Saturday, July 30, 2005

Why Doesn't the Media Take a Look at Whether Bush Arranged an Abortion For His Girlfriend in 1971?

By MARC MCDONALD

These days, George W. Bush gets lots of brownie points from fundamentalist Christians over his "Pro-Life" stance. Indeed, Bush's nominee for the Supreme Court, John Roberts, almost certainly sounds the death knell for Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that effectively overturned all state laws outlawing abortion.

Given the current political climate, this might be a good time for the media to pull its thumb out of its ass and finally get around to examining a murky story from Bush's past that's remained in the shadows for three decades.

According to the story, in 1971, Bush got his then-girlfriend, a woman named Robin Lowman (now Robin Garner) pregnant and then arranged for her to have an abortion. (Note that in 1971, abortions were illegal in Texas).

In 2000, publisher Larry Flynt tried to encourage the media to examine this bombshell story. But, predictably, he got nowhere. The same mainstream media that gave 18 months of saturation, around-the-clock coverage to the Monica Lewinsky story, refused to touch the Bush/abortion story.

This is the same media that never tires of giving acres of coverage to smutty, sleazy topics like the ridiculous Janet Jackson/Super Bowl "controversy." Who's the real smut peddler these days: Flynt (who once took a bullet for the First Amendment) or the corporate controlled, cowardly U.S. media?

It's downright eerie and Orwellian, the way the Bush/abortion story has been consistently ignored and even covered up by our nation's media. Few Americans have even heard of this story.

One interesting episode on CNN a few years back neatly sums the media's approach to this story. On November 7, 2000, Flynt briefly spoke about the Bush/abortion case during an appearance on CNN's "Crossfire." Bizarrely, CNN later deleted Flynt's comments from the show's official transcripts, in an unprecedented move that indicates that the media in this country have received orders from their corporate owners to not touch this story.

Flynt was later interviewed on the Bernie Ward radio talk show on KGO radio in San Francisco, where he mentioned the CNN transcript issue and then lambasted the media:

"The mainstream media is scared to death of this story. They won't even check out the facts that I already have, much less ask Bush the question."

The mainstream media snoozed through this story during the 2000 election. And I suppose there's little reason that the media will look into it now.

But one thing Americans need to be aware of with Supreme Court nominee John Roberts, is that if he is appointed to the high court, Roe v. Wade is history. To get an idea of where Roberts stands on Roe v. Wade, it's important to note that he was listed as a coauthor on a brief before the high court in the Rust v. Sullivan case in 1991, which stated the following:

"We continue to believe that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and should be overruled."

It seems that Bush has come a long ways in his position on abortion since the 1970s. Talk about being a flip-flopper.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Black Box Voting's Bev Harris "Not At All Confident" U.S. Voting System Will Be Fixed in Time For 2006 Elections

By MARC McDONALD

In the following interview with BeggarsCanBeChoosers.com, Bev Harris, executive director of Black Box Voting talked about what her "consumer protection group for elections" has been up to lately.

Harris, who popularized the term "Black Box Voting," (which refers to voting on electronic machines that do not print paper ballots) said she is "not at all confident" that America's voting system woes will be fixed in time for the 2006 elections. Harris said election officials haven't taken the necessary steps to fix security issues and "to protect our votes properly."

Harris said the fixes that have been made to date have been "token efforts, Band-Aids, cosmetics, putting makeup on a broken system."

Currently, Black Box Voting is doing work on several fronts, including producing audit material to show that voting machines did not perform reliably in November 2004, Harris said. The organization is also working on specific investigations to prove fraudulent certification of the voting machines.

First of all, for the people out there who've not heard of your Web site and work, can you briefly explain what Black Box Voting is all about and what its purpose is?

Harris: Black Box Voting is a nonprofit, nonpartisan consumer protection group for elections. We investigate problems with election integrity, focusing especially on new technologies and on local situations which illustrate generic problems affecting elections nationwide. The most active section of our site is the "Forums" section, which provides interactive information on investigations and latest news. We post a new, original-research consumer report on elections problems about once a week, sometimes more often.

How did you first get involved in this field?

Harris: Investigative writing, which led to breaking many stories on election integrity problems in the U.S. After a number of breakthrough investigations, I founded a nonprofit group, funded by public donations, which allow two full time investigators to do field work. You cannot just study this issue on the Internet. Going out into the field to review documents, interview citizens and candidates, and visit elections officials is of critical importance, and what you learn often doesn't quite match what you read on the Internet. Our nonprofit organization has been active for a little over a year, and we are working on several important new consumer reports right now.

What is the main task that you are working on these days?

Harris: We are very interesting in the money trail driving procurement. We are also working on specific investigations to prove fraudulent certification of the voting machines, and we are producing audit material showing that the machines did not perform reliably in November 2004.

