Tuesday, 10 April 2007


Ken Berwitz

Here is a commentary by the incomparable Ed Morrissey about the Democratic candidates who are using every excuse in the book to avoid being on Fox....in the hopes that it will marginalize a network with far more viewers than any cable alternative in the country.  Yeah, right.

You can read Ed every day at http://www.captainsquartersblog.com/mt/ and I hope you make a point of doing so.

Democrats Fear Fox, Part II

Democrats have once again gone running in fright from Fox News Channel for a political debate -- or more accurately, have run from fear of their anti-war base. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama join John Edwards in refusing to appear on Fox for a debate sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus:

Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) yesterday joined former North Carolina senator John Edwards (D) in deciding to skip a debate scheduled for September that Fox News is co-sponsoring with the Congressional Black Caucus.

Liberal activists, particularly the online group Moveon.org, have called for Democratic presidential candidates not to participate in debates by Fox, which they say is biased against Democrats. Clinton campaign aides said she would participate only in the six events sanctioned by the Democratic National Committee and two other events she had already agreed to. Several candidates, including Edwards, last month withdrew from a debate that Fox was co-hosting with the Nevada Democratic Party and would have taken place in August in Reno.

Aides to Obama, Edwards and Clinton said the candidates will participate in a debate that the Congressional Black Caucus is co-sponsoring with CNN in January in South Carolina.

Hmmm. I wonder why these courageous Democrats only feel free to speak when appearing on CNN. I mean, the Congressional Black Caucus doesn't seem to feel the same fear as the candidates. They had their 2004 debates on Fox, and they survived the ordeal -- twice. Those debates included Edwards on both occasions, and he wound up on the ticket for the Democrats.

Once again, I will ask this question: how can we expect these candidates to face off against America's enemies when they can't bring themselves to face Fox? Do they expect that this demonstration of cravenness to actually impress anyone but the radical defeatists of MoveOn?

Some will suggest that the Republicans boycott CNN in response. That would be a huge mistake. First, the choice of venue for these debates, especially in the primary, is almost meaningless. Second, we don't need both parties to act like shrieking little children at the sight of a mouse. The eventual President represents the entire nation, not just a party -- or in this case, a faction of a party -- and the candidates who model that in the primaries and the general election will have the greatest chance of success. Besides, CNN didn't do anything in this case to earn Republican enmity except be the unfortunate cave in which these courageous Democratic candidates chose to hide.

But hey, it's still early in the campaign. Perhaps by the time the primaries arrive, Democratic presidential candidates might even have the stones to make appearances without MoveOn's permission.


Ken Berwitz

Today, NBC announced that Don Imus will be suspended from his MSNBC simulcast for two weeks.  The network is doing this because, last week, he referred to the Rutger's women's basketball team as "nappy-headed ho's".

Read the following article from www.newsbusters.org, and see if you can find something at least as offensive (in this case, the bold print is provided by Newsbusters' Mark Finkelstein):


Maher: Bush Administration 'Stupid and Arrogant In a Way Only the Religious Can Be'

Posted by Mark Finkelstein on April 10, 2007 - 11:05.
If Don Imus' racially bigoted remark merited a two-week suspension by MSNBC, for how long will MSNBC and HBO ban Bill Maher after his bit of religious bigotry on today's "Imus in the Morning"?

Maher, ostensibly on to discuss Imus' imbroglio, engaged in this repartee with the host:

DON IMUS: I used to think that all of these things that the administration did were either because of the war criminal Vice-President and that psychopath who was over at the Pentagon, because of them, or because of stupidity. But I really believe, in my heart, that it's arrogance, and maliciousness and mean-spiritedness. Mike Lupica and I, the columnist, tried to find out, and we know everybody, well, not really, when was the last time Vice-President Cheney was at Walter Reed Hospital and they wouldn't tell us and we couldn't find out. We've narrowed it down to hadn't been in the last year. So it's that kind of cynicism and that kind of arrogance and that kind of meanness is what I think we're dealing with as opposed to, I was trying to cut them some slack saying they're just stupid but I think it's way beyond that.

