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The Top 10 Stories and Non-Stories of 2006 By: Ben Johnson
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Every year, the media’s choices of which stories to cover, which angles to report the news, and which experts to quote shape public outlook on the issues. In 2006, the press again emphasized some stories beyond their merit while ignoring issues of great importance.

THE TOP TEN OVERREPORTED STORIES OF 2006

 

10. Al Gore’s Incoherent Truth-twisting. The Democratic Party reached a new level of recreation in the image of Michael Moore this summer when the former presidential candidate made a foray into both celluloid and cellulite this summer. Al Gore’s pseudo-documentary An Inconvenient Truth became a minor box office success – or a major financial success for a documentary, depending upon your viewpoint. (The fact that a film version of Al Gore presenting a slide show became a major seller is itself a sign of a nearing Apocalypse.) His success may have represented the most significant advance for neo-Luddite alarmism this millenium.

 

The film is a lie from start to finish, beginning with the Smug One’s glib statement that “I used to be the president of the United States.” One scholar alone – Mario Lewis Jr. of the Competitive Enterprise Institute – listed 10 pages of the film’s falsehoods, exaggerations, distortions, or ignored evidence before taking a breath. (He later released a book-length response.) Lewis noted, among other things, that Gore “misanthropically” equates “success” with the “reduction of global population growth rates.” Mr. Wizard’s presentation also claimed the environments of Venus and Mars cannot sustain human life because of their carbon dioxide levels, not their distance from the Sun.

 

Ignored is the year-end revelation that bovine flatulence makes a far greater contribution to so-called “Greenhouse gases” than human activity, representing a full 14 percent of worldwide methane emissions. (How long until we see the headline: “Cow Farts; Rips Hole in the Ozone Layer”?) Nowhere has Red China’s favorite vice president noted, for instance, that drilling in ANWR could produce enough domestic oil to drop petroleum prices for the foreseeable future without any adverse effects for the region’s wildlife; that the Green movement has forbidden America from building a single new refinery in decades and as we found out, many of the existing refineries are vulnerable to hurricanes; that Red China will be drilling off the Gulf shores of Cuba, while the United States refuses to tap her own stateside resources; nor that nuclear power has a consistent record of safety. Those, indeed, would be inconvenient truths.

 

9. The Cheney Shooting “Coverup” and Conspiracy Theories. On a quail hunt on Saturday, February 11, the vice president accidentally shot his friend and hunting partner, 78-year-old lawyer Harry Whittington, with a pump shotgun. He claimed full responsibility, and his victim, on the day of his release from the hospital, asked that the media end its feeding frenzy. The shooting itself was a bizarre event, and most newsworthy. However, the media attempted to use the private suffering inflicted by a mistake – a mistake that obviously grieved a usually stoic vice president – as a battering ram against an administration they despise.

 

The New York Times, for instance, tried desperately to dramatize the one hour it took President Bush to learn of the vice president’s hunting mishap. On February 13, the Times claimed the White House tried “with little success” to “quell” an “uproar over why it took the better part of a day to disclose that Vice President Dick Cheney had accidentally wounded a fellow hunter in Texas.” The real reason for outrage, though, was Dick Cheney’s small revenge on the media: they were scooped. The owners of the property where the hunt occurred handed the story exclusively to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

 

Other leftists attempted to twist this into another vast conspiracy. North Carolina columnist Barry Saunder insisted, “that shotgun blast to Whittington's face was meant to convey that I. Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby had better bite his tongue and forget about testifying against Cheney, his former boss, in the Valerie Plame spy case.” Clinton hatchet man Sidney Blumenthal wrote an eyewitness account “bore the mark of a classic Rove-engineered statement”; besides, she had once worked for Halliburton! Leftist West Wing scribbler Lawrence O’Donnell stated, “Every lawyer I've talked to assumes Cheney was too drunk to talk to the cops after the shooting.” The Washington Post’s David Ignatius claimed it was “An Arrogance of Power,” tying the shooting to the war in Iraq, NSA wiretapping, Watergate, and the Bush administration’s purported authorization of torture (not that he overplayed his hand). The Soros-funded Media Matters smear site dedicated multiple pages of commentary to alleged media complicity in the coverup. (Katie Couric: Neocon dupe.) Was he there as a bribe from Halliburton? Had he been drinking? Were the witnesses lying? Why was he “hunting without a proper game stamp”? Why all the “discrepancies”?