For a while after the 2004 election, we saw the media pay some attention to election controversies and irregularities. But there hasn't been much follow through and the issue seems to have faded away. Do you feel confident that the American people will ever learn the truth about the 2004 election problems?

Harris: Interest will always ebb and flow, but we are pleased that this story now has "legs" -- weak ones, but as the evidence is growing, so is media interest, even in off-years for elections.

The biggest problem with the media is that they fail to do the homework needed (takes too much time, budgets generally do not provide for that) -- and therefore, fail to ask effective follow up questions. Instead of learning the truth, therefore, what we see is spin. The progress we have made is that there is now some spin on both sides, but most media coverage is still largely spin.
Another problem is that no single major publication has done an effective series on voting machines and procurement. This is a multifaceted, agenda-ridden issue that will become bigger than Watergate, when a publication finally embarks on a
quest for the truth.

Do you feel confident that our nation's voting system will be in any better shape for the 2006 elections?

Harris: I hope so, but I am not at all confident about this. There is not a will to engage in real reform by elected officials (small wonder; they owe their power because of the current flawed system). There is not a will to engage in real investigative journalism among any of the mainstream outlets (although Adam Cohen, of The New York Times, did an outstanding job in the summer of 2004).
There is not a will among election officials to learn about the security problems with their systems, and certainly not a will to take the correct steps to protect our votes properly. There is a will among ordinary citizens to correct electoral problems, but many have been led to easy, politically correct "solutions" that don't really address core problems.

What is needed, first and foremost, is willingness to fight. Too often, we are told to "be polite" and "work within the system." That only works if the system is responsive to real reform efforts. What we are seeing is token efforts,
Band-Aids, cosmetics, putting makeup on a broken system.

No doubt, there are many frustrated citizens out there who are concerned about the future of fair and honest elections in America. What can they do to help your cause?

Harris: Get involved. You can hook up with others in your area who are interested in reform by going to the forums at Black Box Voting, where each state has a section. The forums also have the latest suggestions for actions to take, and ways to help "be the media."

One of the most important things to do is to start showing up at meetings, with a video camera. This will put local officials on notice that you are watching them, and will help you meet others in your town who share your interests. When
you go, focus on getting public officials to commit to answers (or non-answers, fibs, or evasions) -- that's why you need the video camera.

We have a primer on the voting machines, quite readable and very thorough, online. Go to Black Box Voting and look for the Black Box Voting book, available chapter-by-chapter in free downloads. You will find the chapters on the right hand column of the home page.

Now, let's go take back our republic.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

An Open Letter To Bush: Are We Fighting The "Trrrr-ists" In London So We Do Not Have To Face Them At Home?

BY MANIFESTO JOE

It was bad enough for one of the journalism charlatans at Fox News to talk about the London bombing in terms of how one could profit from it. (The swinelike Brit Hume suggested this would be a good time to buy futures.) But for loutish insensitivity, he was topped by our own "president," who told his Saturday morning radio audience that we are "fighting the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them at home."

Mr. Bush, did you imply that it's better to have the London subway system be a battleground than to have al Qaeda blowing up folks over here?

This mantra of your was insulting enough in the context of the Iraq war. Never mind that it was your foolhardiness that turned that country into a terrorist magnet, and the best training ground al Qaeda ever had. What you expressed is sort of a not-in-my-back-yard school of anti-terrorism -- essentially, let's keep them on the run so they can only hit foreign targets!


Mr. Bush, I never quite understood how shallow you really are until you invoked this mantra of yours in this particular address. Despite all the gushing rhetoric, this shows a ludicrous lack of respect and empathy for the civilians who are being killed daily in this conflict, whether Britons or Iraqis. You have denigrated the value of their lives; indeed, those of everyone, except "Murkans."

It is bad enough that neither you nor Mr. Blair seem to understand that your totally unrelated invasion of Iraq actually played into the hands of terrorists the world over. Thanks to this needless quagmire:
  • The U.S. is militarily overextended, unable to deal effectively with those actually responsible for 9-11, the London bombing, and the other atrocities.

  • Terrorist recruitment has probably spiked greatly because of outrage in the Muslim world over your poorly veiled oil grab.

  • Terrorist activity, in any case, has definitely increased. MSNBC reported that a RAND Corp. database shows that the number of deaths from terrorism worldwide has sharply risen since the Iraq invasion.

  • Again, Iraq is a perfect training ground for the recruits.

  • World opinion of the United States has probably never been worse.

  • And, all in all, the world is much more dangerous -- and, your mantra aside, it is likely only a matter of time before our own infrastructure, and people, come under attack again. Our Coast Guard and border patrol aren't good enough to keep our real enemies at bay much longer.

