Wednesday, February 23, 2005


I'll be out of town for a few days, so "The Counteproint" will be on a very brief break. We'll be back next week with responses to any "Points" particularly deserving of being countered, and resume our daily responses. In the meantime, be sure to visit our friends at SinclairAction for ongoing scrutiny of all things Sinclair.

Look for a new "Counterpoint" on Tuesday!

A Matter of Ethos

In a continuation of “Keen Grasp of the Obvious Week” at “The Point,” Mark Hyman recently delivered a commentary, the gist of which was, “there are some sticky issues to be resolved before we get to peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”

True enough. The obvious response to this is to point out that the Bush administration’s passivity and unwillingness to assert itself as an honest broker for peace has made this all the more difficult. Then there’s the little matter of the unilateral invasion of a Middle Eastern country that has stirred up a bit of consternation in the region.

But other than complaining about losing 120 seconds of my life that I won’t get back after watching this episode of “The Point,” there’s not much more to be said about it, simply because Hyman doesn’t assert much of anything.

The same can’t be said of the more recent commentary on 527 groups and campaign finance reform. Hyman argues that pending legislation limiting the amounts spent by 527 groups in the run-up to an election is censorship.

Let’s be clear: there is certainly an intellectually respectable argument to be made that limiting campaign contributions infringes on free speech. This is particularly true if you buy the premise that cash equals speech (I don’t, but many do).

The problem with the commentary isn’t the basic position advocated (legislation regulating 527s should be voted down), but the problem of Hyman’s ethos in making this argument.

First, as is typical of Hyman’s argumentative style, there is no acknowledgment that the other side’s arguments are based in legitimate values. For Hyman, John McCain (his bogeyman of campaign finance reform) is out to censor groups speaking on behalf of ordinary citizens. There’s no acknowledgment that there are valid concerns about the influence of money on the political system. McCain is crudely charicatured as a Snidely Whiplash, viciously tying Lady Democracy to the tracks as the Censorship Express barrels down on her.

Moreover, it’s difficult to take an employee of Sinclair Broadcasting seriously on the issue of censorship. It’s certainly been a hot topic in recent installments of “The Point,” but as we’ve pointed out a number of times, it seems that Sinclair praises freedom of speech when it suits their purposes, but advocates limitation on speech that it finds objectionable. In both the statements of Mark Hyman and the corporate statements and actions of Sinclair, one is hard pressed to find any coherent rationale when it comes to a stance on censorship.

Most important, however, is the fact that Hyman does not disclose the close association Sinclair Broadcasting had with a certain infamous 527 group, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth [sic]. Some time ago, we noted that during the “Stolen Honor” fiasco, Hyman was appearing on television touting the group behind this crockumentary as credible and having nothing to do with the Swifties. But as Media Matters for America quickly pointed out, the group behind “Stolen Honor” had officially merged with the Swifties a month earlier. And it was a propagandistic film hawked by this group that Sinclair claimed was “news.”

There’s a reasonable debate to be had on this issue. Senator McCain warns that allowing 527s to roam the media without limit during a campaign opens up the possibility of a single wealthy individual wielding huge influence over an election. It’s also true that the emergence of 527 groups resulted from loopholes in the original McCain-Feingold law that shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Lastly, it’s difficult to come up with an argument that says regulating 527s is censorship but doesn’t challenge all campaign regulations (such as the $2000 limit on individual contributions). If we’re going to regulate campaigns, let’s regulate ‘em. If not, let’s not go through a charade—why not just open the floodgates and say money can be used by whomever for whatever, no strings attached.

Despite the obviously loaded language of that description of the debate, there remain important questions about freedom of expression when it comes to campaign finance reform, and there are valid arguments to be made in favor of keeping regulations to a minimum.

But Mark Hyman is not in a position to make them.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Monday, February 21, 2005

"The Point" Takes a Bold Stand!

Mark Hyman uses his most recent “Point” commentary to deliver the controversial opinion that the First Amendment is (*gasp*) a good thing. (Suggestions for future “Point” topics: “The Civil War—a Divisive Time in Our Nation’s History;” “Going to the Moon—Not an Unimpressive Achievement;” “Hell—A Bit Warmish.”)

