Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Mark Hyman: The-Not- Ready-for-Anytime Player

Delayed only by the fact that he pretaped his entire Kerry Cycle long ago, Mark Hyman finally and predictably weighs in on the CBS memo affair.

In what is apparently supposed to be a knee-slapper of a commentary, Hyman satirizes CBS and Dan Rather by claiming to have discovered memos implicating George W. Bush in the Lindbergh baby kidnapping and the sinking of the Lusitania. (Nothing like child-murder and mass drowning as sources for comedic stylings. Note to Mark: don’t quit your day job.)

While we wait for Hyman to take the stage for his next set at the Chuckle Hut, let’s take a look at the argument being made.

Hyman joins a long list of right-wing commentators who use the lack of a comprehensive vetting of this specific collection of memos as a fig leaf to cover the embarrassing truth about Bush’s dereliction of duty while supposedly serving in the National Guard. What they pointedly don’t acknowledge is that the memos in question don’t say anything that hasn’t been established by numerous other sources. Indeed, when the White House itself was presented with the documents, they didn’t immediately claim they were inaccurate. Laura Bush herself said in an interview that the documents were “probably” forgeries.

The only explanation for this equivocation is that A) the content of the memos is materially accurate, and B) there is no contradicting evidence that the White House can provide that calls this content into question. In fact, the secretary of Gen. Killian (the alleged source of the memos) has said that although she believes the memos are constructions after the fact, they accurately reflect the General’s views of Bush. Hyman, Newsmax, the Freepers, et al. love to cite the first part of her views, but never mention the second.

Of course, if it turns out that journalistic protocol wasn’t followed in vetting the documents in question, heads should and will roll at CBS (this would be true even if the documents ended up being authentic). Among the many reasons for this is that the memo affair has caused the network to spike an important story by “60 Minutes’” Ed Bradley on the misinformation and distortions that led to the invasion of Iraq.

Moreover, we need to be consistent in our demand for the truth. And this is exactly where Hyman & Co. drop the ball. Despite the caterwauling by the radical Right, the media has done all sorts of stories on CBS and “memogate,” while virtually no attention was paid when the New York Times admitted that it accepted at face value evidence used to back up administration claims about Iraq and WMDs. Both cases involved the possible forgery of information, but the Iraq story was infinitely more important: 1043 U.S. servicemen and women have died at last count because this evidence wasn’t scrutinized. Yet, despite his penchant for criticizing the Times, Hyman has been mute over this case of slipshod journalism. (For an analysis of the double standards of the so-called “liberal partisan press” on these issues, see this article at Media Matters or this in-depth piece by the San Francisco Chronicle.)

Of course, we shouldn’t expect anything from Hyman. We know that like so many on the right, he’s a thoroughgoing relativist when it comes to ethics and value judgments. Although it’s conservatives who most often decry “situational ethics,” they are its foremost practitioners. We’ve seen with the Kerry/Bush Vietnam debate that it’s impossible to be critical of Kerry’s military record and not be absolutely appalled at Bush’s desertion . . . at least not without bending one’s sense of ethics into a pretzel. So it is with the issue of journalists rushing provocative information to the public in the interest of getting a scoop: one can’t be apoplectic about CBS for cutting corners on publicizing memos that don’t say anything that hasn’t already been established about Bush’s sorry excuse for a military career and at the same time have no sense of indignation about trumped up evidence that has contributed to the deaths of so many.

In fact, to return to Hyman’s hamfisted attempt at humor, despite his jokes about Bush sinking the Lusitania, the fact of the matter is that between Iraq and Afghanistan, the number of U.S. soldiers killed almost exactly equals the death toll from the Lusitania, and it will certainly surpass it in the near future.

Real funny, Mark.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Mark Hyman: Sea Lawyer Extraordinaire

You’d think fellow Navy men would have a greater sense of decency and respect for each other. So much for “a band of brothers.”

At least that’s the conclusion one must come to after seeing the latest "Point," in which Mark Hyman does a remarkable job of condensing two weeks of character assassination and falsifications into a one-minute commentary.

Hyman loves to throw around military jargon, playing up his stint in the Navy. This time around, he employs the terms “gundecking” and “sea lawyer” to describe John Kerry. Claiming that Kerry has based “his whole campaign” on his Vietnam record, and that he’s never had his record scrutinized, Hyman says Kerry falsified official records to play up his Vietnam service (“gundecking”) and is someone who uses carefully parsed phrases and other wordplay to mislead people (“sea lawyer”).

(Let’s note, in passing, that although he loves to hype his military background, Hyman’s own career pales in comparison to Kerry’s. Kerry spent months in combat conditions, being wounded several times, personally saving the life of a Green Beret, winning medals for valor, and found himself on more than one occasion looking down the barrel of a gun. About the most dangerous piece of equipment Hyman had pointed at him was an electric pencil sharpener as he battled battalions of manila folders at his desk job.)

Let’s begin taking apart this argument starting with the foundation: the premises. Hyman says Kerry has based his entire campaign on Vietnam and that his record afterwards is “weak.” Really? Well, he served several years as a district attorney, putting criminals behind bars. He continued his career in public service as lieutenant governor of Massachusetts and as a senator, where he helped uncover the Iran-Contra affair, headed up a task force looking into possible American MIAs, worked for veterans’ benefits, better healthcare, and also was credited with helping reveal the BCCI banking scandal, a situation in which an American bank was being used to fund terrorists. In fact, with that one act, Kerry did more to slow terrorism than George W. Bush has done in his entire presidency. He also picked up armloads of awards for his service in the Senate.

In fact, Kerry’s campaign has not focused on the past at all, but on the present and the future. It’s been criticism of Kerry that has maintained a bizarre focus on what happened 35 years ago. Hyman’s own editorials are the epitome of this: in two weeks of screeching about Kerry, Hyman has yet to offer any specific critique of Kerry’s policy positions since 1972.

A “weak” record might be an accurate summation of a candidate whose only qualifications for elected office were having a famous last name and running a series of oil companies into the ground, only to be repeatedly bailed out by family and friends.

So, Kerry’s record is one of a lifetime of public service; Bush’s record is one of self-interested opportunism and failure despite privilege and advantage.

Kerry has talked extensively about the current situation in Iraq, fiscal responsibility, tax fairness, job creation, and his inventive health care initiative. It’s Kerry’s critics, such as Hyman, who’ve based their entire campaign of personal animus on Vietnam and its aftermath, and even they can’t do so without lying about it.

Kerry hasn’t been scrutinized until now? This is probably the most breathtakingly ignorant comment of the many that make up this edition of “The Point.” From the moment he began voicing opposition to Vietnam, the Nixon White House (no strangers to character assassination) devoted themselves to attacking him, including looking into every aspect of his past. If there had been anything fishy about Kerry’s service, the Nixon team would certainly have found it. One doubts George W. Bush would have fared as well had he received similar attention. From the time Kerry entered politics, the Boston media kept him under a microscope, looking for the political angle in every decision, both personal and public, he made. Kerry’s 1996 run for reelection against Governor William Weld was the most watched Senate race in history, attracting national attention. This also included extensive looks at Kerry’s Vietnam record. In fact, virtually none of the slanders that have come from Hyman and his friends on the Angry Right are new; they’re all recycled from that 1996 campaign, in which they were revealed as nonsense.

What about the specific charges Hyman makes?

“Gundecking?” Well, the Navy itself has reviewed Kerry’s service and vetted it. None of the documents Hyman cites, despite his creative reading of them, are inconsistent with the accounts of Kerry and those who were actually involved in the events. On the other hand, every time the Bush administration claims all his National Guard records have been released, new collections emerge, none of which show that Bush actually met his minimal obligations.

“Sea lawyer?” This is wonderful coming from Hyman, himself a liar of the first order, who masquerades as a journalist, isn’t truthful about his role at Sinclair, allows viewers to believe he’s a “local voice,” and works for a company that bases its whole business model on creating prepackaged news that’s meant to seem local even when it’s not. Sinclair Broadcasting’s modus operandi is dishonesty.

Add to this the fact that Hyman’s candidate of choice is George W. Bush, whose administration has made a point of using language in disingenuous ways to make the case for the war in Iraq using trumped up evidence and slyly insinuating ties between Saddam Hussein and the events of September 11th despite absolutely no evidence of this, in a willful act of distortion to accomplish their preexisting policy goals. Bush’s sea lawyering has led to more than 1,000 American dead and a quagmire in Iraq.

