of the troops. Forget a few hundred years of law, remember we did away with the rule of law in last December's coup d' etat. So why am I wondering why 99 Senators voted to throw out most of the Constitution? Didn't they swear an oath to protect and uphold the Constitution, not throw out the 4th through 9th amendments as well as the 14th? With the violation of the twelfth amendment during the campaign by Bush and Cheney that's 8 amendment gone in under a year folks. This has got to be some sort of record for the take over and destruction of a Republic.

Everyday it's something new, a weakening of this Constitutional right or another power rip off for the Executive over the Legislative but always it's something. The Congress seems happy to give away all our hard earned rights for no reason at all. If the Patriots Act had been in place it wouldn't have stopped the terrorists at all. Had the airlines and the Pentagon and the various secret services done their jobs it wouldn't have happened to begin with. Add the fact that they knew it was coming and did exactly nothing to stop it and then took advantage of it for a massive power grab. Then there's Johnny ...

The Fuhrer's point man has been out in front raising hell using smoke, mirrors and double speak to amaze and amuse America while Bush takes another vacation. Herr Ashcroft has made a power grab of monstrous proportions and comes on like it's Gods will and any one who questions him about it gets labeled a traitor, a Judas or maybe even Satan himself. This goon is certifiably insane folks and he controls justice in this country. The actions of Ashcroft show why the good folks of Missouri elected a dead man rather than send Johnny back to the Senate. So naturally Bush pegged him for his Junta and the Democrats just pulled down their pants and bent over when it came to okaying him and last week was no different. His attitude was to treat the Senators like little children and then make it perfectly clear that the enemy was anyone who disagreed with the Junta. And since America has the best Congress that money can buy. Johnny breezed through the Senate interview as easy as pie.

I've ask it before and I'm sure I'll ask it again, what's next? What unnatural, immoral act of treason is next up on the Bush agenda? Only time will tell and when it happens we'll pass it along to you.

We'd like to welcome William Rivers Pitt to our little group of Merry Pranksters. William joins us of his own free will and is a welcome addition to the magazine. After you read his article send him an email with your name and join us in protest.

So until the next time, peace Y'all!

Chapter 3 of my new book "The Red King's Horror." is now viewing. I post a new chapter on the 1st of each month.

It's that time of the year again. Time for a tale that has become a Christmas tradition all over the world, "Winky Tinky's Christmas Adventure," be sure and read it to the kids! Happy Holidays!
© 2001 Ernest Stewart


<> Dissing Democracy
By Robert Parry

Major national news outlets have gone silent in the face of evidence that they published misleading stories about the Florida presidential recount.

The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, the Washington Post and other leading news organizations relied on a dubious hypothesis to craft stories last month portraying George W. Bush as the recount winner, when the recount actually showed that Al Gore won if all legally cast votes were counted.

The news outlets assumed, incorrectly as it turned out, that so-called ?overvotes,? which heavily favored Gore, would have been ignored if the Florida court -ordered recount had been allowed to proceed and that therefore Bush would have won even without the intervention of five conservative allies on the U.S. Supreme Court.

?Study of Disputed Florida Ballots Finds Justices Did Not Cast the Deciding Vote,? the New York Times front-page headline read. ?Florida Recounts Would Have Favored Bush,? declared the Washington Post.

After those stories were published on Nov. 12, however, new evidence emerged showing that this pro-Bush hypothesis was wrong. It turned out that the judge in charge of the recount was moving to include the ?overvotes? when Bush got the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene.

But rather than run corrections, the major news organizations chose to duck the fact that they had messed up one of the biggest political stories in U.S. history.

After learning of this foul-up via the Internet, some citizens complained in letters and e-mails, but the news outlets have responded by turning their backs on the complaints. There has been virtually no debate or commentary in the major news media about the mistaken assumption at the heart of those front-page stories.

The silence has sent another message: that the news media believes that something as fundamental to democracy as making sure the person with the most votes wins is a kind of trivial pursuit interesting only to Gore ?partisans.? In this time of crisis, the news media seems to be saying, it isn't important that the occupant of the White House got there in an anti-democratic fashion -- and if that happens to be the case, it's best not to talk about it.

