About Patrick OHeffernan

Host, Fairness Radio with Patrick O'Heffernan

Scalia should resign

Patrick O’Heffernan, Host, Fairness Radio

Yesterday’s testimony at the Supreme Court on the Voting Rights Act was historical for many reasons.  The 1965 VRA is the law that Congress passed in response to the 15th amendment, which was ratified 97 years earlier.  In other words it took Congress 97 years to develop the courage, information and creativity to craft a bill to protect the foundational right of our democracy.

It was also historic in than it comes at a time of increased attempts to suppress votes of minorities – not just blacks, but Hispanics, Asians and anyone else who is not white and Republican.  The motivation for this suppression is as much partisan as it is racist, but the outcome is the same…fewer voters of color and fewer faces in the Congress and state legislatures and city councils that look like America today.

But it was also historic for the words of Justice Scalia.  Scalia  told Donald Verrilli, the Administration lawyer defending the VRA, that Congress could not be trusted to amend the VRA because it  is a “racial entitlement” and Congress cannot get out of obsolete racial entitlements through the normal process, so it is up to the courts to eliminate them.

There was a gasp in the courtroom and in the lawyers lounge where attorneys were listening to the proceedings.  A Supreme Court Justice had called the 1965 VRA the “perpetuation of a racial entitlement.”

Justice Scalia, with all due respect, the Voting Rights Act is not a racial entitlement; it is the Constitutionally demanded shield protecting an American Constitutional right.  It is the Act of Congress called for in Section 2 of the Fifteenth Amendment to guarantee for all Americans the foundational right – not an entitlement, but a right – that underpins this and every other democracy around the world modeled on our Constitution.

Fifty people were beaten to near death on Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965,  marching for their right to vote.  Twenty-five thousand people – including Dr. Martin Luther King – took up their fallen banners and completed the march with Federal troops guarding them.  Four people were bombed and died later on defending their right to vote after the march.  Others were shot or hanged or run over trying to register black people to vote.

President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law in memory of the blood shed by the people who were beaten and died on the Edmund Pettis bridge that day and afterwards defending the right to vote.  Voting is not an entitlement  to be given or withdrawn at the whim of whatever party is in power in Congress or a state legislature. It is the foundation of everything America stands for: equality, democracy, popular election of the government and its accountability to the people.  People died for it, for us, so that we can live in a democracy.

That includes you, Justice Scalia.  You took the same oath to uphold the Constitution, including the 15th Amendment, that President Johnson did.  Bloody Sunday is part of your national history.  Jimmie Lee, whose death at the hands of an Alabama state trooper led to Bloody Sunday,  died so that you could live in a true democracy and rise to its highest court.  The little children blown to bits in a southern church by people who didn’t think Negros should vote died for the democracy you live in today, for the Court that has room for your black and female and Hispanic colleagues.

The fact that you don’t know that;  the fact that you see voting as an entitlement, not a right – the most important right in the Constitution – disqualifies you from the bench. Your 1950’s conservative ideology has blinded you to the history and the basic premise of American democracy.  And your partisanship has led you to an insult to the memory of those who were beaten and fire-hosed and whipped and shot and killed to enshrine this right in the Constitution that you are supposed to know and understand and protect.

You should apologize to every American and especially to those whose deaths gave us the Voting Rights Act.  And then you should resign.


The Truth About TV News: When Opinion Dominates, Everything Becomes Opinion

Unless we’re careful, we who are charged with reporting the news could lose sight of truth as our ultimate goal. We could end up in a world where, implicitly, none of us — not the audience and not the reporters — even believe any longer in the truth. (see full article by David Westin in CJR)

"Dean Scream" tape a fraud

In a column written for the Miami Herald and reprised at www.tallahassee.com, Edward Wasserman, the Knight professor of journalism ethics at Washington and Lee University, revealed how the media used out-of-context video tape of Howard Dean to end his campaign, the same “Dean scream” tape now being repeated ad nausea on television to re-discredit Dean, the new Chair of the Democratic Party.

On the clip shown 700 times after the Iowa caucus, Dean is screaming for no apparent reason, red in the face, his voice breaking, seemingly out of control. His face filled the screen; no supporters were visible. Crowd noise was silenced by a directional microphone which deadened ambient sounds. However on a second clip brought to Wasserman by a young producer, was the same speech taped by a supporter on the floor of the hall. The place was packed. The noise was deafening. Dean was on the podium, but you couldn’t hear him, drowned out by his supporters. He was no longer over the top; he was like the coach of a NCAA football team at a pre-championship game rally, trying to rally his team and be heard over the roar of enthusiastic fans.