Hyman concludes Kerry is a “deeply flawed individual.” He’s never mentioned Bush in his anti-Kerry diatribes, probably because to even breathe his name would invite viewers to draw direct comparisons between the two men. As we’ve noted any number of times, even if one chooses to believe Hyman’s fictions, Bush still comes off as an utter non-entity by comparison.

We can’t look into Mark Hyman’s soul to pronounce metaphysical certainties about him as an individual (a power he seems to claim for himself when evaluating Kerry), but we can say that “deeply flawed” is the very least we can say about Hyman’s argumentative skills, logic, and sense of journalistic ethics.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Monday, September 27, 2004

The Pot and the Kettle Redux

In Mark Hyman’s latest "Point," he goes back to one of his old favorites: bashing Hollywood celebrities. We’ve already addressed the hypocrisy of this technique in our August 11th “Counterpoint,” but let’s add just a couple more points.

First, Hyman suggests that celebrities are “out of touch” because they make far more money and live more luxurious lifestyles than “you or me.” For the record, remember that Hyman is a corporate VP. He probably makes so much money that he actually benefits from the Bush tax cuts. His “Everyman” pose is dishonest in the extreme.

Hyman also loves to bash celebrities for their moral failings, suggesting that because of their dissolute lifestyle, they’re political allegiances are suspect.

If that’s the case, we wonder what Hyman has to say about Sinclair’s own executives, particularly David Smith, CEO of Sinclair Broadcasting:

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pennsylvania)August 17, 1996, Saturday, SOONER EDITION

David D. Smith, president and chief executive officer of Sinclair Broadcast
Group, was arrested this week in his hometown of Baltimore and charged with a misdemeanor sex offense. Sinclair owns WPGH, the Fox affiliate in Pittsburgh,and programs most of WPTT.The Baltimore Sun reported that Smith, 45, was arrested Tuesday night in an undercover sting at a downtown corner frequented by prostitutes.

Smith was caught with a woman who referred to him as a “regular.” He was engaged in sexual activity with this woman in a Sinclair Broadcasting company car. He was also married and had children.

Remind us again, Mark: why do Sinclair Broadcasting executives think they should get to tell us how to vote?

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Bush, Sinclair, & the Numbers

0: number of times George W. Bush mentioned Osama bin Laden in his acceptance speech.

0: Number of times Bush mentioned Osama bin Laden in his three State of the Union addresses.

83: Number of times Bush mentioned Saddam, Iraq, or regime (as in change) in his three State of the Union addresses.

$3m: Amount the White House was willing to grant the 9/11 Commission to investigate the 11 September attacks.

$50m: Amount granted to the commission that looked into the Columbia space shuttle crash.

1972: Year that Bush walked away from his pilot duties in the Texas National Guard, Nearly two years before his six-year obligation was up.

$3,500: Reward a group of veterans offered in 2000 for anyone who could confirm Bush's Alabama guard service.

600-700: Number of guardsmen who were in Bush's unit during that period.

0: Number of guardsmen from that period who came forward with information about Bush's guard service.

0: Number of minutes that President Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney, the Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, the assistant Defence Secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, the former chairman of the Defence Policy Board, Richard Perle, and the White House Chief of Staff, Karl Rove ­ the main proponents of the war in Iraq ­served in combat (combined).
1983: The year in which Donald Rumsfeld, Ronald Reagan's special envoy to the Middle East, gave Saddam Hussein a pair of golden spurs as a gift.

2.5: Number of hours after Rumsfeld learnt that Osama bin Laden was a suspect in the 11 September attacks that he brought up reasons to "hit" Iraq.

40,000: Number of soldiers in Iraq seven months after start of the war still without Interceptor vests, designed to stop a round from an AK-47.

75: Percentage of Americans unaffected by Bush's sweeping 2003 cuts in capital gains and dividends taxes.

49: Percentage of Americans in April 2004 who found that their taxes had actually gone up since Bush took office.

$7.22tr: US national debt by mid-2004.

2.3m: Number of Americans who lost their jobs during first three Years of the Bush administration.

1928: Year that the last president before Bush to preside over a net loss of jobs was elected.

22m: Number of jobs gained during Clinton's eight years in office.

34.6m: Number of Americans living below the poverty line (1 in 8 of the population).

6.8m: Number of people in the workforce but still classified as poor.

35m: Number of Americans that the government defines as "food insecure," in other words, hungry.

40: Percentage of wealth in the United States held by the richest 1 per cent of the population.

18: Percentage of wealth in Britain held by the richest 1 per cent of the population.

43.6m: Number of Americans without health insurance by the end of 2002 (more than 15 per cent of the population).

62: Number of members of Cheney's 63-person Energy Task Force with ties to corporate energy interests.

0: Number of environmentalists asked to attend Cheney's Energy Task Force meetings.

24,000: Estimated number of premature deaths that will occur under Bush's Clear Skies initiative.

$3.8bn: Amount in the Superfund trust fund for toxic site clean-ups in 1995, the Year "polluter pays" fees expired.

$0m: Amount of uncommitted dollars in the Superfund trust fund for toxic site clean-ups in 2003.

$66bn: Amount the United States spent on international aid and diplomacy in 1949.

$23.8bn: Amount the United States spent on international aid and diplomacy in 2002.

500: Number of days Bush has spent all or part of his time away from the White House at his
ranch in Crawford, Texas, his parents' retreat in Kennebunkport, Maine, or Camp David as of 1 April 2004.

1023 and counting: Number of American servicemen and servicewomen killed in Iraq.

0: Number of memorial services attended by George W. Bush

$50,000: Amount of the donations made to the Republican National Committee by Frederick Smith, Director of Sinclair Broadcasting.

$63,234: Amount of the total donations by Sinclair Broadcasting executives to Republicans in the 2004 election cycle.

$0: Amount of the total donations by Sinclair Broadcasting executives to Democrats in the 2004 election cycle.

89: percent of Sinclair $2.3 million political donations since 1996 that have gone to Republicans

8: Number of times Republican candidate (now Maryland Governor) Robert Ehrlich received unreported “discounted” campaign trips on helicopter owned by Sinclair Broadcasting.

2001: Year when Robert Ehrlich petitioned the FCC on Sinclair Broadcasting’s behalf.

9: Number of “Point” commentaries entirely devoted to criticizing John Kerry in the last two weeks.

1972: Year the most recent events mentioned by Mark Hyman in his criticism of John Kerry took place.

0: Number of positive arguments for Bush’s reelection made by Mark Hyman in the last month.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Most of the Bush numbers come courtesy of Graydon Carter’s article that appeared in The Independent. You can see the entire “Bush by the numbers” list

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Hyman & the Lies

What do Robert Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dr. Benjamin Spock, and Walter Cronkite have in common?

They all, at various times and in various ways, expressed their conviction that the war in Vietnam was unwinnable, a mistake, and that a peaceful solution should be sought. They all made these statements during the 1960s. They are all among the most revered names in recent American history as well.

To hear Mark Hyman tell it, however, John Kerry single-handedly created and led the anti-war movement when he came back from Vietnam in 1971. The
most recent "Point" accuses Kerry of aiding the enemy through speaking out against the war, suggesting (again with no evidence, despite the several links to nearly random Vietnam-era press clippings on the Newscentral website) that somehow Kerry’s anti-war activities slowed down the release of prisoners and prompted increased military activity on the part of the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong.

For Hyman, as it was for Richard Nixon and his Watergate crony Charles Colson who targeted Kerry for political destruction in 1971, any questioning of administration policy is tantamount to treason. Apparently, the soldiers who came back from Vietnam and felt to the depths of their souls that the war was not right and that the U.S. was pursuing a mistaken policy should have kept their big mouths shut. So much for freedom of speech and the public discussion of issues in a democracy.

(We're just wondering Mark: do you have the guts to call today's soldiers traitors as well? Check out "Operation Truth" for firsthand accounts by soldiers in the field of the failures of our current policies in Iraq and Afghanistan.)