 

The shooting was a legitimate story. Its twisting said more about the conspirators than Vice President Cheney and perhaps, also, of the Left’s reaction to mourning. The media remain outraged Cheney kept tabs on his wounded, elderly friend – who could have been in danger of his life – rather than calling a media conference waving a bloody shirt over the body.

 

As the Left’s behavior at the Coretta Scott King funeral this year proved, no tragedy is too sacred for its adherents to desecrate for transient political gains.

 

8. The Amazing Flying Imams. As everyone knows, six Muslim imams were forced off US Airways flight 300 from Minneapolis to Phoenix, in what the mainstream media and the Council on American-Islamic Relations have portrayed as an egregious case of religious discrimination. The portrayal neatly fits their template of the Bush administration’s Department of Homeland Security (he’s a fascist) and of Americans generally (they’re racist yokels one step removed from voting for John Rarick or Lester Maddox). It is “very, very inappropriate to treat religious leaders that way,sniffled a CAIR press statement. Far-leftist Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-TX, added, “Understandably, the imams felt profiled, humiliated, and discriminated against by their treatment. 

 

Less reported was the imams’ erratic and suspicious behavior. They were, according to an airport spokesman, “praying loudly and spouting some kind of anti-U.S. rhetoric regarding the war in Iraq and Saddam Hussein.” They got out of their assigned seats and placed themselves in front of every entrance and exit on the plane – just as the 9/11 hijackers had. One federal air marshall observed, “They now control all of the entry and exit routes to the plane.” They were reported to have asked for seatbelt extensions they did not need, possible weapons against uncooperative hostages. The media also overlooked the fact that the Religion of Peace’s fellow passengers burst into applause when the airline removed the men-of-the-turban. Any terror-conscious airline would, or should, have acted the same way to a legitimate fear of terrorist activity. The media backlash against US Airways only punishes the airline’s diligence and instills in its employees a potentially lethal pause.

 

7.  The 2008 Presidential Race. Once upon a time, there were pauses between political campaigns. Those elected went about governing; the media reported on the latest celebrity faux pas; and the American people got a respite from the never-ending partisan contests. Although the average voter does not “tune in” to the presidential election until Labor Day of the election year, the airwaves have been filled with ’08 “news” all year, more than full two years before anyone will cast a single vote for president. Does the public really want – or care –to know who has elicited the greatest applause at the most recent Dubuque Jefferson-Jackson dinner? Is anyone enthralled that Evan Bayh nearly considered filing the papers one fills out before forming an exploratory committee, the penultimate stage to actually becoming a presidential candidate? Is someone tallying which former Bush campaign employees have gone to McCain, Romney, or Huckabee? The front-loaded primary season – which favors the wealthiest campaign and creeps ever-closer each season – has conspired with the explosion of cable news “analysis” programs to make the red state/blue state divide a part of every nightly newscast. Our sense of national unity, and our patience, are their victims.

 

6. The Dubai Ports Deal. Early in 2006, the media announced that President Bush had inked a deal to turn six container terminals to United Arab Emirates-owned Dubai Ports World. The Democratic Party sought to block the deal with an hysterical, nativist, race-baiting campaign that, in essence, argued that American port security cannot be trusted to Ay-rabs.