BILL MAHER: Stupid and arrogant, in a way only the religious can be.

That drew a hearty, extended laugh from Imus.

View video here.

Later, Maher let it be known that he had just finished a movie dedicated to mocking people of religious faith.

MAHER: I've had this thing, as you know, about religion for a long time. I do think it's the root of so much evil and I just think that there's a lot of people in this country who are on to that, who believe that. . . People are catching on about the silly stories, about the space gods who come down. And it makes people fight, and it makes people think weird. And you don't have to go into George Bush thinking God made him president, how well all that worked out. So it's just something I had to do, I just felt a need to make a really funny, funny documentary about religion. So me and Larry Charles who did Borat went off for a couple of months and I think we've got a funny movie in the can. We'll see.


Let's review: 

-Imus voices a racial slur about the Black members of Rutgers' women's basketball team (there are 8 of them) and he's put to pasture for two weeks -- maybe this will be the beginning of the end of his show altogether.  As I said yesterday, Imus' demise would not at all suprise me;

-A week later, on the SAME SHOW, Maher refers to people of faith as stupid and arrogant, and religion, generally, as being the root of all evil.  This is a direct insult to every practicing Christian, Jew and Muslim -probably over 100 million people in the USA alone.  And MSNBC - the cable network that just suspended Imus - is going to do.........what?  Are they going to ban Maher from their shows for two weeks?  Two seconds?  How about HBO, which carries Maher's show, Real Time?  Any suspension there?  Any statement deploring his offensive comments?

This is the unbelievably blatant double standard we live under in this day and age.  A vile insult to Blacks is potentially career ending.  An even more vile insult to people of faith is fine and dandy. 

When do they learn?  When do WE learn?


Ken Berwitz

Lamentably, most countries in the world censor their broadcast and print media.  People in these countries "know" whatever the government wants them to know, nothing more.

We are hugely fortunate not to live under such censorship.  Our government celebrates the free exchange of ideas.  While we might agree or disagree with them, we know that all viewpoints can at least be heard.  So, of course, our PUBLIC BROADCASTING SYSTEM honors free speech by giving us all sides of the issues.  Right? 

Well, not so fast.

Here is a horror story of censorship for you, courtesy of PBS --- that's right, the Public Broadcasting System that is largely funded by taxpayers.  See how you feel about it:


Producer: PBS dropped 'Islam vs. Islamists' on political grounds

Dennis Wagner
The Arizona Republic
Apr. 10, 2007 12:00 AM

The producer of a tax-financed documentary on Islamic extremism claims his film has been dropped for political reasons from a television series that airs next week on more than 300 PBS stations nationwide.

Key portions of the documentary focus on Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser of Phoenix and his American Islamic Forum for Democracy, a non-profit organization of Muslim Americans who advocate patriotism, constitutional democracy and a separation of church and state.

Martyn Burke says that the Public Broadcasting Service and project managers at station WETA in Washington, D.C., excluded his documentary, Islam vs. Islamists, from the series America at a Crossroads after he refused to fire two co-producers affiliated with a conservative think tank.

"I was ordered to fire my two partners (who brought me into this project) on political grounds," Burke said in a complaint letter to PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which supplied funds for the films.

Burke wrote that his documentary depicts the plight of moderate Muslims who are silenced by Islamic extremists, adding, "Now it appears to be PBS and CPB who are silencing them."

A Jan. 30 news release by the corporation listed Islam vs. Islamists as one of eight films to be presented in the opening series.

Mary Stewart, vice president of external affairs at WETA, said Burke's documentary was not completed on time to be among 11 documentaries that will be aired beginning Sunday. Stewart said the picture may be broadcast by PBS at a later date.

"The film is a strong film," Stewart said. "I'm still hoping to see this in the Crossroads initiative."

Jeff Bieber, WETA's executive producer for Crossroads, gave a substantially different explanation. He said Burke's film had "serious structural problems (and) . . . was irresponsible because the writing was alarmist, and it wasn't fair."