Hyman doesn’t acknowledge that the antiwar movement had been a force in American politics since 1965, or that half of the American people felt the war was a mistake by 1971. He doesn’t acknowledge that even those who supported the war at first, including one of its architects, Robert McNamara, now say that Kerry and others in the antiwar movement were right: the Vietnam War was a quagmire. Would we have “won” in Vietnam if antiwar voices had kept silent? Of course not; the conflict would simply have dragged on even longer with more and more loss of life. But that doesn’t stop Hyman from using charges of communist sympathy to tar a current political adversary. For folks like Hyman, history is not something to be understood or learned from; it’s simply a collection of raw material that can be twisted into a weapon for today’s battles.

Not that this attitude should surprise us. Part of the reason the Vietnam War has become such a central issue (beyond whatever tactical advantages might be gained in the daily give and take of campaigning) is that the “war on terror” has become the new Cold War for conservatives. Having spent eight years in the wilderness after the fall of the Soviet Union, conservatives are all too aware that their most powerful weapon is fear. Now that communism is gone as a present threat, terrorism is taking its place, and with it, the neo-con remedy: a sort of reverse domino effect in which the U.S. attempts to create democracy at the end of a gun, at which point it will supposedly flourish and spread of its own accord.

So once again we have a war in which U.S. soldiers are caught in an impossible situation on the ground, in which enemy combatants and innocent civilians are indistinguishable, and for which there is no coherent exit strategy beyond escalation. Once again we have a war that we’ve chosen to fight and which was pitched to the American people on false pretexts. And once again, those who support the war and the administration waging it accuse any who dare criticize them of treason.

Thus we have Hyman’s rant about Kerry’s antiwar activities morph into an attack on Kerry’s supposed weakness on defense, including
the canard that Kerry voted against all sorts of weapon systems. It doesn’t matter that folks like George H.W. Bush and Dick Cheney supported eliminating these same weapons systems or that it was the current administration that knowingly sent U.S. troops to Iraq without enough body armor or armored humvees. Hyman knows these charges have been refuted, but as long as these untruths help him create a myth about Kerry that combines Vietnam and the current campaign, he’s happy to ignore all evidence to the contrary.

In this case, Hyman’s juxtaposition is not meaningless; it’s part of a larger parallel between the Vietnam era and today, one that involves the creation of military and political enemies in order to maintain power. However, it’s every bit as bogus. Just as the notable names we mentioned earlier were speaking with a sense of moral imperative, not a lack of love for country, so was John Kerry in 1971 and so is John Kerry in 2004. So are all the voices that question the wisdom of sending thousands of men and women to fight and die in a conflict that has nothing to do with stopping terrorism or making America safer. But because they can’t defend their position rationally, Hyman and his ilk rely on distortions and jingoism to berate their opponents.

In fact, “distortions” doesn’t accurately reflect what Hyman does here and in so many of his pieces.

He’s a liar.

And that’s The Counterpoint

For more debunking of the lies folks like Hyman tell about Kerry, check out
the website of "Independents for Kerry".

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Hyman & the Sources

Often, countering “The Point” is simply a matter of revealing how Hyman’s commentaries refute themselves. Find the right string to pull on, and not only does Hyman’s argument dissolve into nothing, but an opposing argument takes its place.

An example is the
most recent "Point." Still failing to get any intellectual traction, Hyman continues to spin his wheels in the spring of 1971 (apparently there’s nothing of importance going on in the world on which to base our choice for president). This time, he revisits the story of Kerry throwing his Vietnam medals away on the steps of the U.S. Capitol during an anti-war protest. The problem, according to Hyman, is not that Kerry threw the medals back, but that he has lied about exactly what happened. Hyman’s logic runs like this: Kerry has at various times said he threw his medals back, threw ribbons but not the medals themselves, and threw someone else’s medals. Thus, no matter which story is true, two must be false.

To his credit, Hyman cites an irrefutable source that confirms that Kerry threw his medals back at that demonstration. Hyman quotes from a 1971 Boston Globe article that says Kerry “threw his medals over the fence,” thus refuting Kerry’s statements about throwing ribbons or other people’s medals. Although he doesn’t name the author of the article, it was written by a young reporter named Thomas Oliphant who was already a well-respected journalist and has since been named one of the top 10 political writers in the country. We often chastise Hyman for his loose use of shady sources, but there’s no doubt he’s found a bona fide expert on this issue. Oliphant is acknowledged to be the journalist most well-versed in Kerry’s career, having covered him for more than 30 years.

But there’s more to the story. Another article appeared in the Boston Globe more recently that questions Hyman’s analysis. The article points out that, despite Hyman’s claims to the contrary, the use of the term “medals” to refer to any award or decoration was commonplace, and that Kerry did indeed throw decorations for others back as well (the article notes in particular that Kerry took ribbons from wheelchair-bound vets who wouldn’t be able to heave their decorations over the wall that was erected to keep them out of the Capitol). The article backs up Kerry’s story completely, and shows that the supposedly conflicting stories are not conflicting at all: Kerry threw his ribbons as well as those of others, and he referred to these ribbons on various occasions as “medals” because that term was used to cover any and all decorations. The author points out that this broader sense of the word “medals” was undoubtedly why Oliphant used that word in the article Hyman quotes.

It’s also worth noting that this source is at least as unimpeachable as Hyman’s is. The author was actually at the demonstration in 1971 and stood within a few feet of Kerry when he threw his ribbons back.

Additionally, the article debunks the notion, insinuated by Hyman, that Kerry was the acknowledged leader who masterminded this demonstration.

If you’d like to read this first-hand account of what actually happened that day on the Capitol steps, you can read it

Oh, and the name of the writer who penned this account that backs up Kerry’s version of events and demolishes Hyman’s interpretation of that 1971 Boston Globe article?

Thomas Oliphant of the Boston Globe.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Hyman & the Desperation

Every time it seems Mark Hyman’s editorials can’t get more obtuse, he manages to push the edge of the envelope just a bit more. We’ve noted many times that neither consistency nor facts get in the way of Hyman’s rants, but the most recent “Point” has gone well into the realm of the simply absurd.

"Kerry & the Oath", Hyman claims we can’t trust John Kerry to be president because in 1971, Kerry was part of a group of veterans who stayed on the Mall in Washington D.C. during an anti-war protest, violating his oath as a member of the military and a “crystal clear” injunction issued by the Washington District Court.

It’s difficult to maintain a tone of intellectual debate when the opposition seems so desperate and out of touch, but we’ll try.

First, some facts: As part of “Dewey Canyon III,” the protest organized by anti-war veterans in the spring of 1971, a large group of former servicemen planned to camp on the Mall in Washington during the several days of the planned demonstration. The Justice Department got an injunction to prevent the veterans from camping on the Mall. The Washington District Court of Appeals overturned the injunction (contrary to Hyman’s claims), allowing the veterans to stay on the Mall. After the protest had started, Chief Justice Warren Berger reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals. Ultimately, the Supreme Court made the bizarre ruling that the veterans could stay on the Mall, but they could not sleep there. How law enforcement was supposed to tell whether or not the veterans were “staying” or “sleeping” on the Mall wasn’t made clear, nor was it explained whether simply one veteran falling asleep would lead to all being evicted from the Mall, or whether veterans would be removed only when they themselves fell asleep.

“Crystal clear?” Hardly. In fact, the Washington police had no intention of attempting to enforce this unenforceable edict, and did not.

To the extent it matters, John Kerry simply arranged the vote among the veterans as to what action to take in response to Berger’s ruling; he wasn’t advocating one position or the other.

If you want to see a detailed itinerary of the events of those days in Washington, go

So even if one grants Hyman’s dopey premise that participating in an act of passive civil disobedience 33 years ago should damn John Kerry, it’s debatable whether or not this act violated any standing laws, let alone the Constitution. The absolute worst you can say about this incident is that Kerry participated in a technical but meaningless violation of a hastily and sloppily created court ruling that itself was based on dubious legal reasoning.

But of course Hyman has left himself wide open to the obvious counter charge: if this act of benign disobedience renders Kerry untrustworthy, what can we say about the sitting president?

George W. Bush took the same oath Kerry did when he joined the Air National Guard (or was given a position in the guard, thanks to family connections). In addition, he pledged to do three things:

1) serve in the military for six years
2) be available for immediate call up in case of national emergency
3) maintain his qualifications and complete mandatory training

As we all know by now, Bush did none of these things. He dropped out of sight well before his 6 year stint was up, he chose not to make himself available for service in Vietnam and voided this possibility by becoming ineligible for flying, and he did not complete his training or keep up his qualifications.