'Gore Wins'

In their Nov. 12 recount articles, all the leading news organizations downplayed the key fact of the unofficial recount: that a full counting of all legally cast ballots in Florida showed that Al Gore won the state, regardless of what standards were used in judging the chads, whether dimpled, hanging or fully punched through. Gore also won the national popular vote by about 537,000 votes, a number that exceeded the victory margins of John Kennedy in 1960 and Richard Nixon in 1968.

Still, the major news outlets that paid for the recount led their articles with the claim that Bush would have won the election even if five conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court had not intervened on Dec. 9, 2000, to stop the statewide hand recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court.

To construct that lead, the newspapers deleted legally cast votes for Gore and instead used a hypothesis that presumed that the statewide recount would not have counted so-called ?overvotes? that broke heavily for Gore. By subtracting the ?overvotes? from the total and including only ?undervotes,? the big media got a number that showed Bush still clinging to a tiny lead.

?Undervotes? were ballots kicked out of voting machines that recognized no vote for president. ?Overvotes? were ballots that the machines rejected as having more than one vote for president. However, under Florida law, hand recounts must include those ballots if the intent of the voter is clear.

For instance, if a voter marked a ballot for Gore and then wrote in Gore?s name, that should count as a legal vote in Florida, as well as many other states. If an ?undervote? revealed a partially pushed through chad, that too could be counted as a legal vote. By counting all the ballots where the intent of the voter was clear, Gore pushed ahead of Bush by margins ranging from 60 to 171 votes depending on the standards used to judge the ?undervotes,? according to the media recounts.

Besides those legal votes that should have been counted under Florida law, the media recounts estimated that Gore lost tens of thousands of other unrecoverable ballots. Those were lost because of confusing ballot designs, actions by Gov. Jeb Bush?s administration purging hundreds of predominantly African-American voters by falsely labeling them felons, and the Bush campaign?s success in counting illegally cast absentee ballots in Republican counties while excluding them in Democratic counties.

No adjustments were made for those lost votes in the media recounts, though they help explain why Election Day exit polls showed Gore winning Florida, since he was the choice of a clear plurality of Florida voters.

A Media Miscalculation

But what made the journalistic slant of last month?s ?Bush Wins Recount? stories indefensible was the erroneous assumption that the recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court would have excluded ?overvotes.?

Unlike the major national newspapers, however, the Orlando Sentinel of Florida checked with the judge who was in charge of the recount to see what he might have done with the "overvotes." Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis said he had not fully made up his mind about counting the "overvotes," but he added: "I'd be open to that."

The Sentinel stated, "If that had happened, it would have amounted to a statewide hand recount. And it could have given the election to Gore." [Orlando Sentinel, Nov. 12, 2001]

Then, Newsweek uncovered a contemporaneous document demonstrating that Lewis was moving toward counting the "overvotes" on Dec. 9, just hours before Bush got five Republicans on the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the Florida recount. In a memo, Lewis said he was instructing canvassing boards to isolate "overvotes" that showed a clear intent of the voters.

?If you would segregate ?overvotes? as you describe and indicate in your final report how many where you determined the clear intent of the voter,? wrote Lewis, ?I will rule on the issue for all counties.?

In effect, Lewis's instructions foreshadowed a decision to count the ?overvotes? because once the votes ? that were legal under Florida law ? had been identified there would be no legal or logical reason to throw them out, especially since some counties had already included ?overvotes? in their counts.

By assuming that the ?overvotes? would be cast aside, the major news outlets had failed to take into account the judge in charge of the recount.

Punishing Journalists

Normally when serious journalistic errors are made on high-profile stories, a media firestorm ensues. Even when stories are just hyped ? not dead wrong ? editorialists and media critics rush to rap the knuckles of the offending reporters.

Remember, the furor over a CNN report quoting former U.S. military officials seeming to confirm that poison gas was used on defectors and other sensitive targets during the Vietnam War. Press critics demanded a retraction, CNN admitted flaws in the reporting, and two producers lost their jobs amid public humiliation.