"They're crying foul, and there was no foul ball," Bieber added. "The problem is in their film."

Federally funded films

The controversy involves a collection of documentaries financed with $20 million in federal grants from the corporation, which conceived Crossroads in 2004 to enhance public understanding of terrorism, homeland security and other crucial issues in the post-9/11 era. Independent filmmakers submitted 430 proposals. Full production grants were given to 21 of those, including Islam vs. Islamists, which received $700,000.

Subtitled Voices From the Muslim Center, Burke says his film "attempts to answer the question: 'Where are the moderate Muslims?' The answer is, 'Wherever they are, they are reviled and sometimes attacked' " by extremists.

Michael Levy, a spokesman for CPB, said the corporation set up the Crossroads project and provided funding, but turned over management and content control to PBS and WETA 13 months ago.

After that, Burke says in his Feb. 23 complaint letter, he "consistently encountered actions by the PBS series producers that violate the basic tenets of journalism in America."

PBS officials turned down interview requests.

Debate about bias

The dispute adds to a running debate about political bias in the nation's publicly funded television business. In 2004, filmmakers complained that CPB was pushing a right-wing agenda for the Crossroads series. A year later, CPB President Kenneth Tomlinson sought to eliminate what he saw as a liberal bias at PBS. He was forced to resign after an inspector general's report found that he violated federal rules and ethics standards in the process.

Burke's credits include Pirates of Silicon Valley, a movie about the founders of Microsoft, and The Hollywood Ten, a documentary about blacklisted leftists in the motion picture industry during the 1950s.

In the making of Islam vs. Islamists, Burke's co-producers were Frank Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy, and Alex Alexiev, the non-profit organization's vice president. Both men are neo-conservatives who have written on the threat of "Islamofascism" to the free world.

Before filming began last year, Burke says, Bieber asked him, "Don't you check into the politics of the people you work with?"

Bieber said PBS was concerned that the Center for Security Policy is an advocacy group, so its leaders could not produce an objective picture. Because of that, he suggested that Gaffney be demoted to adviser.

Burke, who did not honor the recommendation, says that funding was delayed and WETA began to interfere with his film until it was "expelled" from Crossroads.

Among Burke's examples of tampering:

A WETA manager pressed to eliminate a key perspective of the film: The claim that Muslim radicals are pushing to establish "parallel societies" in America and Europe governed by Shariah law rather than sectarian courts.

After grants were issued, Crossroads managers commissioned a new film that overlapped with Islam vs. Islamists and competed for the same interview subjects.

WETA appointed an advisory board that includes Aminah Beverly McCloud, director of World Islamic Studies at DePaul University. In an "unparalleled breach of ethics," Burke says, McCloud took rough-cut segments of the film and showed them to Nation of Islam officials, who are a subject of the documentary. They threatened to sue.

"This utterly undermines any journalistic independence," Burke wrote in an e-mail to WETA officials.

In an interview, McCloud said she showed a single video frame to a Muslim journalist who was not a Nation of Islam representative.

However, in a January e-mail, McCloud told Crossroads producers that she had spoken with Nation of Islam representatives and "invited them over to view this section." She also wrote that they were outraged "and will promptly pursue litigation."

Stewart, the WETA executive, said McCloud was admonished for "inappropriate" conduct.

Otherwise, however, Stewart said Crossroads producers have dealt with Islam vs. Islamists in a fair and professional manner.


You may recall the blog I wrote about Dr. Jasser a short time ago (March 25th, to be exact).  He is an important - arguably the most important - voice of moderate Islam in the United States.  He is a proud Muslim and a proud American.  He condemns violence and hatred in the name of Islam.

And the documentary that would tell you about him has been dumped, after being subjected to flagrantly unethical journalistic behavior on the part of the producers (oh, but we HOPE to put it on another time, honest.....wink, wink). 

I don't know about you, but every time I see something like this my tolerance for giving even one red cent to PBS diminishes.  It's close to nonexistent now and this drops it further.

With few exceptions PBS has about as much political diversity as Kilimanjaro has drag strips.

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