In the process, Bush wasted well over a million taxpayer dollars devoted to his training, allowed other men to go to Vietnam to fight and die while he got preferential treatment, disobeyed orders to get a flight physical and maintain his flight status, and trivialized the service of other Guard members by getting an honorable discharge even though he came nowhere near fulfilling his modest duties.

But again, don’t take our word for it. There are plenty of independent investigations that have shown not only that Bush did not meet his requirements, but that he and his spokespeople have lied about his service in the years since. “U.S. News and World Report” has excellent articles
here and here. The “Boston Globe” has a lengthy piece on Bush’s service (or lack therof) here. You also might be interested in Salon's look at Bush's record.

You can see copies of the agreements Bush signed when he joined the Guard (and which he later broke)

Maybe someday Hyman will actually talk about issues that are contemporary rather than dwelling on events of 35 years ago. But until then, all we can ask is this: Mark, if you feel Kerry violated his oath and disqualified himself from being president by staying overnight in a park, what possible logic allows you to endorse a candidate whose violation of his commitments to the military were repeated, flagrant, and directly lessened the military readiness of his unit?

We won’t hold our breath for an answer.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Hyman & the Hypocrisy

We’re always amused when Mark Hyman seems so woefully unaware of his own hypocrisy.

A wonderful case of this is his
most recent attack on John Kerry. Suddenly acknowledging that Kerry deserves credit for joining the Navy and serving his country (a shocking admission, given the ongoing character assassination Hyman has waged over the last week), Hyman says that it’s not Kerry’s service that’s in question, but his statements about it after the fact that raise issues of his character.

The “evidence” of this is an article written at the time of Kerry’s testimony before Congress in 1973 in which he says he joined the Navy because he had been informed by his draft board that he would likely be drafted. What angers Hyman is that he believes Kerry has made himself out to be a hero when in fact all he did was act out of fear of the draft.

Well, we could begin by saying that Kerry has himself said he wasn’t any more heroic than anybody else who served. We could also point out that Kerry didn’t need to volunteer for Swift Boat command, and could have stayed miles and miles away from the conflict if he had wanted to. We could also point out that no matter what Kerry’s motivations for enlisting, his actions while in country speak for themselves.

But we’re just wondering: what does Hyman have to say about his candidate of choice, George W. Bush? We know that he got a coveted spot in the Air National Guard thanks to
family connections, but has claimed that no strings were pulled. We know that he refused to take a mandatory flight physical, and has lied about his reasons for doing so. We know he claimed to have fulfilled his guard service in Alabama, but that no one remembers him being there, and Bush himself can’t remember what he did during the time he was supposedly there (although he can apparently remember the exact percent of the vote the candidate he was campaigning for received). We know that Bush allowed the Air Force to squander more than a million dollars in training expense, only to back out of his commitments. (See “The Top 10 Lies Bush Told About His Military Service” here.) And we know that after all this, as Commander in Chief, he pulled the photo-op stunt of all time by dressing up in a flight suit and being shuttled unnecessarily to the deck of an aircraft carrier on a warplane, strutting around the ship in costume before declaring “mission accomplished.”

Remind us again, Mark: who’s distorting their service record to satisfy their lust for elected office? We’re just wondering.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Hyman & the Fallen

We’ve noted before that Mark Hyman loves to associate himself with the military, whether it’s touting his own stint in military intelligence (insert your own oxymoron joke here) or congratulating various branches of the military service on their “birthdays,” like some sort of neo-con Willard Scott.

Most recently, Hyman
waxed rhapsodic about the Air Force on the occasion of the anniversary of its founding. There’s nothing wrong with this—the Air Force, and all branches of the service, deserve recognition (although we can’t help notice the pointed inclusion of the Air National Guard in Hyman’s effusive praise—nothing is apolitical in the world of “The Point”).

The problem is (again, as we’ve pointed out before), that Hyman loves to kiss up to the military to augment his own ethos, but when the time came to honor those most deserving of praise, those members of the armed services who gave their lives in Iraq, Hyman and the rest of Sinclair Broadcasting were AWOL, refusing to let their ABC affiliates carry Nightline’s “The Fallen,” an elegant, apolitical homage to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

But we shouldn’t be surprised. Hyman’s hero, George W. Bush, can’t be bothered to attend a single memorial service for any of the people who have died carrying out his misguided orders. Why would we expect any more honor from Hyman himself?

And that’s The Counterpoint.

If you’d like to acknowledge those who have died in Iraq, you can access a list of those killed
here. If you want to see the entire list at once, be prepared for a long download time.

Hyman & the Distortions

In his most recent “Short Takes,” Hyman says that former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright suggested earlier this year that Osama bin Laden had been captured and the Bush administration was waiting until the election season to announce that he was in custody.

First, the episode in question happened at the end of 2003, not earlier this year; Hyman is never terribly careful with the facts [thanks to our undercover Sinclair contact for pointing out this particular episode of slovenliness on Hyman’s part].

Second, the remark in question was a tongue in cheek comment made informally in the green room of the Fox News studios (which, admittedly, is not the place to be unguarded in your rhetoric if you’re a former member of a Democratic administration). Fox News spinner Mort Kondracke reported this comment far and wide as a serious allegation made by Albright, and it was subsequently picked up by Newsmax, Free Republic, and other right-wing sources as an actual story.

In fact, Fox News itself
reported the comments as evidence of a “conspiracy” mentality among Democrats, and cited as additional evidence “several” statements by Howard Dean that Bush knew about the 9/11 attacks before they happened.

Of course, this is utterly bogus. It’s been a favorite canard of right wing blatherers that Dean suggested Bush knew about 9/11 in advance. In fact, he said that nutty theories such as the notion Bush knew about 9/11 beforehand were unfortunately made more plausible by the administration’s secrecy, particularly the redaction of information about Saudi Arabia from 9/11 intelligence reports.

And this is also what’s behind Albright’s comments. She was exaggerating (however slightly) the reality of the Bush administration’s manipulation of 9/11 and the “War on Terror” for political gain. Any number of commentators have noted that spikes in the “Alert Status” seem to come at opportune moments for the Bush administration, and that announcements of “progress” in finding al Qaeda members also appear at felicitous points in time (e.g., the Democratic National Convention).

Add to this the über manipulation of the Bush administration: the rhetorical linking of Iraq to 9/11 as a pretext for a war they already wanted to fight, and Albright’s point becomes crystal clear: this administration has squandered any benefit of the doubt it had on being honest and forthcoming about the war on terror. The continual exploitation of 9/11 and invoking of blind patriotism as a way of distracting the electorate from the abysmal record of the administration is shameful and tired.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Hyman & the McCarthyism

In the latest of his ongoing "Kerry & . . . " series, Mark Hyman goes after John Kerry for his participation in anti-war protests in Washington D.C. in the spring of 1971. Hyman paints a picture of wild-eyed activists breaking into congressional offices, throwing simulated blood on innocent staffers, and communist agitators defiling American flags.

Given this nightmarish picture, it seems more than a little odd that an organization devoted to preserving the Mall in Washington (the site of much of the protests)
considers these 1971 demonstrations one of the historic highlights in the Mall’s long history.

Maybe it’s because the protests brought not only Vietnam veterans to Washington, but 500,000 people from all walks of life, including many “Gold Star” mothers—women who had lost sons in Vietnam—to voice their opposition to the war.

Maybe it’s because the “civil disobedience” practiced at the demonstrations was largely simply the result of ad hoc rules passed specifically to thwart the rights of demonstrators, such as not allowing the Gold Star mothers to enter Arlington National Cemetery, not allowing veterans into the Capitol building, and a hasty last-minute injunction against camping on the Mall, which was never enforced.

Maybe it’s because the protests were not the act of some rogue fringe elements, but a mainstream voicing of a popularly held belief: in the spring of 1971, half of the country felt the war in Vietnam was “morally wrong,” and a large majority felt the current policies were hurting the country.

Maybe it’s because it was the first time in history when veterans of a war openly spoke out against a war they had participated in.

Maybe it’s because many members of Congress and other prominent politicians acknowledged the validity of the protestors’ concerns.