 

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, led the charge, introducing a bill to block the deal from going forward. “The bottom line is, security has to come first,” he said. “We know that this deal would not bring security.” John Kerry added, “Target does a better job monitoring their stores than our government does monitoring our ports.” When queried for a reason to block the deal, some leftists stated foreigners should not be monitoring American ports – although none objected to the Clinton administration turning over control of the Panama Canal to the Red Chinese. Others claimed UAE could send foreign, Muslim, Arabs to monitor U.S. ports.

 

All these ignored that DPW is a world leader in port security with an outstanding reputation – as well as a money saver.

 

They also ignored the far more important fact that UAE “control” over the ports would hardly impact security at all. Chief Kevin McCabe of U.S. Customs and Border Protection told FPM columnist Kenneth R. Timmerman, “One hundred percent of containers coming into the United States from overseas go through our screening process. It begins 24 hours before they are ever loaded at a foreign port.” In fact, U.S. Customs inspects 80 percent of all incoming cargo abroad; once in the United States, they are scanned by high-tech process, with all suspicious containers inspected by hand. This is the famous “2 percent of all cargo” the Left claims is inspected. Its solution: hire more voting union members. 

 

Secure or not, public exposure caused the UAE to back out of the deal on March 10, citing “the strong relationship between the United Arab Emirates and the United States and to preserve that relationship.”

 

The Democrats and the media – but then I repeat myself – also overlooked the fact that the UAE had rendered invaluable service in the War on Terror. While friendly nations such as Turkey proved resistant to U.S. foreign policy, the UAE at times helped America with important intelligence. In foreign policy, one motivates foreign countries with carrots and sticks; things such as the Dubai port deal are the carrots. Denying the ports deal to a friendly Arab Muslim country while offering economic aid and a nuclear reactor to hostile, theocratic Tehran sends an unmistakable message about which posture pays the greatest dividends.

 

5. U.S. Casualties in Iraq. Most news outlets closed out 2006 by celebrating casualty number 3,000 of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In the December 31 piece, Kristin Roberts of Reuters dutifully quoted the United for Peace and Justice website: “We must bear witness to this tragic milestone. And ... we must remind others that hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, women, and men have also died in this outrageous war and occupation.”

 

This came just days after the Associated Press – the world’s most widely syndicated news service – ran a story headlined “U.S. Deaths in Iraq Exceed 9/11 Count.” The implication: President Bush killed more Americans than Osama bin Laden.

 

There were similar media orgies for the 2,000th casualty, the 1,000th casualty, even the 721st casualty. The media bemoaned a ban on portraying military caskets – which they quickly broke – and have taken to classifying each month as, e.g., “the fourth deadliest month of fighting.” None of these convinced the American people Operation Enduring Freedom was more harmful than 9/11.

 

Emphasizing American reversals or the failures of those we have enabled is not reporting if the story takes place without reference to the system replaced and the one that would fill its vacuum should we leave precipitously. The prestige media’s massaged reporting amounts to little more than low-level psychological warfare against the president and his policy.

 

4.  The Democrats’ “Landslide.” After 12 years in the political hinterlands, Congressional Democrats again took control of the Legislative Branch of government – after perhaps two-dozen scores of media stories about “Republican fatigue” and scandals.

 

Indeed, more than 30 seats changed hands in both chambers. However, the Democratic agenda, which played no role whatever in the campaign, soon came to the fore after the election, as though the public had somehow given the Left a mandate.

 

Issues proved elusive in the midterm elections. Even the much-vaunted Iraq fatigue – the widespread dissatisfaction with the rate of progress in Iraq – largely masked a public desire to do more to win in Iraq, not to follow the Kucinich-Pelosi-Murtha “Defeat Now” program.