Actually, Hyman bemoans the apparent lack of knowledge of what censorship is and the value of free speech, particularly among America’s students. Who’s to blame for this ignorance? According to Hyman, it’s the fault of parents and teachers.

But what about the media? Might not television itself give our young people the message that freedom of expression isn’t a bedrock American value?

For example, what about a certain television commentator who, on a regular basis, suggests that those who don’t agree with his position on the war in Iraq “support the terrorists?”

What of a certain large media company that refused to allow its stations to air a simple tribute to America’s fallen soldiers because its ownership conjured up dark motives behind it, and then their most public employee announced that the show’s host “hates our troops?” [Editor's note: according to Sinclair, Mark Hyman is no longer a corporate officer of Sinclair Broadcasting. At some point, the decision was made to take away his title of "vice president" because of his role as a public commentator. In Sinclair's words, Hyman is "just an employee." Consider yourself informed.]

You might point out that these instances aren’t actually censorship. They might have a chilling effect on public discourse, but as Hyman himself points out, “censorship” refers specifically to the actions by the government to limit speech.

But if that’s the case, Hyman might want to have a chat with his fellow Sinclairians, who’ve been throwing the word around quite liberally (pardon the expression).
In a recent press release, Sinclair suggests that groups organizing letter-writing campaigns to advertisers asking them to divest themselves of their advertising buys on Sinclair stations are guilty of “censorship.” Apparently the Sinclair legal team believe Hyman is free to say anything he wants during his editorials, but viewers who write to advertisers expressing their displeasure are shredding the Constitution.

Then there’s the recent episode in which Hyman suggests that teachers at state-run universities shouldn’t have their jobs if they say things Hyman deems controversial. Actually, what Hyman said is that teachers at state run universities whom he slanders for saying things they didn’t say shouldn’t have jobs. Gosh, Mark: isn’t that censorship? What about the children, Mark?! [Editor’s Note: I’d provide a link to Hyman’s “Failures in Higher Education” commentary at this point, but it’s disappeared from the website.]

No one disagrees with Hyman’s bold assertion that the First Amendment is, on balance, not a bad idea. The problem is that Hyman’s comments, in the larger context of his own statements and the actions of his employers, make a mockery of his high minded rhetoric. For Mark Hyman and Sinclair Broadcasting, freedom of speech means they should be allowed to say whatever they want. The rest of us should just shut up.

But we won’t.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

More Hyman Healthcare Humbug

Every once in a while, Mark Hyman stumbles across an apt metaphor. Usually, however, it’s appropriate for precisely the opposite reason Hyman uses it.

Such is the case in Hyman's comparison of healthcare with Jiffy Lube (the quickie oil-change franchise). Why, wonders Hyman, can’t our healthcare system be more like the folks at Jiffy Lube, who regularly remind him he’s due to get his oil changed and who “sometimes find problems I didn't know existed?” [Note to self: look into ownership of Jiffy Lube stock by corporate officers at Sinclair Broadcasting.]

The problem is that health care is already too much like Jiffy Lube. There are rampant rumors that the problems Jiffy Lube “finds” for folks like Hyman aren’t actually problems at all (or at least don’t exist until Jiffy Lube mechanics get their hands on the car). Why would people think that Jiffy Lube would cheat their customers? After all, they’re in the business of making our cars run smoothly, right?

Wrong. They’re in the business of making money. To the extent this goal overlaps with fixing your car, fine. But the goal of any private company is to turn a profit. Everything else is simply a means to that end.

That’s fine (up to a point) when the issue is getting your oil changed or manufacturing widgets. The free market system can be an elegant tool in maximizing efficiency in some contexts.

But not in the case of healthcare. Why is this? Because the issue of healthcare involves two central issues not in play with oil changes: shared consequences and ethics. It doesn’t affect you if my car seizes up because I haven’t changed the oil in the last 30,000 miles. Your car still runs like a top. But if I have a cold, I might spread it to you or your family. If I break my leg and you are my employer, my condition costs you money. If I have cancer and die young, perhaps my widow and children will end up going on welfare. As much as we Americans like to think of ourselves as rugged individuals, the fact is we’re entwined with each other’s lives in a myriad of ways. Our health (and the consequences of it) are one of the most concrete and obvious ways this manifests itself.