The Scream tape used by the networks and cable channels was a fraud, but the media establishment has never acknowledged it because it incriminates the entire professional mission of television news, the use of pictures to tell a true story. TV producers don’t claim to offer context, just visuals of what really happened. If great footage is profoundly misleading, if it doesn’t tell you what really happened, too bad, even if it derails the political career of a great man and serves the interests of one or the other political party.

Progressive bloggers need to get the real tape out and pound on the media that use the misleading one. It is time we put a stop to assassination of Progressive leaders by lies, whether they be spoken or video.

Gonzales, forgotten, but not gone

I don’t know if this is a good sign or not, but the Washington Post reported that new Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales has been out of the White House for less than a month and already the president has forgotten him. At Friday’s White House bill signing Bush pointed to a Hispanic man in the front row and said: “I welcome our new attorney general.” But the man in the front row was Hector V. Barreto of the Small Business Administration. Realizing something was amiss, Bush turned around and noticed the former White House counsel standing on the stage behind him. “Oh, right there,” he said. “How quickly they forget in Washington. Al Gonzales. Proud you’re up here, Al.”

Maybe this memory lapse is related to the revelation in the “Bush tapes” last week that even then Bush was thinking of the former Attorney General (what was his name?) as a potential member of a future Bush team, possibly on the Supreme Court (whew, hopefully we have dodged that bullet). Or maybe it is related to the Republicans naked opportunistic ploy for Hispanic votes in pushing torture supporter Gonzales for AG.>

Gannon’s sex, lies and video tape: whys and why nots

Why was Jeff Gannon, aka James Dale Guckert, so reluctant to give his real name? And why is the Right virtually beside itself to deflect criticism of Gannon? We now know the answers –the pictures that reveal more than his privates — they show the glaring hypocrisy of Conservatives and Christian Righties who denounce gays and thunder away at out-of-wedlock sex and can’t even handle seeing the breast on a bronze statue of Justice.As bloggers now know from the 162,000 references to Guckert/Gannon on the web, he has bared it all on the internet (warning-this AMERICAblog site is not worksafe). Even the staid Washington Post is tut-tutting, warning readers that these are not the kind of photos you want to view in mixed company. The hypocrisy came to head with a post by Susan G on DailyKos of Guckert/Gannon’s self description:

I’m a man who is white, politically conservative, a gun-owner, an SUV driver and I’ve voted for Republicans. I’m pro-American, pro-military, pro-democracy, pro-capitalism, pro-free speech, anti-tax and anti-big government. Most importantly, I’m a Christian. Not only by birth, but by rebirth through the blood of Jesus Christ.

I don’t think being a conservatiave Republican, much less a Christian, includes urinating and getting an erection front of a camera and posting the photos on the web to solicit sex. Thus the question: why is the Right – and especially the Christian Right — defending him instead of drumming him out of the party (and presumably out of whatever church he belongs to). Could the problem be a few other inconvenient facts, like the report on World o’ Crap that Gannon/Guckert accused Democrats of working off DNC talking points while he was cutting and pasting RNC talking points into “news” stories. Or on the same post that he was subpoenaed to explain how he obtained a copy of a secret State Department Report claiming that Ms. Plame arranged an assignment in Niger for her husband — an accusation and a document the CIA denies ever existed (for a full interview with Ambassador Wilson on his interview with Guckert/Gannon, see the same DailyKos post by the incredibly enterprising Susan G).

And finally, why haven’t the Democrats launched the kind of full frontal assault on the White House Press Office over Gannon/Guckert that the Republicans launched on Clinton over Monica — and the Republicans didn’t even have pictures! At the very least, putting the President in the room with an apparent gay prostitute using a false name is a violation of security protocols. Gannon/Guckert is sex lies and video tape that exposes Republican and Christian Right hypocricy in so many ways. Why not use it?