Remember, too, Gary Webb?s stories about the CIA tolerating cocaine trafficking by Nicaraguan contra forces, leading to the introduction of crack cocaine in Los Angeles and other U.S. cities. Though the CIA inspector general eventually confirmed that the CIA and the Reagan-Bush administration had protected contra-cocaine trafficking, major newspapers concentrated their wrath on Webb for supposedly exaggerating CIA malfeasance. He, too, lost his job, at the San Jose Mercury News. [For details, see Robert Parry?s Lost History.]

In the Florida recount screw-up, however, the major news organizations simply turned a deaf ear to the fact that their core assumption was wrong. No one apparently will pay any price.

More significantly, the vast majority of Americans probably have no idea that they were misled by those stories. Millions of Internet readers may know the truth and some Americans may have heard the news by word of mouth, but the big media?s refusal to revisit an embarrassing mistake has guaranteed that most voters will remain uninformed.

Part of the reason for this self-protective behavior is that prominent media critics, such as Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post, embraced the inaccurate reporting.

?The conspiracy theorists have been out in force, convinced that the media were covering up the Florida election results to protect President Bush,? Kurtz wrote. ?That gets put to rest today.?

Kurtz scoffed, too, at the notion that anyone still cared about whether Bush had stolen the presidential election. ?Now the question is: How many people still care about the election deadlock that last fall felt like the story of the century ? and now faintly echoes like some distant Civil War battle?? he wrote. [Washington Post, Nov. 12, 2001]

Fearing the 'Liberal' Label

Why, many Americans wonder, is the national press corps acting in a way that seems so disrespectful of the democratic process? The answer is, partly at least, fear and self-interest.

While conservatives continue to charge that the national news media has a ?liberal? bias, the reality for at least the past two decades has been that working journalists who got labeled ?liberal? or who offended the powerful conservative establishment in Washington could expect their careers to be damaged, if not terminated, as occurred in the CNN and Webb cases.

As self-protection, journalists therefore have learned to bend over backwards to avoid offending conservatives. Journalists have no similar fear of liberal press critics.

This reality was on display throughout the 1990s as the Washington press corps sought to prove it wasn?t liberal by playing up petty scandals that kept the Clinton administration on the defensive. Starting with overwrought coverage of Bill and Hillary Clinton?s Whitewater real estate deal and the furor over the firings at the White House Travel Office, mainstream and conservative news outlets alike kept up the barrage right through Clinton?s impeachment over fibbing about having sex with Monica Lewinsky.

This phenomenon of national reporters proving they aren?t liberals spilled over to the coverage of Campaign 2000, where Vice President Gore was hectored for minor or imaginary examples of supposed exaggerations. The news media ? from the establishment New York Times and Washington Post to the conservative New York Post and Washington Times ? joined in portraying Gore as a serial exaggerator whose behavior bordered on the delusional.

To create this caricature of Gore ? who is, by any reasonable measure, a hard-working and well-intentioned public servant ? the news media literally made up quotes for Gore and misrepresented a variety of other statements.

Some of the misrepresented statements became political urban legends, such as Gore?s never-spoken claim that he ?invented? the Internet and his supposedly false claim that author Eric Segal had used him as a model for a character in the novel, Love Story. Though Segal later confirmed this fact, the media continued to insist that Gore had made it up.

In another case, the media accused Gore of suffering from delusional tendencies for allegedly commenting about the Love Canal toxic-waste investigation that ?I was the one that started it all,? a quote used in critical stories in both the New York Times and the Washington Post.

In reality, Gore had been referring to another toxic-waste case in Toone, Tennessee, and had said ?that was the one that started it all.? The major newspapers had simply gotten the quote wrong and then dragged their heels on issuing a correction, while the mistake spread to dozens of other news organizations around the country. [For a fuller account of this case, see ?Al Gore v. the Media.?]

A Bush-Cheney Tilt

Rolling Stone magazine has published a new study of this anti-Gore media bias and quotes reporters on the campaign trail acknowledging the press hostility toward the then-vice president.

?The coverage seemed to be much more aggressive and adversarial than I?d ever seen before,? said Scott Shepard, a veteran newsman who covered the campaign for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

A network television correspondent was quoted as saying, ?There just developed among a certain group of people covering Gore, particularly the print people, a real disdain for him. Everything was negative. They had a grudge against [Gore]. I don?t know how else to put it.?