And ultimately, we recognize this. This is where the issue of ethics comes into play. Even the most hard-hearted of conservatives (with the possible exception of Bob Novak) would not suggest that those without health insurance or the means to pay for treatment should be left to rot. If your car breaks down, you won’t get it fixed for free. But if you don’t have a cent to your name and have a heart attack, you’ll presumably get treated in your local emergency room anyway. It will cost the rest of us in increased healthcare costs, but we’re willing to do that as a matter of principle.

That’s where the Invisible Hand of capitalism comes down with a crippling case of arthritis. When it comes to issues that connects all of us to one another physically, financially, and ethically, the free market fails us.

Hyman asks rhetorically “if the government has ever run anything efficiently.” Well, how about national defense? The Pentagon is arguably the most bloated and wasteful of our government agencies. Therefore, shouldn’t we privatize it to increase efficiency (“Now entering Fallujah, the Oil of Olay 82nd Airborne Division!”)?

In this case, even Bob Novak would agree that the government is the right tool for the job. We instinctively understand that when it comes to our collective national defense, we are far better off pooling our resources together rather than parceling out the job to a bunch of entities driven by the motive of profit. $800 toilet seats aside, working together is still the most efficient option when it comes to ensuring our collective safety.

And so it is with health care. HMOs don’t care about your health beyond the extent to which it affects their own bottom line, and the drive to maximize profit ends up leading to inefficient ways of approaching health care issues on both a collective and individual level.

There’s plenty of proof to back this up. A recent study showed that although the U.S. pays far more on helthcare as a percentage of its gross domestic product than any other country for health care, we’re embarrassingly far back in the pack when it comes to what we get for our money. The most efficient country in terms of healthcare spending? Hyman’s favorite place: France. They may be “cheese-eating surrender monkeys,” but at least they’ve got their health, eh Mark?

Don’t believe in the word of number crunchers? How about a Harvard doctor? As Dr. Arnold S. Relman said in testimony to a Canadian government panel on healthcare, the U.S. system of privately funded insurance is one of the least effective ways of delivering healthcare. The profit motive causes far more problems than it solves.

Maybe you think a doctor is too soft-hearted and caring to be objective about the hard facts of healthcare delivery. In that case, take a look at this brief but cogent statement by Dr. William Roth, a professor of management theory, who debunks several of the standard myths used by opponents of national healthcare.

The only way to create a system that succeeds, both in terms of financial realities and ethical imperatives, is some model of single payer healthcare system. No healthcare delivery system that fails to cover more than 45 million Americans (many of them children) is not efficient by any definition that matters. We all pay the price for this failure in any number of ways. As long as the profit motive is the driving factor in providing healthcare, the system will fail us. Just as we shouldn’t put our collective national defense in the hands of private firms that are motivated by profit rather than providing protection, we shouldn’t put our collective defense against accident, illness, and injury in the hands of HMOs who are more influenced by accountants than doctors.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Friday, February 18, 2005


Before resuming normal Counterpoint activity, I just want to take a moment to publicly thank David Brock and the good folks at Media Matters for America for having my back concerning Mark Hyman's attack on me. Not only did Media Matters do a stellar job in pointing out the distortions and falsehoods concerning me, but they thoroughly debunked Hyman's smears of other college teachers he committed in the same commentary.

More importantly, MMFA is taking a leading role in keeping the heat on Sinclair Broadcasting, particularly in their participation in Sinclair Action, a group of progressive organizations that are working to educate people on the reality of Sinclair's business and "journalistic" practices. They've just revamped their website, and it looks great. I highly recommend that everyone take a look and take action.

Finally, thanks to the posters to this blog, anonymous and otherwise, for the words of encouragement. They are truly appreciated!



Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Houston, We Have a Tipping Point!

Now I know how Al Franken felt when Fox sued him.

Your humble blogger actually gets singled out by Mark Hyman in his most recent “Point” commentary. You’d assume that with everything I’ve written, Hyman would be complaining about something I’ve said about him on this blog. And in a way he is, but he doesn't have the courage to do it directly.

Rather than contradict anything that’s been said on this blog, Hyman does what has become all too familiar to those of us who know him well: misappropriate and misstate information about a political rival rather than actually talking substantively about the issues.