 

Moreover, several seats changed hands, not because of any voter affinity for the Democratic Party’s agenda, but merely because the otherwise safe Republican incumbent succumbed to scandal. Eight of the Democrats’ 30-seat pickup can be attributed to the private scandals of the Congressman, whether actual (Randy “Duke” Cunningham, Mark Foley, and Bob Ney) or accused (Tom DeLay, John Sweeney, Charles Bass, Don Sherwood, and Curt Weldon). The FBI raided the home of Rep. Curt Weldon’s daughter days before the election. Elsewhere, the Democrats tried to succeed by getting to the Republican’s Right (as in the case of the man who ousted the outstanding former Rep. J.D. Hayworth; or Democrats Jon Tester and Jim Webb). Others invoked Jesus Christ more often than Pope Benedict XVI (think of the “Jesus-loving” Playboy funds recipient Harold Ford Jr.).

 

Seemingly all news outlets overlooked one major reason Republicans lost: they violated their conservative oaths to cut spending. Taxes are down, but ever since losing the government shutdown standoff with President Clinton in 1995, GOP leaders on the Hill made the Faustian bargain to grab all the pork they can (with a few notable exceptions, like John McCain). Mike DeWine certainly lost because of his lack of Republican support. Somehow, the media spun this into a unanimous call for Rumsfeld’s resignation.

 

3.  The Iraq Study Group. For the fall of 2006, fence-straddlers in both parties waited for the Iraq Study Group, the Baker-Hamilton Commission, to provide much-needed political cover for a withdrawal, and the Commission did not disappoint. Knowing this, the media built up the coming report as a fount of Solomonic wisdom, the greatest collection of diplomatic sagacity since Jefferson dined alone. Few readers knew the ISG featured the foreign policy insights of such deep thinkers as Leon Panetta, Charles Robb, Ed Meese, Sandra Day O’Connor, and Monica Lewinsky talent agent Vernon Jordan.

 

The report called for gradual surrender and a diplomatic charm offensive to turn Iraq over to the tender mercies of Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. We waited months and months for this?

 

2. Barack Obama. At last, a man who makes John Edwards look overqualified for the presidency. (Edwards has far less experience than the equally handsome Dan Quayle had before becoming vice president, though the media savaged the conservative Midwesterner as unfit for office.) Obama excites the media for the usual reasons: he’s charismatic, photogenic, a rousing speaker with a simplistic message (Can’t we all just get along?). He has a beautiful family. He’s young. He’s black. (Not that the media notice that kind of thing, although every story about him mentions the fact numerous times.)

 

So far, he differs not one whit from Alan Keyes, save for an inferior intellect.

 

Coincidentally, Barack Hussein Obama is also very, very, very left-wing, and has been an outspoken critic of the Iraq war since he was a minor figure in Illinois state politics.

 

…And if he was a minor figure in Illinois state politics recently enough to criticize the Iraq war, he has no business being touted as a presidential hopeful.

 

1. Illegal Classified Stories about the War on Terror. In late November, the New York Times published a classified memo indicating the United States had lost confidence in Iraqi President Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. Written by Stephen Hadley, a member of the National Security Council, it spelled out a number of strategies al-Maliki could use to restore his standing in the country – strategies terrorist might appreciate knowing so they could thwart them.

 

Sadly, this marked but the most recent of a string of classified disclosures in the last year that began in late 2005. FrontPage Magazine columnist and Professor Emeritus at Brooklyn Law School Henry Holzer has argued persuasively that the Times committed treason by publishing the NSA wiretapping program. Late December 2005, NYT reporter James Risen told Katie Couric that the people who broke the law to leak the NSA wiretapping story “were truly American patriots.” Dana Priest’s Washington Post expose of CIA “rendition” may have sparked an al-Qaeda bombing in Jordan one week to the day after the publication of his story in November 2005. This summer, President Bush stated publishing the details of a classified program to monitor terrorists’ funding networks “does great harm” – upon which the media rewarded him with more sensitive, war-related leaks.

 

The closest the administration has come to plugging the source of these covert disclosures came when the House Intelligence Committee suspended Democratic staffer Larry Hanauer upon suspicions he leaked a classified National Intelligence Estimate report on Iraq. However, last week outgoing Chairman Pete Hoekstra, R-MI, dropped an investigation and “restored” Hanauer’s security clearance.