The Rolling Stone article by Eric Boehlert quoted Ceci Connolly, the Washington Post reporter who misquoted Gore about Love Canal. She continued to insist that her misquote ?did not change the context? of Gore?s original comment, though any fair reading of Gore?s remarks would indicate that he was not claiming to have been the first one to discover the toxic-waste problem at Love Canal. [Rolling Stone, Dec. 6-13, 2001.]

Katharine Seeyle, the New York Times reporter who joined Connolly in making the Love Canal misquote, also has stood by the general accuracy of her account. Both reporters continue to hold down high-profile jobs as correspondents at these two leading newspapers.

Neither they nor any of the other reporters who demonstrated unprofessional hostility toward Gore have suffered the fates of the CNN producers on the poison-gas story or Gary Webb on the contra-crack stories. [For the most detailed coverage of the Gore exaggeration topic, see the archives at Bob Somerby?s Daily Howler Web site.]

To make this caricature of Gore as a pathological liar stand out in even starker contrast, the campaign press corps chose to ignore or play down exaggerations and even outright lies told by Bush and his running mate, Dick Cheney. For instance, during the vice presidential debate, Cheney depicted himself as a self-made multi-millionaire from his years as chairman of Halliburton Co. As for his success in the private sector, Cheney declared that "the government had absolutely nothing to do with it."

The reality was quite different, however, since Cheney had personally lobbied for government subsidies that benefited Halliburton, including federal loan guarantees from the U.S.-funded Export-Import Bank. During Cheney's tenure, Halliburton also emerged as a leading defense contractor with $1.8 billion in contracts from 1996-99.

Immediately after the debate, Cheney went on the road and denounced Gore for having an apparent "compulsion to embellish his arguments or ... his resumé.? Yet, the major news media made no note of Cheney's own resumé polishing, though that information was all on the public record. [For details,'s "Protecting Bush-Cheney."]

The Recount Battle

The anti-Gore bias carried into the post-election battle for a full-and-fair count of the Florida votes. From the start, commentators leaned heavily on Gore to concede, though his lead in the popular vote was swelling to over a half million votes and he was only a few votes shy of a majority in the Electoral College even without Florida.

Mike Barnicle of the New York Daily News argued that Gore should do the right thing and give up. ?This could be Al Gore?s moment,? Barnicle said on MSNBC on Nov. 8, 2000. ?It could be the moment where he finally gets the chance to live up to his great father?s ideals and have the courage to step aside.?

NBC?s Tim Russert declared that Gore ?can?t extend it to too long, nor can he become a whiner about Florida.? As for Gore?s advisers, Russert said, ?If they continue then to file lawsuits and begin to contest various areas of the state, then people will begin to suggest, ?uh-oh, this is not magnanimous. This is being a sore loser.??

Conservative commentators made similar arguments with a nastier tone.>{? On Nov. 12, columnist George Will wrote that ?all that remains to complete the squalor of Gore?s attempted coup d?etat is some improvisation by Janet Reno, whose last Florida intervention involved a lawless SWAT team seizing a 6-year-old. She says there is no federal role, but watch for a ?civil rights? claim on behalf of some protected minority or some other conjured pretext.?

Gore?s decision to fight for Florida ?made the poisonous political atmosphere in Washington even more toxic,? said Fox News? Tony Snow on Nov. 12, 2000. ?Gore has established a precedent for turning elections into legal circuses and giving the final word not to voters but to squadrons of lawyers.? [For a fuller compilation of post-election comments, see FAIR?s ?Media Vs. Democracy?]

The irony of Snow?s words would become apparent only a month later when Bush sent a squadron of lawyers to convince five Republican justices on the U.S. Supreme Court to prevent any more counting of votes and to deny the voters of Florida the final word.

No Change

In the year that has followed, the media trends have continued down the same course, with Bush still getting the kid-glove treatment and Gore still coping with press misquotes.

In late November, Gore came in for a new round of ridicule for a supposed claim that he had opened a family restaurant in Tennessee. Quoting a Gore speech in Lagos, Nigeria, Reuters reported that Gore had said, "We have started a family restaurant in Tennessee and we are running it ourselves."