In what I’m sure is simply a coincidence [editor’s note: please drizzle several ladlefuls of sarcasm over previous comment], less than a week after being interviewed by "Ring of Fire" on Air America, Hyman includes yours truly in a list of “out of touch” academics. That’s right—I’m lumped right in there with the guy who compared 9/11 victims to Nazis. What did I do to deserve such scorn? According to Hyman, I think plagiarism is just fine and dandy. Here’s the exerpt:

The University of Iowa's Ted Remington cautions that
while plagiarizing work shortchanges the student's own learning it doesn't
really hurt anybody.

"While plagiarism is often defined as 'stealing' someone else's
words or ideas, it is rarely the case that published writers or public speakers
are harmed by having their words or their thoughts 'stolen' by a college

If you need to plagiarize would you at least turn
your in assignments on time. I've got a latte waiting for me at the campus
coffee house.

You know what’s coming, don’t you? Altogether now: I never said that.

Here’s what happened. Apparently deciding that my little blog and 15 minutes (literally) of Air America fame was a fly worth swatting, Hyman & Co. went on a search for something he might be able to embarrass me with. What he found was the course packet for the online rhetoric course offered through the University of Iowa. I currently teach this course, but I had nothing to do with the writing of the course materials. Not a single word. I’m simply listed as an instructor.

Not fazed by that, Hyman excerpted a portion of the standard statement on plagiarism, the point of which is that plagiarism is bad not because it does any major damage to an established author to have her or his words cited without credit by a college freshman, but because it is stealing. Here’s the excerpt in its full form:

Plagiarism is a serious academic offense that entails presenting the words and/or ideas of others as though they were original to you. While plagiarism is often defined as "stealing" someone else's words or ideas, it is rarely the case that published writers or public speakers are harmed by having their words or their thoughts "stolen" by a college student. On the contrary, the real harm of plagiarism is the harm that students do to themselves. Encountering new ideas and information, thinking about them critically, and finding effective language to express independent thinking is the central activity of a college education. When students "steal" the words or thoughts of another and present them as their own original words and ideas, they shortchange themselves educationally. To simply reproduce the form of something another has said or written is to skip the mental processing (reflection, comparison, critical evaluation, etc.) that is the essence of learning.

Such is the “fringe” thinking here at the University of Iowa’s Department of Rhetoric.

So Hyman, in order to make his point, has not only misappropriated a quoted source (plagiarism), but taken it completely out of context as well. You know, Mark, we do a pretty good job here at Iowa of teaching our freshman to cite sources correctly and how to use quoted material in its proper context. There’ll always be a desk available for you in my classroom if you’d like to stop by and learn something.

But it gets even better!

As I am wont to do, I sent a copy of yesterday’s Counterpoint to the head honchos at Sinclair. I received an email from Mr. Barry Faber, vice president and chief legal representative of Sinclair. As you’ll remember, yesterday’s Counterpoint responded to Hyman’s approval of Maryland Governor Ehrlich’s edict banning reporters from the Baltimore Sun from speaking with any member of the state’s executive branch or attending press conferences. Mr. Faber wanted to know if I was aware that one of the reasons for Mr. Ehrlich’s consternation was the fact that an opinion columnist for the Sun had said made a remark about one of the governor’s spokesmen “having trouble keeping a straight face” when announcing a particular policy of the governor’s. The columnist in question wasn’t even at the press conference, so (according to Mr. Faber) he could not possibly know the actual facial expression on the man’s face. Mr. Faber assured me that if anyone at Sinclair misrepresented the facts in a similar way, he would personally recommend that they be fired.

I pointed out to Mr. Faber that “keeping a straight face” was obviously used in a metaphorical sense (as it usually is) as a means of suggesting that the stated policy was at odds with reality. It was clearly not intended to state the physical reality of the situation.

But then I saw the transcript of the most recent “Point,” and I can’t help but compare the two incidents. The Sun reporter, for using a metaphor, deserves to be fired. Hyman, on the other hand, willfully misquoted a source and misrepresented its content to score political points against a foe.

I’m just wondering, Mr. Faber: when will Mark Hyman be asked to clean out his desk?

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Selective Censorship Outrage at Sinclair

We didn’t need more evidence that Mark Hyman is a corporate vice president and not a journalist (although he often plays at being one), but we sure got it in the most recent “Point.”