Maybe it’s because protest is not anti-American, but a right cherished by Americans since the founding of the country. The half-million people on the Mall were motivated by the threat to Americans from the continuation of the war, not a hatred of their own country. The upside down American flag became a symbol of the anti-war movement not because, as Hyman would have you believe, it’s a sign of disrespect, but because (according to the official flag code used by the military), the upside down flag is a sign of distress.

Maybe it’s because these protests are seen as a significant moment in the efforts to bring Americans home from Vietnam and stop the killing and dying.

Maybe it’s because the protestors, from the young 23-year-old vet in a wheelchair to the gray-haired Gold Star mother who lost her only son at Khe San, were right.

Hyman claims to have several sources to back up his version of events, but if you follow the link on the Newscentral website, you simply get a brief excerpt from an unnamed biography of John Kerry that includes references and brief quotations from news articles written at the time.

Hyman counts on you not bothering to find out the actual history of the event. But if you want a more accurate picture of what went on in the spring of 1971, you can check out a
summary of the events from the BBC, or take a look at this detailed chronology of the demonstrations. You can also read accounts of the events from people who were actually there written by a Vietnam vet and a National Guard chaplain. These give you a feel for what actually motivated those involved, not Hyman’s politically driven distortions of what brought Kerry and half a million others to Washington that spring.

Once the facts are out there, you realize that Hyman is attacking Kerry for helping organize a historically significant mobilization of citizens from all walks of life to speak out in a moral cause that was shared by a large percentage of the American people, and which contributed to the ending of military policies that had led to tragic loss of life without anything to show for it. Sort of sounds like principled leadership, doesn’t it?

Of course, Hyman’s criticism implies that he is more approving of the actions of George Bush, who supported the war but used family connections to avoid serving in it; who finagled his way out of even his modest commitments to the National Guard; who spent the closing years of the war at business school at Harvard, where his
own professor says he was a vapid, unprincipled, dope; and who as president has led America into a war of choice that looks about as unwinnable as Vietnam was

Then again, Hyman probably thinks the 1963 Civil Rights march on Washington was anti-American and that Martin Luther King was a communist agitator.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Guilt by Association

For the third straight day this week, "The Point" devoted itself to attacking the character of John Kerry. This has become standard operating procedure at Sinclair, given a lack of anything positive to say about the Bush administration.

This is also the third straight “Point” in which Mark Hyman has put on the mask of an “investigative journalist,” claiming to find hidden evidence that proves some sort of dastardly conduct on the part of Kerry. As we’ve noted often before, this is also part of Sinclair’s ongoing efforts to blur the lines between opinion and news. Mark Hyman attempts to assume the ethos of a newsman, but hides behind the cover of “commentator” when called on his partisanship.

This time around, Hyman goes after Kerry for his participation in the “Winter Soldier” investigation, which ultimately led to Kerry’s testimony before Congress. The tactic employed is guilt by association, tarring Kerry with the words and deeds of others. For example, Hyman claims that participants in the Winter Soldier investigation claimed that the U.S. committed atrocities on POWs, but that the North Vietnamese did not. It’s possible that someone, somewhere said something along these lines, but Kerry certainly did not, nor did anyone with any sense. The Winter Soldier investigation wasn’t about challenging evidence of Communist war crimes; it was about the circumstances that led some Americans to engage in similar behavior.

We also have a nod to Jane Fonda, who helped organize the Winter Soldier investigation (along with many others). Hyman trots out the photos of Fonda sitting on North Vietnamese anti-aircraft guns as well as a photo showing Fonda and Kerry both in a large crowd at a rally. Hyman uses this as evidence that Kerry was somehow in cahoots with Fonda and that Kerry’s denials of meeting with Fonda personally are lies. For Hyman, having a photograph of two people at the same gathering makes one responsible for the misdeeds of the other. We’re just wondering, Mark: if that’s the case, what about this picture?

Despite Hyman’s protestations, the Winter Soldier investigation was not “anti-American.” In fact, the organizers specifically wanted the investigation to not pass judgment on America in general. The goal was to look at the circumstances that had led American servicemen to become so desensitized to indiscriminate violence that decent individuals were capable of committing monstrous acts. It was an indictment of the faulty war planning of the administration and the military establishment, not America.

If you want a firsthand account of the motivations and purposes of the Winter Soldier investigation, read
this overview by William Crandall at the University of Virginia’s online resource center on the Vietnam War. From this page, you can also find any number of other documents, both primary and secondary sources, related to Winter Soldier. The truth is out there; we don’t have to rely on Hyman’s self-serving distortions.

As for the validity of the charges of Winter Soldier, that atrocities were committed by Americans, there is, unfortunately, no doubt that such events occurred. The only debate is on how widespread they were. The non-partisan has
an analysis of the claims that Kerry “betrayed” America in his anti-war testimony that provides several sources that back up claims of U.S. atrocities, in addition to a helpful overview of Kerry’s testimony and his attitudes about it today.

The entire purpose of Winter Soldier in general and Kerry’s testimony specifically was not to condemn U.S. troops in the field, but warn of the costs of fighting a war in which the enemy is indistinguishable from innocent civilians. To fight such a war, soldiers are conditioned to accept a level of brutality and indifference to suffering that would be unthinkable in any other context. It creates conditions in which horrific events can happen. Given the images from Abu Ghraib, perhaps the Winter Soldier investigation still has something to say to us.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

The Truth Shall Set Us Free

Consistency is not one of Mark Hyman’s strong suits. Case in point (pardon the pun) is his most recent attack on John Kerry’s war record, this time for supposedly not earning his first Purple Heart.

All the Hyman hallmarks are here: the nameless “eyewitnesses,” the citing of discredited testimony, eliding relevant facts, the claim of having exclusive information that isn’t exclusive at all, and the cocky assertion that something has been proven when it hasn’t.

We won’t bother taking up space refuting each of Hyman’s assertions here. By now, you know where to go if you want objective, non-partisan information on Kerry’s war record. The best source is, an equal-opportunity debunker of campaign hype. If you follow
this link, you’ll come to their thorough evaluation of Kerry’s military service, including a description of the events leading to each of Kerry’s medals. The account of his first Purple Heart tells you everything you need to know about the incident in question, its aftermath, and the credibility of the “eyewitnesses” Hyman appears to refer to.

What’s more interesting than the distortions of fact (which are all too familiar to viewers of “The Point”) is that in questioning the first Purple Heart, Hyman as much as admits that the second two Purple Hearts Kerry received are legitimate (his claims rest on supposedly missing documentation of the first wound of the sort that exists for the second and third wounds). Apparently questioning one Purple Heart somehow discredits all of Kerry’s service.

Still more intriguing is Hyman’s (and other Bushophiles’) dwelling on military service records. As we’ve pointed out, no amount of distortion can negate the most basic divide between Kerry and Bush on this matter: Kerry volunteered and served, while Bush did not. This is why no matter how he bashes Kerry, Hyman will never actually draw a comparison between Kerry’s service and Bush’s. Even granting the most Bush-friendly arguments, Kerry wins in a walk.

Some have noted that a typical Karl Rove tactic is to attack your opponent’s strength. Thus, we had the disgusting slanders of war hero John McCain during the 2000 primaries, suggesting that he had been brainwashed while in captivity or had in some way collaborated with the North Vietnamese.

But we think the Rovian modus operandi goes a bit further. What seems to be going on is not only an attack on your opponent’s strength, but a preemptive attack on one’s own weaknesses, projected onto the opposing candidate. Bush is vulnerable both for his embarrassing non-service in the Air National Guard and for his leading of a war that’s bogged down and was fought based on false pretenses. Thus Bush attacks Kerry’s military record.

The Bush administration is also vulnerable on the war issue in that they sent far less troops to Iraq than military analysts said would be needed, and sent them in without important equipment such as body armor and armored Humvees. So, the Bush administration attacks Kerry for supposedly voting against weapons systems used in Iraq and not supporting the troops (even though such claims fail the giggle test).

More broadly, Bush is vulnerable for his shifting positions on any number of issues. The most obvious is the constantly shifting rationale for the Iraq war. Then there’s the No Child Left Behind program, which he touted during the campaign, then didn’t fund. He opposed a 9/11 commission, then supported it. He was against the creation of the Homeland Security Department, then he was for it. He was for free trade, then he was for steel tariffs, then went back to being for free trade. He said he was against nation-building, then did just that. The list is nearly endless, and many more examples can be found in
this article by Tom Raum of the AP.