 

These disclosures are the “most overreported” stories of 2006, because to have reported them once is too often.

 

THE TOP TEN UNDERREPORTED STORIES OF 2006

 

10. President Bush is Appeasing Iran. If President Clinton had introduced the same Iran policy as President Bush, every conservative outlet would call it appeasement. Worse, they would be right.

 

This summer, Condoleeza Rice told a press conference she would unveil a package of sanctions and incentives for Iran. “It's time to know whether Iran is serious about negotiation or not,” she said without a sense of irony. If Condi had not yet perceived Iran’s game, she is irremediable. Second, the administration has made clear even utter rejection (Iran’s ultimate response) would not bring them to support military action. United Nations Security Council economic sanctions would come about on the Chinese and Russian timetable(s), not ours. Several veto-wielding UNSC member states enjoy greater trade with Iran than Iraq, the invasion of which they still oppose. Russia enjoys $1.5 billion in trade with Iran from two deals alone: building a nuclear reactor in Bushehr and supplying the mullahs with short-range missiles. China and Iran did $4 billion in trade in 2003 and signed a 25-year, $100 billion trade deal. French exports to Iran total more than 3.5 billion Euros annually. EU exports in general more than doubled between 2000 and 2004.

 

To date, this policy has accomplished nothing except to buy a nuclear madman time. Still, there have been few peeps of criticism about the matter. Presumably, this is because the conservative press has “carried the water” for the Bush administration’s malfeasance, while the dictator-coddling Left approves of it.

 

9. The Hezbollah/Iranian/Syrian Assault on Democratic, Christian Lebanon. Did anyone know Lebanese Prime Minister Fuoad Siniora, a Maronite (Roman Catholic) Christian, is currently facing a concerted effort to shut down his democratic government, led by Hezbollah? The Iranian-Syrian, Shi’ite asset has demanded greater control in Lebanon’s government, the members of which are constitutionally restricted to representatives of certain religious backgrounds. Radical Shi’ite Islam has been on the rise concomitant with the waning and exodus of Lebanese Christians. Having begun a proxy war with Israel from Lebanese soil – in which Muslim terrorists bombed Israel from Christian neighborhoods, so Israel would kill “infidels” in response – Hezbollah wants to undo the Cedar Revolution and return southern Lebanon to a permanent base of operations for the “liberation” of Palestine, from the river to the sea.

 

You are forgiven if this is the first time you’ve read of this ongoing, foreign-funded series of demonstrations against a Middle Eastern democracy.

 

8. Who was Really Behind the Illegal Immigration Riots? And Were they All Peaceful? In March, a series of rallies and riots broke out across the country in order to secure the “rights” of illegal immigrants, mostly of Mexican heritage. These riots – staged in obvious centers like Los Angeles and Houston to counter-intuitive stops like rural Iowa and Minnesota – were reportedly organized by incredibly effective Latino DJs.

 

In point of fact, they were organized by radical labor unions and far-leftists like the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Unite HERE, International ANSWER, the George Soros-funded Center for Community Change, ACORN, AFSC, La Raza, MEChA, MALDEF, and LULAC, as well as current/former Mexican government officials. New Left radical and former SDS radical Andrew Stern’s SEIU “coordinated the more than 100 buses that dropped off marchers from throughout California, Las Vegas and a few Southwestern cities.” According to the L.A. Times, the SEIU’s goons also helped “herd marchers along the route.” The Los Angeles Unified School District – where more than 25,000 walked out of classes – received taxpayer-subsidized lobbying courses. According to the district, students “would remain in their home rooms through the day for discussions on the immigration issue, how to influence lawmakers and the consequences of walkouts, said Rowena Lagrosa, executive officer for educational service.”