Hyman has nothing but praise for
the recent ruling by a federal judge in Maryland throwing out a lawsuit by The Baltimore Sun against Maryland’s Republican governor, Bob Ehrlich. The newspaper had filed suit after Ehrlich pronounced that no member of the state’s executive branch would be allowed to speak to reporters from the paper. The reason? Apparently Ehrlich didn’t like the fact that the newspaper dared criticize him in a number of stories it published.

In what he
openly admitted was an attempt to create a “chilling effect” in the media (yes, the governor actually used those words), Ehrlich said reporters from the paper would be barred from press conferences and that none of the more than 200 members of the executive staff were allowed to speak with them.

Judge Quarles, a George W. Bush appointee to the federal bench, ruled that The Sun was asking for greater access to the state government and its employees than members of the general public have. The decision will be immediately appealed by the Sun.

It’s not surprising that Hyman and the folks at Sinclair take an active interest in this case. After all, for Baltimore-based Sinclair, this is a local story (although there’s no hint of that in Hyman’s commentary, of course). Sinclair is also, nominally at least, in the journalism business. Surely they would be outraged at the prospect of governmental officials unilaterally prohibiting access to news outlets, right?

Wrong. The only thing Hyman has against Ehrlich’s ban is the fact that he made it so public. Had the governor kept it on the down low, everything would’ve been fine. In fact, Hyman insists that no government official is obliged to answer any questions from journalists, ever.

Hyman’s tortured logic here is that if we recognized an obligation of elected officials to allow journalists access, there would be no rationale for not speaking to each and every self-proclaimed journalist who insisted on their right to access.

But this is the silliest of slippery slope arguments.. Elected officials should be obliged to answer questions from the established press. In a democracy, the press are the eyes and ears of the public, and it takes little skill to distinguish a reporter from a major established newspaper from a blogger. If government officials make decisions about who to talk to that skews coverage, that itself will become a news story. Witness the recent fallout from the Bush administration’s attempt to stack the White House press corps by allowing “reporter” Jeff Gannon into news conferences. Ostensibly a reporter from an outfit calling itself Talon News, Gannon was revealed to be little more than an operative for a Republican activist group, GOPUSA. The administration has rightly been raked over the coals for its shenanigans in this case, as well as its attempts to buy off members of the press corps to serve as shills for its policies (including Sinclair regular Armstrong Williams).

Governor Ehrlich has every right to simply answer “no comment” to questions from certain reporters, but banning a legitimate, established news outlet from press conferences and forbidding any employee from speaking to its reporters is an act that is both undemocratic and cowardly. As the Founders knew, a free press serving on behalf of the citizens is indispensable for a healthy democracy.

We shouldn’t be surprised, however, that Sinclair takes Ehrlich’s side in this issue. After all, several members of
the Smith family (owners of Sinclair) have helped fill Ehrlich’s campaign coffers. Moreover, Sinclair vice president Duncan Smith was at the center of “Choppergate,” a scandal involving the “lending” of a helicopter to Ehrlich when he campaigned for governor. Sinclair is very much part of the Ehrlich regime.

We know what some of you are saying: this is just the reality of politics. Any news organization that tended to side with Ehrlich’s politics would be just as willing to sell out their journalistic principles to support him as is Sinclair. That’s the way of the rough and tumble world of realpolitik.

But that turns out not to be true. One of the most interesting and revealing opinions on the Ehrlich Doctrine of Preemptive Censorship comes from the Baltimore Business Journal. The Journal competes directly with The Sun and also tends to take a more conservative, pro-Ehrlich stance on most issues. Yet,
one of the most scathing attacks on Ehrlich’s policy toward The Sun came from the editorial page of The Journal.

Why the difference between The Journal and Sinclair in their attitudes? Simple. The Journal is in the journalism business; Sinclair isn’t.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

If Wishes Were Changes . . .

To quote one our favorite singer/songwriters, Nanci Griffith, “if wishes were changes, we’d all live in roses.”

Mark Hyman notes that Khasro Goran, the vice governor of the Nineveh province in Iraq, recently charged that the Kurdish vote was suppressed in the recent Iraqi elections. After that opening, Hyman bizarrely jumps back in time a full year to quote Goran at length about the possible wonders elections in Iraq might bring.