So what do we get? Kerry is a “flip flopper,” based almost solely on his decision to support one bill for funding the Iraq operation while rolling back tax cuts on the wealthy in order to offset the costs, and opposing a bill that funded the conflict while keeping the tax cuts and driving up the debt.

This might seem an odd way to run a campaign, but there’s a twisted logic to it. By launching a preemptive strike on Kerry for precisely those points on which Bush is weakest, the Bush campaign anticipates Kerry’s attacks and makes them seem more defensive than they actually are. Charges against the president seem like “getting even” or “tit for tat” rhetoric designed to rehabilitate Kerry, making the Kerry campaign seem passive.

By bringing up the charges first, the Bush campaign also increases the odds that a confused electorate will simply declare those issues on which Bush is most vulnerable “a wash” and move on to other concerns. Even though Bush’s charges are not supported by evidence, while the charges against him are, the hope is that the cacophony of public blathering will cause people to simply write it all off as “negative campaigning” and not bother looking into whether one set of charges is more valid than the other.

We doubt Hyman has thought about his rhetoric in such terms. As we’ve seen for some time, Hyman’s editorials are basically exercises in parroting whatever the current Bush campaign talking points are, or else whatever bile is bubbling up on Newsmax or Freepnet. Subtlety is no more his forte than consistency. But he’s part of a machine that, while completely amoral, has the potential to be politically effective in a Machiavellian way.

The antidote? The truth, stated clearly, concisely, and loudly. Kerry served, Bush didn’t. Bush lied about evidence of WMDs. First president to lose jobs since Hoover. Tax burden shifted to middle class. No connection between Iraq and 9/11. 1000 flag-draped coffins brought home with no end in sight.

These statements are true. Simply and directly stated, they’re unspinnable. Stated confidently and repeatedly, they’re the death knell of the Bush administration.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Hyman AWOL From Both the Truth and Decency

In his most recent “Point,” Mark Hyman continues his harangue about John Kerry’s war record, but stoops to a new low: accusing Kerry of committing the moral equivalent of a cold blooded murder.

You’d think the U.S. Navy would know better than to award a Silver Star for an atrocity, but according to Hyman, they don’t. Hyman recounts the events that led to Kerry’s award, but does so with carefully added, and unsupported, details that completely alter the nature of Kerry’s actions.

<>The basic story is that Kerry’s boat was under heavy fire when Kerry ordered the boat to attack the portion of the shoreline from where the fire was coming. A VC with a grenade launcher was running back behind cover to get a shot at the boat. Kerry followed on foot and killed the individual before he could destroy the boat.

In Hyman’s hands, however, the story is much darker. The VC was wounded and “leaving the field of battle” when Kerry shot him in the back. Hyman says there are witnesses to back up this version of events, but he doesn’t name any. That’s because there aren’t any. Hyman simply assumes that no one will bother looking into the facts, and believe that if he says there are witnesses who question Kerry’s version of events, there must actually be such people. Hyman also produces an “exclusive” Navy report that he claims proves his version of events. It doesn’t. It says that Kerry chased the VC and shot him “while he fled,” but it makes no mention of where the individual was fleeing to. In fact, those at the scene say that the man, who was so lightly wounded that he was still running, was finding cover a reasonable distance away so that he could fire a grenade at the beached Swiftboat. The consensus is that Kerry saved both the boat and his crew from destruction.

But don’t take “The Counterpoint’s” word on any of this. We actually have backup, unlike Hyman. First, you might want to take a look at what the folks at the urban legend site, say about the fictions that have been created about this incident and others Kerry was involved in. Their conclusion: folks like Hyman are in the same category as those who think we didn’t actually land on the Moon. The stories are false.

Hyman says there are “witnesses,” but doesn’t say who they are. Maybe that’s because the one person who was in a position to actually see the entire event backs up Kerry’s account exactly. Take a look at Kerry's shipmate's account of the action written for the Chicago Tribune and decide for yourself whether or not he seems more credible than Hyman and his phantom witnesses.

Maybe you feel that Mr. Rood is too personally connected to Kerry to be objective. Fine. Take a look at independent investigations that compare Kerry’s actual military service with the revisionist fables concocted by folks like Hyman and others who are motivated by political animus rather than by any concern for the truth. The independent refutes the Kerry bashers, as well as does an investigation by the Washington Post.

Let’s pause for a minute and really think about what Hyman is saying. This isn’t simply a charge that Kerry exaggerated his exploits to win medals. Hyman claims that Kerry is a sadist who killed someone simply because he could. To listen to Hyman and his ilk, Kerry was at the same time a privileged snob who exaggerated his exploits because he didn’t have what it took to be an actual combat leader, but also a bloodthirsty monster who would jump off his boat during an ambush and run unaccompanied after a wounded man who posed no threat just for the joy of slaughtering him. Even as a work of fiction, these tales don’t pass muster because of their utter inconsistency.

For good measure, Hyman throws in the epithet “Massachusetts liberal” to describe Kerry, although it has nothing to do with the content of the commentary, and says that one might expect someone to brag about killing a wounded man if he was also the sort of person who would “attack the very country” he was supposed to be defending, referring to Kerry’s testimony in Congress on the conditions in Vietnam.

Of course, if you actually read Kerry’s testimony, you see immediately that he was defending his fellow soldiers as victims of a dehumanizing system. You also see someone who, in his 20s, thought more deeply and spoke more eloquently about matters of consequence than our current commander in chief can today.

Speaking of Mr. Bush, we know all too well what he was doing while Kerry was serving his country: avoiding even the modest commitments he had made to the Air National Guard, getting preferential treatment, ducking mandatory physicals, abusing various substances, and having his abysmal service records sugarcoated through political influence.

As we’ve said many times before, all this nattering on about what medals Kerry deserved, how much he bled, or exactly how far short Bush was in meeting his Guard duties is beside the point. Kerry served; Bush didn’t. Period. So why do Hyman and other Bush lovers continue to harp on a losing battle?

First, although Bush’s record will never equal Kerry’s, they figure if they simply throw mud at Kerry, maybe Bush’s self-given “war president” moniker will carry the day.

Second, as long as the media and the electorate talk about Vietnam, Purple Hearts, and what type fonts were and weren’t available in 1972, no one will ask questions about Bush’s record as president, which is even more embarrassing than his pathetic service record. No jobs. Poisoned environment. Squandered opportunities for international cooperation. Lack of attention to real terrorist threats. No WMDs. Assault weapons back on the street. Uninsured Americans on the rise. And more than 1000 Americans dead and 7000 Americans wounded in a preemptive war with no exit strategy in sight.

It’s important to drive a stake through the heart of liars like Hyman, but let’s not forget to keep asking the real questions that matter. Because, no matter how many whoppers these folks tell, they do it because they can’t defend the reality of the last three and a half years.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Monday, September 13, 2004

"The Point" Having a Clue? It's Just an Urban Legend

We’re just wondering: does Mark Hyman think John Kerry and his wife were on the Grassy Knoll in Dallas in 1963.

Conservatives are attempting to “Hillarize” Theresa Heinz Kerry (despite the fact that she was previously married to a Republican senator) by painting her as a crazed liberal bent on funding extremist groups. Hyman jumps in with both feet in
this editorial in which he claims that Heinz Kerry is funding radical environmental groups that are (somehow) keeping us from becoming independent from foreign oil.

This is just a specific case of many similar stories circulating on the Internet and among conservative ideologues. The urban legend site,, deals with these concisely by going to the source. Their conclusion? These charges aren’t even “doubtful.” They’re simply false (sort of like the one about the giant alligators living in your sewer system). Among other things, the folks at the apolitical site point out that the Capital Research Center, which Hyman touts as a “watchdog” group, is in fact a conservative thinktank (using “think” in the loosest possible sense of the word). Their take on the Heinz Kerry rumor mongering is worth a look.

Of course, we understand how jumpy conservatives like Hyman can be when it comes to any chance that the U.S. might not be energy independent--it's certainly a goal they take seriously. After all, this administration is actively seeking alternative sources of energy so we can avoid being dependent on the vagaries of Middle East politics to keep our country moving, right?