 

Nor were all protests peaceful and patriotic, a huge, Hispanic hug for their adopted homeland. Mexican illegal protestors burned American flags and hoisted signs with extremist messages at the L.A. rallies. In Dallas/Ft. Worth, media accounts specify: “about 1,500 students from Dallas and Grand Prairie schools demonstrated. Dallas police outfitted in riot gear moved in on the crowd after some of the students started throwing rocks and bottles at a woman who staged a one-person counterprotest.” 1,500-to-one; there’s justice.

   

The media’s coverage similarly brutalized the English language, with their Orwellian descriptions of the protestors’ tactics, aims, and motivations.

 

7. Valerie Plame's Leaker is an Antiwar Gossip. Our long national nightmare is finally over: the person who leaked the name of Valerie Plame to the media was an antiwar blabbermouth who was Colin Powell’s dovish acolyte. In July, Plame filed a vanity lawsuit against Vice President Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, and Scooter Libby, charging them with violating her family’s First and Fifth Amendment rights; endangering their children’s lives; making them targets of terrorist attacks; ending her CIA career; ruining other financial opportunities; launching a “gross invasion of privacy” against the recluses; and executing a “conspiracy” to “discredit, punish and seek revenge against” Wilson for his truth-telling editorial in 2003. (Read the full 23-page complaint in HTML or pdf.) Forget that her children screamed in an airport, “Our daddy’s famous; our mommy’s a secret spy.” Forget that Plame disclosed her home address and her CIA front group in order to make a political contribution to a leftist Democrat. Forget the two of them traveled, had their picture taken together, and disclosed their children’s names to the press; Cheney conspired to screw them for “telling the truth” about Niger’s yellowcake sales.

 

Then Richard Armitage stepped in. Upon reading Bob Novak’s description of the original leaker as “no partisan gunslinger,” Armitage told others in the State Department he was “the one that f-cked up.” Armitage – Colin Powell’s deputy at State, as well as a critic of the Iraq war and an endless source of leaks against the Bush administration – had revealed “[Joseph Wilson’s] wife” was a CIA agent; Novak used Who’s Who to find the name. The leaker was an antiwar, anti-Bush ex-employee. The Bill Moyers/George Soros-funded The American Prospect stated correctly, “it was Armitage who supplied the steel fist inside Powell’s velvet glove – and that fist often swung at the administration’s neoconservatives.” Since leaving State, he has teamed with Powell in an under-the-radar media campaign to spike the nomination of John Bolton (whom he had muzzled) to the UN and become a vocal critic of Bush’s policies in Iraq and Afghanistan. Moreover, Colin Powell knew this but let President Bush endure endless criticism – and threats of possible impeachment – without tipping him off as to the leak’s source.

 

Trying to salvage the Left’s scandal, David Corn of The Nation wrote, Armitage’s revelation “was, in a way, linked to the White House effort.” Armitage learned of Plame’s employment because Cheney wanted to find out how an unqualified oaf like Wilson got sent to carry out an incompetent poolside mission to Niger, then publicly spike the administration’s story in the middle of a war. So it is related to a great Bush conspiracy. In a way. Sorta.

 

Valerie Plame threatened to sue Armitage shortly thereafter.

 

Scooter Libby might well ask, “Where do I go to get my reputation back?”

 

6. We’re too humane in waging the War on Terror. Certainly uncovered by the mainstream media, much “Iraq fatigue” would be eliminated if only we were less humane in our pursuit of the War on Terror. Most of those wreaking terror in Iraq today are affiliated with Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army. However, the media conveniently omit this is the group our commanders foolishly allowed to survive when we had it pinned down in Fallujah. U.S. GIs have died by moving booby-trapped bodies; when an American soldier shot such a body, the media denounced him. Saddam loyalists have waged a relentless campaign of destabilization in the hopes of one day springing Saddam Hussein from prison and returning him to power. This significant portion of the Iraqi “insurgency” could have been avoided had we allowed this murderous dictator to the fate of Benito Mussolini following the liberation of Italy. Instead, he continued to call himself the president of Iraq, pushed around judges, and had lawyers and witnesses against him killed for years.