To some journalists, this sounded like another case of Lyin' Al claiming some accomplishment that didn't really exist. Comedian Jay Leno included a joke about Gore's restaurant in his monologue on NBC's "Tonight" show.

When Gore returned to the United States, however, a transcript was made from a tape of his speech. According to the tape transcript, Gore had actually said, "We stopped at a little family restaurant in Tennessee. We were eating there by ourselves." Reuters then retracted the story. [Washington Post, Dec. 1, 2001]

But the most fitting final comment on Election 2000 may be the silence of major news outlets in the face of evidence that they misreported the results of their own recount ? and in doing so, awarded legitimacy to George W. Bush, the man who lost the election but won the White House.
© 2001 Robert Parry. In the 1980s, Robert Parry broke many of the stories now known as the Iran-Contra scandal for the Associated Press and Newsweek.


Butchering The Bill Of Rights

I know what I want for Christmas. It's the same wish I have for Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the Winter Solstice, and New Year's. I want my Bill of Rights back.

I want it back from Bush, Ashcroft, Ridge, and their whole gaggle of small-minded autocrats who have pulled off a sudden, sweeping, usurpation of power, establishing an imperial presidency. They have done it by cowing congress, orchestrating the media, and diverting the public's attention with loud shrieks of "Terrorism! Terrorism!" As they shrieked and pointed at Arabs and Afghanis, they dragged the constitutional genius of Madison, Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, and other founders into the back rooms and hacked it to bits.

They now assert that anyone they "suspect" of being a criminal or being connected in anyway to anyone suspected of being a criminal can be detained by federal authority without charging them or revealing who is being held. They say they now have the authority to enter your home, business, or computer without telling you about it, and they can arrest you if you tell anyone they were there. They can also monitor conversations between you and your lawyer.

Oh, you say, this only applies to terrorists, doesn't it? Hello. These new executive powers apply to criminal investigations, not just terrorism. More frighteningly, they don't define "terrorist," except to use catch-all phrases that can ensnare anyone the authorities have "reason to believe" might be involved in any action that might have "adverse effects on the U.S., its citizens, its national security, foreign policy, or economy." Picketers, protesters, demonstrators??this means you.

This is Jim Hightower saying...Instead of George Washington, we're saddled with George W; instead of John Adams, John Ashcroft; instead of Tom Jefferson, Tom Ridge. In recent weeks, these lessors have weakened the work of the giants, specifically butchering the 1st, 4th, 5th, and 6th amendments. In so doing, they've weakened America more than any terrorist could.

Sources: "Ashcroft asked to justify anti-terror measures" Austin American Statesman 11/26/2001 "What, me worry? You bet I will" by Molly Ivins "Bush's powers growing along with campaign against terrorism" Austin American Statesman 10/20/2001 "Kucinich Sends Bi-Partisan Letter to Bush" Press Release 11/27/2001 from the Congress of United States House Representatives
© 2001 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.


Noam Chomsky -- Saying What Media Don't Want Us To Hear
By Norman Solomon

"If liberty means anything at all," George Orwell wrote, "it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear."

From all indications, the gatekeepers for big media in the United States don't want to hear what Noam Chomsky has to say -- and they'd prefer that we not hear him either.

Mainstream journalists in other nations often interview Chomsky. Based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he's a world-renowned analyst of propaganda and global politics. But the chances are slim that you'll ever find him on a large network here at home.

Chomsky is ill-suited to providing soundbites -- and that's not just a matter of style. A few snappy words are sufficient when they harmonize with the conventional wisdom in a matter of seconds. It takes longer to intelligibly present a very different assessment of political realities.

No one disputes that Chomsky revolutionized the study of language more than 40 years ago. The rich and powerful have no quarrel with his work as the world's most significant linguist. But as a political analyst, he's pretty much persona non grata at big U.S. networks and influential dailies.

Meanwhile, overflow audiences of thousands are routine when Chomsky speaks on college campuses and elsewhere in the United States. For many years now, community radio stations across North America have featured his speeches and [snip - maximum size exceeded]

-- Jeff
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