Well, not according to anybody outside the Bush administration itself. You don’t need to take the word of any radical environmental activist, either. As
this essay by a commentator at the conservative Cato institute (and which appeared in conservatives' favorite magazine, National Review) points out, the idea that this administration ever planned to actively seek independence from foreign oil is laughable. This administration is headed by two veterans of the oil industry, and even the domestic oil industry is dependent on foreign oil cartels. As long as Bush is in office, this country will not make significant moves away from oil as a major source of energy, and this means no moving away from dependence on Middle Eastern oil barons.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Fact Check: Kerry Served, Bush Didn't

Does Hyman really think he’s helping his candidate by dwelling on Vietnam? In a series of "Short Takes", Hyman continues to blather on about John Kerry’s “undeserved medals.” This time, he claims that one of Kerry’s Purple Hearts was won when he was injured by exploding rice.

If this sounds fishy, it’s only because it is. According to the nonpartisan
, part of the reason Kerry was awarded one of his three Purple Hearts is that he was injured by grenade shrapnel (not rice) that hit him while he was assisting in destroying a Viet Cong food storage facility (he was also injured by a mine that detonated near his boat later that day). In fact, Fact Check has a detailed analysis of each one of Kerry’s medals, the circumstances under which they were earned, and the claims of political opponents that they were given under “suspicious” circumstances. The conclusions are that the medals were properly awarded, and that the stories of those who question Kerry’s service don’t check out.

But here’s the thing: assume for a minute that Kerry was a glory-seeking, self-serving, politically ambitious Kennedy-wannabe, and George W. Bush honestly felt he was serving his country the best he could by joining the Texas Air National Guard, and did so without any strings being pulled and without shirking his commitment. We know from multiple sources that these assumptions are far from the truth, but even if we go ahead and grant them, Kerry’s military record dwarfs Bush’s. Kerry went when he didn’t have to. He was under fire. Not even the most adamant Bush lover can deny this. Nor can they deny that given the same opportunity to serve, Bush took the easy way out. Dig up all the politically-motivated storytellers you want—you can’t change those essential truths, and little else really matters.

So Mark, if you really want the upcoming election to be about comparing service to our country 35 years ago, bring it on.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Exploiting the Family of One of the Fallen

Apparently, not even war widows are safe from Mark Hyman’s sniping. While delivering an editorial musing on the possible fate of Scott Speicher, the first U.S. pilot shot down during the first Gulf War in 1991, Hyman bizarrely makes a point of saying that Speicher’s wife “quickly remarried” after his being pronounced dead. This seems particularly unfair given that it is Speicher’s wife and her new husband who have led attempts to clarify what happened to him after he was shot down.

There is no doubt that Speicher is dead, and little doubt that he died when he was shot down or shortly thereafter. The military has changed his status from KIA to MIA and back again, although this has more to do with attempts to pressure Baghdad to release more information than any real doubt about his fate.(See
this story from ABC News for more details).

But Hyman takes advantage of both Speicher and his family to make a twisted defense of the preemptive invasion of Iraq by saying that if anyone doubted Saddam Hussein presented a threat to Americans, we should remember Speicher’s family.

That’s right: because a pilot was shot down during combat operations over Iraq 13 years ago, we were all in grave peril from a two-bit dictator. Only in the world of “The Point” (and perhaps the White House) does this make any sense.

And that’s the Counterpoint.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Taking "The Point" to School

Okay, we admit it. “The Counterpoint” let our guard down, and we got burned. In catching up with the backlog of “Point” commentaries delivered since Labor Day, we skipped over what seemed like a relatively harmless entry. We should know better than to think anything Hyman says is without ulterior motive.

Hyman spent an edition of
"The Point" touting a book called “Choosing the Right College” published by an outfit called Intercollegiate Studies Institute. Sounds pretty harmless, right? And Hyman simply suggests that this reference book can offer a level-headed assessment of colleges and universities that you won’t get from the glossy brochures the schools use to tempt prospective students.

What he doesn’t say is that this book, although masquerading as a general reference book, is in fact a highly conservative tome designed to lead people to schools that don’t have anything as insidious on campus as an African-American studies program or a Gay and Lesbian student organization. The fact that the introduction is written by William “Snake Eyes” Bennett should tell you all you need to know: this book is written by and for people who are paranoid that the average college or university is a hotbed of radical leftism (although Hyman carefully avoids any hint that the book is anything but objective).

But we haven’t had the opportunity to read the book ourselves, so we’ll defer to a couple of people who have, reviewers from and respectively:

“When I bought the 1st edition, I really believed in this book. By the time we
got through the application/admission process, based upon our real experience of
visiting schools, talking to teachers and adminstrators, and sitting in on
classes, I saw it as a very slanted source of information about schools, some of
which was good, but most of which misleads the reader in the direction of the
editor's viewpoint. It made me feel embarrassed to call myself conservative.
Initially, I was too worried about what the college environment would do to my
son. The truth is that as a parent you have either raised them with the correct
values or you haven't, and what happens to your child in college is feedback on
your job performance, not the college's.”

“I found this book very strange. It is misrepresenting itself as a general
college guide. The only people who would find it helpful are neo-conservatives
whose only criteria in choosing a university is that it not have any "feminists"
or "multiculturalism" on campus. It covers over 100 schools, dividing each
review into 3 sections: academic life, political atmosphere, and student life.
The reviews are rather brief and do not offer any helpful information (size,
location, admissions, etc.) that could not be found in other college guides. The
other information presented is highly editorialized. The authors seem a bit
obsessed with bringing up random sexual harassment lawsuits, and the phrase
"politically correct" appears on nearly every page. It's also obvious they have
not done a lot of interviewing of current students and faculty.”

And those are The Counterpoints.

Hyman Says Kerry's al-Qaeda's Candidate

It comes as no surprise, but still a disappointment, that Bush backers are reduced to threatening the electorate to get their man elected. Even the vice president has stooped to suggesting that voting for Kerry will get you killed.

Given that, we’re hardly shocked that Mark Hyman is using this tactic as well. Under the heading of
"October Surprise", Hyman claims that the March train bombings in Spain days before a national election resulted in the choice of a prime minister who was “weak on terrorism.” Hyman wonders whether there might be a similar attack in our future and whether that attack will help elect Kerry, a man who Hyman claims (without any evidence, because there is none) has a senatorial record that is weak on both terrorism and defense.

Here’s the thing: Prime Minister Zapatero and his socialist party have supported going after al-Qaeda for a long time. This isn’t surprising, given that Spain has suffered from terrorist attacks for a lot longer than the U.S. has, primarily from radical Basque separatists. One of the first things Zapatero did following his victory was vow to go after those responsible for the bombings. Hyman offers no proof of Zapatero’s weakness on terrorism because, as with Kerry, there is none. All is spin.

The only possible support for Hyman’s claim is that Zapatero had promised to remove Spanish troops from Iraq should he become prime minister. But as scholars across the political spectrum, from the Brookings Institution
to the Cato Institute, have pointed out, the Spanish people don’t see Iraq and al-Qaeda as linked in any way. They, like most Europeans, are all for going after al-Qaeda, but scratch their heads at the claims of the Bush administration that invading Iraq is somehow going to solve the problem (between 80 and 90% of Spaniards were against involvement in Iraq by their country). The bombings reminded the Spanish that their current government was involved in a counterproductive military action in Iraq at the expense of going after al-Qaeda. One must not only believe that there were ties between al-Qaeda and Iraq, but that the Spanish electorate believed these ties existed for the claim that the socialist victory in Spain was a victory for Osama bin Ladin to work. But there aren’t, and they didn’t.

Rather the election of the Zapatero government was a plea on behalf of the people of Spain to go after the real terrorists—the ones who actually pose a threat. It was also a plea for governmental honesty. A fatal mistake that the incumbent government of Prime Minister Aznar made was to try to link the train bombings to Basque separatists to provide political cover. Despite all evidence to the contrary, the government continued to assert its claims that Basques, not al-Qaeda, were the likely suspects. Fed up with a government that wouldn’t be honest about something as important as who was and wasn’t linked to terrorist attacks, the Spanish people voted their leader out of office. There might be a lesson in that for another leader a bit closer to home.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Lies, Damn Lies, and Hyman-istics

They say there are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics. That’s certainly true when the statistics are coming out of Mark Hyman’s mouth. According to Hyman, Democrats are the party of deep pockets, big spenders, and privileged special interests, while the Republicans are the party of the everyday working man. His evidence? A study by the Center for Responsive Politics that showed that during the 2002 congressional election cycle, the GOP received more in small-amount donations than did Democrats.