Sistani outsmarts Bush

Writing in the Toronto Star, Haroon Siddiqui explains why the apparent victory of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, in Iraq’s elections is bad for Bush regardless of how the White House spins it. If Sistani’s party wins, they will install an independent (of Iran as well as of the US) government that will force the Americans to leave. After that, who knows? Sistani wants what is best for Iraq, and he gets things done, his way, according to Dr. Juan Cole of U. Michigan. US control over oil and military bases in Iraq, two of the three objectives of the war (the third being reconstruction contracts for Halliburton et. al.) are not guranteed.

Sistani was able to force Bush to ignore Iyad Allawi’s warnings that the Shia would win direct elections which they did because Sistani organized local committees to get out the Shia vote. The result will be either a tough, clever, Islamic-rooted regime that thwarts the US’s goals, or an Algeria-like situation with the Americans canceling an election whose outcome they cannot accept. My money is on the former with Bush denying he got outsmarted and rewarding Rumsfeld and Rice et. al. for a job well-done while Sistani’s government systematically erases the US influence in Iraq so many Americans and Iraqis died for.

Ted Turner compares Fox to Nazis

MediaLife reports that Ted Turner, founder of CNN, compared Fox News to the Nazis during his address to the National Association for Television Programming Executives conference in Las Vegas yesterday. He conceded that Fox News has passed CNN in terms of viewers, but also pointed out that Adolph Hitler got the most votes when he was elected to run Germany before World War II. Ted called Fox News the “ Bill O’Reilly network” and said it is “a propaganda tool for the Bush administration, and while that may be legal, it’s bad for our democracy.” Fox said it is sour grapes on Ted’s part because FNC has surpassed Turner network CNN in the ratings. However, Turner is not the only TV notable to compare Fox to the Nazis this week.” “Gilmore Girls” executive producer Amy Sherman-Palladino called Fox network show American Idol” “like the Nazis marching through Poland. You just got to let them go. Get out of the way. We’re kind of France going, ‘You know, just don’t burn down Paris, that’s all we’re asking.’”

During my own experience with Ted in launching an environmental program on TBS and socializing at CNN parties when my wife was VP at CNN, Ted told a story about the time he and Rupert Murdoch, Chairman of Fox, once went skiing on Ted’s ranch. “There we were on our skies, stopped on a cliff overlooking the valley. Just one little shove from me, and ….” May have something to do with Ted’s oft- stated reason for selling Turner Broadcasting System to Time-Warner…he was afraid Murdoch would get it in a hostile takeover.

Air America recoups, expands

Media Life reports that nine months after it looked like Air America radio network would fold almost as soon as it started, it is expanding to three more large markets to reach 45 total. Programming will begin today on affiliates of the heavily Republican-oriented Clear Channel Network in Washington, D.C., Detroit and Cincinnati – an irony many listeners will understand. After Air America launched last spring, two affiliates accused it of failing to pay bills, and it soon went off the air in Chicago and Los Angeles, leaving it in only a handful of small markets. After two of its founders were forced out and some of the staff went without salary, the network stabilized over the summer and began adding markets. Advertising has picked up boosting revenues. Additionally, Media Life says that $19 million of private funding has been secured, and that the network is in talks to get back on the air in LA, one of the most critical and largest media markets in the nation.

Religious Right outraged at Consumer Reports birth control comparison

The Religious Right is outraged at a Consumer Affairs comparison of birth control methods that includes some very innocuous language on abortion. CR tells readers that “Women having an abortion in the U.S. can choose one of two methods: the so-called abortion pill or a surgical procedure”, and goes on to describe each in factual terms. Anti-choice activists are shocked that CR (a) discussed birth control, (b) discussed abortion, and (c) did not tell readers about the non-existent dangers of abortion falsely claimed by the anti-choice crowd. To date, CR seems to ignoring the whole thing, but it did note on its website that CDC information on condoms suddenly disappeared in 2002 and was replaced with a statement urging abstinence as the only way to prevent pregnancy. And they gave Lollipop, a brightly colored condom packaged on a stick, a best Buy recommendation.

Muslims protest Fox’s "24"

The Council on American-Islamic Relations has objected to “24”‘s? first two episodes Sunday and Monday, according to MediaLife. The show depicted an ordinary Muslim family as terrorists, with the mother killing the son?s non-Muslim girlfriend to shut her up. Fox thinks it can smooth things out by supplying public service announcements sponsored by the Council, but is leaving if and when the spots run up to the local TV stations themselves. Fox is not changing the storyline.