 

America should have made Saddam the apex of the Abu Ghraib pyramid before shooting him on national television. The same broadcast should have noted every Islamist terrorist will be forced to eat a Koran and shoot himself in the mouth before being buried in a pork-lined coffin. It isn’t pretty, and it isn’t humane; but this is war.

 

5. The Media’s War Against the War on Terror. See “Overreported Stories,” entry number 1.

 

4.  The American Fifth Column Negotiates with Iraq’s Pro-Terrorists. This August, a contingent of infamous American radicals including Cindy Sheehan, Tom Hayden, and Medea Benjamin traveled to Jordan to meet with eleven members of the Iraqi parliament and endorse their plan for American defeat. The stated goal was, in Benjamin’s words, “for the U.S. peace movement to meet directly with Iraqi parliamentarians working on a peace plan. We hope to return to the U.S. to build support for their plan.” Team member Geoffrey Millard referred to this trip as “diplomatic communication.” Of course, such a trip may well be illegal, violating the prohibition for private citizens to conduct their own foreign policy.

 

This leftist motley crew met with Sheikh Ahmad al-Kubaysi, a Baghdad-based cleric who “almost certainly is affiliated” with the Naziesque Muslim Brotherhood. He once declared the “very brave” foreign jihadists who came to kill Americans in Iraq were “guaranteed Paradise.” The leftists also met with Saleh al-Mutlaq, leader of the Iraq National Dialogue Front, who once wrote Americans “brand as terrorists the honorable national resistance movements.” He added, “We cannot give peace.” He once told English-language radio, “If the American strategy will stay as it is, maybe one day I will be part of the insurgency.” Minas al-Youssefi of the Iraqi Christian Democratic Party, another “peace plan” advoate, regards the present Iraqi constitution, approved by valiant Iraqi voters, as “a fabrication coming from the occupation forces.”

 

That Americans are trying to make foreign policy is scandalous enough. That a media celebrity worthy of the airtime Cindy Sheehan garnered in 2005-6 attended should have elicited a headline or two. Oddly, they left this visit out.

 

3. Pennsylvania Holds the First-Ever Hearings on Academic Freedom. A first in the realm of academic freedom: the state that is home to the Liberty Bell is letting freedom ring on state campuses from Philly to Pittsburgh (and even John Murtha’s congressional district). Thanks to groundbreaking legislation introduced by State Legislator Gib Anderson, the Pennsylvania Select Committee on Academic Freedom met from September 2005-June 2006 to investigate the state of academic freedom on Pennsylvania campuses.

 

What they found wasn’t pretty. David French of FIRE told the committee many universities’ “written [speech] policies violate the Constitution.” Members heard of professors launching into unrelated political diatribes in the middle of class, and of students too intimidated to demand an education. (See all relevant testimony here.)

 

A constant subject of media misrepresentation, David Horowitz testified, “The Academic Bill of Rights can be simply summarized as an effort to restore the principles that the academic profession has traditionally honored but in all too many cases no longer observes.” It is not Affirmative Action for conservatives. It does not require equal time for anyone; it merely asks professors to enforce their own professional standards requiring professors to teach the subjects in which they have scholarly expertise, to use class time only for that purpose, and to provide a reasonable representation of all scholarly viewpoints on a given topic. 

 

The Select Committee heroically took action to protect its students. The committee recommended public universities adopt policies assuring students’ rights, informing students of those rights, and developing a grievance process when those rights are violated – with records of all such complaints maintained on site. It also called for each college to create an “Office of Academic Standards and Intellectual Diversity to establish clear standards of appropriate academic discourse in curricular matters and classroom discourse.”As a result, Temple University and Penn State adopted new academic freedom policies. Penn State HR 64, for instance, states:

 

It is not the function of a faculty member in a democracy to indoctrinate his/her students with ready-made conclusions on controversial subjects. The faculty member is expected to train students to think for themselves, and to provide them access to those materials which they need if they are to think intelligently. Hence in giving instruction upon controversial matters the faculty member is expected to be of a fair and judicial mind, and to set forth justly, without supersession or innuendo, the divergent opinions of other investigators.