True enough. But what he doesn’t tell you is that the Republican fundraising machine raised more cash at all donation levels except the very top, where a handful of extremely large donations to democrats skewed the results. Also keep in mind that 2002 didn’t involve a national election, and certain races (particularly senate races) prompted donations that reflected a wealth/ideology link representative of only a particular state (and again, even these more local links aren’t particularly strong). Lastly, these large contributions, as big as they were, amounted to a small fraction of the total haul for either Democrats or Republicans.

The reason Hyman touts this study is precisely because the results show an unusual spike in large donations at the very top level of giving for Democrats. He claims it’s simply because 2002 is the last election cycle for which we have complete data.

Perhaps so, but we’re certainly far enough along in the 2004 race to get a broader view of donation demographics than the 2002 race afforded. Not surprisingly, current data (again, from the
Center for Responsive Politics) through the end of August shows that Kerry (and other Democrats) get more money from small donations than does Bush.

Specifically, more than half the contributions that have gone to the Bush/Cheney ticket have been for $2000 or more. Only a third of Kerry/Edwards donations fall into that category. In raw numbers, Bush gets more than twice as many $2000+ donations as Kerry. In the “Everyman” category of $200 or less, 35% of Kerry’s donations come this demographic, while only 28% of Bush contributions are in amounts of under $200. The leaders in small contributions this past election cycle are Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich, with 61% and 70% of their donations coming in these small amounts, respectively. This suggests at least a loose correlation between liberal political stances and the amount of money one receives in small donations, completely contrary to Hyman’s.

The advent of internet donations, largely thanks to Howard Dean, has helped Democrats make up for the long-time advantage Republicans have enjoyed in fundraising, not because of their policies, but because of their well-oiled mail solicitation machine. Now that it’s easier than ever to give in small increments, campaign donations (at least in terms of the number of small vs. large donations) are beginning to reflect the policies of the parties more accurately. That’s not good for a president who has overseen a systematic shift of the tax burden from the wealthy onto the middle class.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

American Dream, Hyman's Nightmare

In his latest "Point," Mark Hyman goes mano-a-mano with President Bush in a race to the moral bottom of immigration politics.

Calling (inaccurately) Bush’s proposed “guest worker” program an “amnesty” for illegal immigrants, Hyman bemoans what this possible influx will do to the U.S.

Bush’s proposal would allow undocumented laborers to continue to work in the U.S. for a period of a few years. The rationale is that they’re already here and they’re cheap labor, so why not use them? Despite Hyman’s protestations, this is not amnesty—rather a stay of execution. After working at the very bottom of the economic ladder (without any rights to organize), foreign workers could be deported. In fact, by registering to be guest workers, undocumented immigrants make it much easier for the government to track them and find them when they’re time in the U.S. has been used up. It’s a crass and misguided attempt to exploit a cheap and vulnerable workforce without giving anything in return. (John Kerry and other Democrats favor a policy that would allow undocumented workers to work toward permanent citizenship as long as they are working or seeking work.)

It's tough to outdo the Bush administration in dehumanizing those who come into the U.S. illegally, but Hyman is up to the challenge. After mischaracterizing the Bush policy by suggesting it’s a way of smoothing the road toward citizenship, Hyman comes up with one of his oddly-worded remarks that betray a disturbing ideology:

There is no doubt the U.S. needs to overhaul its immigration policy. It's
currently like an all-you-can-eat buffet, with various groups scooping generous heapings of foreign immigrants into the U.S. without regard to sound immigration policy. This doesn't even take into account the ease with which illegal aliens cross our borders.

“Various groups”? We wonder what that might mean. To us, it certainly sounds like Hyman is nervous about too many people with darker skin than his coming into the country. “Sound immigration policy” is a thinly veiled assertion that we need to control the number of certain kinds of foreigners coming into the U.S. He won’t say so, of course, but we’ve seen that Hyman isn’t above couching bigotry in vague, hazy language. Add to this the dehumanizing rhetoric (“heapings” of immigrants, comparing human beings to items at a salad bar), and you have a frightening peek into the psyche behind "The Point."

As for the “ease” of getting into the country, we wonder if Hyman has heard of the hundreds of individuals who die every year in the sweltering semi-trailers crossing the border, or who are led out into the wilderness by predatory “guides” and left to die, or simply shot by criminals promising to bring them to the U.S. if they’re willing to hand over all the money they have. They risk these dangers for a simple reason. These people still believe that the U.S. is the land of freedom and opportunity. They believe in the promise that his country offers. And they are willing to work the most menial jobs in order to make a better life for their children.

To George W. Bush, these people are fodder for industry to be used up and disposed of.

To Mark Hyman, they’re a nightmarish horde of people who are different than him.

But they’re both wrong. These people are the embodiment of the American dream.

And that’s the Counterpoint.

Putting a Smiley Face on the GOP

This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but “The Point’s” wrap up from New York was bit sunnier than any of the coverage of the Democrats in Boston. Not that there was any more substance dealt with than we’re used to getting from Mark Hyman.

Although he claimed he had taken “The Point” out and about New York to show us what “the network and cable news programs didn't show you,” the editorial was simply a collage of feel-good images and atrocious puns. Among the images of apple-cheeked kids, veterans with medals pinned to their chest, and people wearing funny hats and smiling, there was little mention of any of the protests that were certainly the most obvious difference between the atmosphere of the Democratic convention and the GOP gathering in New York

The only acknowledgement of dissent was the comment that “protestors showed contempt for the president.” The sound bite to bear this assertion out was simply a mild-mannered man who said, “We came together to speak in one voice against the Bush agenda.” That counts as contempt? Apparently simply disagreeing with Bush on policy matters is equated with having hate-filled personal animosity toward him. We’re just wondering, Mark: if this is your idea of contempt, what do you call the discredited blather coming from the Swifties?

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Not Exactly "North and South"

After a long weekend, the Counterpoint catches up!

Continuing his non-coverage of the GOP convention in New York, Mark Hyman used the appearance of Michael Reagan to muse about "sibling rivalry"

He began by noting that Ron Reagan spoke at the Democratic convention, but “stopped short of endorsing Kerry.” This suggests that Reagan is undecided about which candidate to support. True, Reagan, a self-described political independent didn’t overtly endorse Kerry at the convention. But if you have even an inkling of doubt about who the youngest son of Ronald Reagan supports in this race, all you have to do is look at the scathing critique of George W. Bush he recently penned for Esquire, or recall his eulogy of his father in which he pointedly said that the 40th president didn’t wear his religiosity “on his sleeve,” a clear reference to Bush’s continual invocation of the divine.

There’s no statute of limitations on Clinton-bashing, apparently, so Hyman goes on to compare Bill Bennett who, according to Hyman “wrote the Book of Virtues” to his brother Bob who, in Hyman’s words, “defended a president showed no virtue.”

Quick fact check: Bennett did not write the Book of Virtues; he compiled a series of stories other people had written. He apparently spent much of his profits as editor of the book at the gaming tables in Sin City, having admitted to squandering millions to feed his gambling habit. Meanwhile, President Clinton created an economy that lifted all boats, enforced environmental regulations, put thousands of police on the streets, made it easier for young people to go to college, advanced peace in the Middle East and Ireland, cooperated with European allies to end the fighting in the Balkans, among a host of other accomplishments. No virtue?

Then we have more Hyman-esque wordplay. Kerry-supporter Alec Baldwin is a Hollywood “agitator” and “sometime actor,” while brother Stephen receives no epithets (perhaps “no-time actor” would be appropriate).

Maureen Dowd, the “liberal” columnist for the New York Times is “out of step” with her family because of her support for John Kerry—a rather pointless observation until you see that it gives Hyman a chance to juxtapose the words “liberal,” “out of step,” and “John Kerry.”

Finally, Hyman says that although most of the Heinz-Kerry children are actively supporting their father, but a third son “wants nothing to do” with him. Actually, John Heinz simply wants nothing to do with the campaign. An intensely private man, he studiously avoids the limelight. Hyman wants you to think there’s some sort of family squabble involved, but in reality, Heinz simply wants to keep his anonymity. As for his political leanings, Hyman probably wouldn’t approve: records show he gave to Ralph Nader in 2000.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Cost of the War in Iraq
(JavaScript Error)
To see more details, click here.