What would you say if they bombed the port of Los Angeles, or took out the Golden Gate Bridge during rush hour? That we're fighting the "trrrr-ists" in California so we do not have to face them in Washington? Or Crawford?

Your mantra was disrespectful enough to the nearly 1,800 soldiers who have died so far in your and Mr. Blair's extracurricular misadventure. But in this radio address -- well, I thought I had already heard as much bovine excrement as you could muster for one speech. I was wrong.

Mr. Bush, you owe the British people an apology. And your fellow "Murkans" your resignation. Then we'll see if Cheney can be impeached.

MANIFESTO JOE IS AN UNDERGROUND WRITER LIVING IN TEXAS.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Will the Media Fully Examine the Rove Case? Don't Hold Your Breath

By MARC MCDONALD

From time to time, in the news media business, there will emerge a story that journalists will say "has legs."

A story with "legs" tends to completely dominate our nation's public discourse for months at a time. More often than not, by the time the story has run its course, virtually every American will be sick and tired of the topic. (Recall the O.J. Simpson case).

A good example of a story with legs was the Monica Lewinsky story. This is a story that got "above the fold," saturation, round-the-clock coverage for 18 seemingly never-ending months. The media obviously believed it was a major story with legs (although the American public obviously disagreed---Clinton enjoyed strong approval ratings in the high 60s, even at the height of the "crisis").

By the time this story wound down, virtually everyone in America was long since tired of the topic. (It's interesting, because the media has long claimed that it serves up news stories that "the public wants." And yet, who, outside of a few right-wing partisan hacks really wanted to read about the Monica Lewinsky story day after monotonous day for a year and a half?)

Progressives these days are no doubt wondering if the Karl Rove/Valerie Plame story will have legs. Will the mainstream media continue to pursue this story, day in and day out, and give it the coverage that it deserves?

I think this story, as important as it is, will fizzle out soon, as the mainstream media looks elsewhere for its "flavor of the month" news cycle fix. No doubt, the next time an attractive white woman winds up in peril somewhere, the media will latch onto that story and drop the Rove story.

The fact is, the media has given the Bush White House a free pass on everything for the past five years and I don't expect the Rove case to be any different.

The media's agenda these days is pretty much dictated by the right-wing's powerful noise machine, which pretty much obliterates any real dialogue on the issues that impact the lives of ordinary working Americans.

The corporate media would have us believe on most days that the most important issue in our society right now is the plight of yet another attractive young white woman in distress somewhere. (Never mind that a similar story involving say, a frumpy middle-aged black woman, would never be similarly regarded as national news).

And meanwhile, hugely critical stories impacting the lives of every American receive virtually zero coverage in our nation's media. To name but three examples:

1. The U.S. has gigantic and growing, unprecedented trade and fiscal deficits that a growing number of economic commentators say imperil our nation and threaten to implode the value of the dollar: a massively urgent story that critically impacts the lives of every single American.

2. The U.S. is currently experiencing a rapidly growing divide between rich and poor that is unprecedented in world history. This astonishing polarization of the classes (which began around 1980 and is rapidly picking up steam today) has been completely ignored by the media.

3. The U.S. public schools system is in what can only be described as a major crisis. The U.S. school system as a whole is in fact the worst in the industrialized world. It's hard to imagine a story that has a greater impact on America's future.

The above are merely three major stories that the media neglects; there are many others.

I'm willing to admit, in the overall scale of things, the Rove story might not be that important compared to say, America's titanic fiscal deficits, or America's worst-in-the-industrialized-world school system. But it'd be nice to see the media (for once) not give the Bush White House yet another free pass.

I mean, this is the same media that never gave Clinton a pass on anything (even if it was a non-story that was pitched to the media by Clinton's enemies).

Thus, we got massive, saturation coverage on "stories" like the time Clinton supposedly held up air traffic so that he could get a haircut. That story got weeks of heavy coverage (and it was only later that it emerged that the incident, in fact, never happened at all, as the FAA later confirmed).

Virtually every critical story that ever appeared on Clinton, in fact, turned out to have no basis in reality. And yet, to this day, many Republicans are convinced that the most bizarre, outlandish tales about Clinton are true: that he had people murdered in Arkansas; that he had a hand in the death of Vince Foster; that he had a chance to capture Bin Laden and instead let him "get away."

Therefore it's quite frustrating for progressives these days to watch as Bush escapes responsibility for anything he's ever done, simply because the media refuses to hold him accountable for anything. Bush can lie through his teeth all day and he confidently and arrogantly knows he'll get away with it, because the media will never have the balls to challenge him.

So if you waiting for the media to fully examine the Rove/Plame case, and to tell the American people the truth about this story, don't hold your breath.