 

No faculty member may claim as a right the privilege of discussing in the classroom controversial topics outside his/her own field of study. The faculty member is normally bound not to take advantage of his/her position by introducing into the classroom provocative discussions of irrelevant subjects not within the field of his/her study.

 

All the Keystone State’s public universities are to update the committee on their compliance by November 1, 2008.

 

The importance of academic freedom, in a country where conservatives are intimidated and sometimes physically attacked for having the temerity to dissent, could not be of greater significance. The media, allegedly obsessed with “education,” could not be bothered to cover it.

 

2. Lynne Stewart Gets Off (Nearly) Scot-Free. Far-Left lawyer Lynne Stewart had been convicted by a jury of her peers for aiding Blind Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman by passing on fatwas to the Islamic Group, a terrorist organization he headed based in Egypt. One such fatwa stated IG should honor no ceasefire with the Egyptian government. Another – which one of Stewart’s co-defendants reportedly issued in Rahman’s name – demanded “all Jews be killed.” Rahman says he instructed Stewart not to disown it, because “it’s good.” Although His Honor gave the jury 139 pages of instructions to govern their deliberations, they convicted her in 13 days. Though the jury convicted the trio more than 20 months ago, U.S. District Court Judge John George Koeltl, a Clinton appointee, deferred the sentence when he learned Stewart, 67, had breast cancer. “If you send her to prison, she's going to die. It's as simple as that,” pleaded Stewart’s lawyer, Elizabeth Fink.

 

Stewart faced 30 years in prison, but Koeltl ignored federal guidelines and sentenced her to only 28 months. During sentencing, Koeltl gushed, Ms. Stewart performed a public service, not only to her clients, but to the nation.

 

Stewart had endorsed the use of terrorism under oath in his courtroom. Longing for a “popular revolution” on the stand, she said America “will not be changed without violence.” Moreover, “You can't always separate out the combatants from the non-combatants.” Nonetheless, she hoped “[p]eople will make the right decision about which to attack,” helpfully adding, “The New York City Board of Education could be one [location] to attack.”

 

This violence was not theoretical Coalition forces captured two of her client, Rahman’s sons working with al-Qaeda, including Mohammed Omar Abdel Rahman, who is thought to have planned and financed the 9/11 attacks. Authorities say the al-Qaeda attack on the USS Cole six years ago was meant to effect the release of Rahman, as were a string of bombings by al-Qaeda’s Filipino ally, Abu Sayyaf (bombings Stewart applauded during a visit to Rahman in May 2000).

 

Stewart rightly called Koeltl’s sentence “a great victory.” She simply omitted for whom.

 

1. Psst…Saddam’s in Hell. Pass It On. Years after his capture, cowering in a spider hole near Tikrit, Saddam Hussein finally met justice at the end of a rope at the end of the year. However, to the extent the media bothered to cover the event, it has focused on alleged international questions of the trial’s authority, methodology – and now, who dared taunt a mass murderer as he was about to pay for just one isolated atrocity among a myriad of genocidal actions over multiple decades. Gerald Ford’s death eclipsed the news stateside, but Saddam’s impending death generated fewer headlines that the U of Michigan’s bowl hopes in the days preceding his march to justice.

 

Why would the media focus on Hussein’s execution? Their current role in securing a Democratic “landslide” has given them more pleasure than anything since demonizing Gerald Ford for pardoning Richard Nixon. Some sports never go out of season.

Ben Johnson is Managing Editor of FrontPage Magazine and co-author, with David Horowitz, of the book Party of Defeat. He is also the author of the books Teresa Heinz Kerry's Radical Gifts (2009) and 57 Varieties of Radical Causes: Teresa Heinz Kerry's Charitable Giving (2004).


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