Apparently Hyman isn’t one for irony.

As we know all too well in this country, holding an election is the easy part of democracy; the hard part is living with the results. A growing number of complaints and concerns have arisen since the polls closed in Iraq two weeks ago, concerns about voter suppression and polling place irregularities (see, they do have American style democracy!). Whether these are based in reality or are ways of expressing frustration with the results is almost beside the point. In either case, the disgruntlement and lack of faith in the election bodes ill for the future of a democratic Iraq, to say nothing of the Middle East in general.

Yet Hyman dusts off a number of antiquated quotations from Goran about the wonders that will be wrought by Iraqi elections, without reconciling these claims with the fact that it’s this same Goran who’s now one of the leading voices questioning the validity of the recent elections.

Moreover, the groundwork hasn’t been laid for a peaceful existence in Iraq. Hyman quotes Goran as saying much of the problems with the insurgency would be solved if Iraqis were provided with jobs. But the U.S. hasn’t even created a reliable domestic security force, provided consistent electrical service, or even begun rebuilding the infrastructure of Iraq in any meaningful way. One year after Goran said this, we’re hardly any closer to establishing a self-sufficient Iraqi economy that will generate jobs and personal income.

Hyman closes by suggesting that maybe Iraqi elections will magically transform the country in to a healthy democracy that will create a “domino effect” in the Middle East. Wouldn’t it be nice to think so?
But as of now, the war has cost $200 billion, nearly 1500 American lives, approximately 15,000 American wounded, and between 15 and 20 thousand Iraqi civilian dead, and civil war looks every bit as likely (if not more so) than a healthy democracy that will serve as a beacon of freedom to the rest of the region. The track record of those who’ve made rosy predictions about Iraq isn’t great; remember the talk of being greeted as “liberators,” the flowers and candies that American soldiers would be showered with, the support of our staunch coalition allies, and the rebuilding that would pay for itself with oil revenues?

Of course, perhaps it is we, the American people, who should take the blame for the situation we’re now facing. After all, we collectively voiced strong support for unilaterally invading Iraq in order to democratize it. That was the reason the president said we were invading Iraq . . . wasn’t it?

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Hyman in a Reformer's Disguise

No one likes to hear the phrases “government resources,” “high risk,” and “fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement” in the same sentence. The Government Accounting Office recently released a report identifying those areas of the government that at are at “highest risk,” often due to inefficient use of resources. This is a valuable exercise that helps us identify the squeaky wheels in the federal government. So why would anyone object to Mark Hyman bringing attention to the release of this study?

In a word, context. The GAO report on high risk areas of the government is itself a good thing. But it can be misused for propagandistic purposes. The GAO report should serve as a call to reform those areas of government that aren’t operating as efficiently as they should. However, in the mouths of many on the right (including Hyman), “reform” is a euphemism for “eliminate.” The most obvious example of this currently is Social Security, an institution that could be shored up indefinitely with relatively minor modifications. However, under the cover of “reform,” the Bush administration and its allies are attempting to dismantle the system entirely and replace it with a privatized investment scheme.

But Social Security is only the most recent and obvious example. Members of the far right aren’t against government waste; they’re against government, period. The more outraged they can make the average citizen about “wasteful government,” the better their chance of simply undoing many of the government programs that benefit that same average citizen, always under the cover of “sensible reform.”

To illustrate the disingenuousness of the extreme right on this matter, let’s look at one example of a high-risk area named by the GAO report: enforcement of tax laws. Recently, Senators Charles Grassley and Max Baucus suggested a number of ways in which tax laws could be simplified and more equitably enforced, eliminating many of the unintentional loopholes and tax dodge schemes that allow those with a penchant for creative accounting to avoid paying their fair share for the nation’s upkeep. Given Hyman’s concern over government waste, you’d think he’d support this effort. After all, more efficient enforcement of the tax code could bring in over $300 billion that we, the taxpayers, are owed by those who renege on their commitment
. But on the contrary, only days ago, Hyman decried this as an effort of big government to take away more of “your money.” As we pointed out at the time, it’s only “your” money if you’re one of those who willfully twist the tax code into a pretzel to avoid pitching in for the nation’s defense and operation.

The GAO report in and of itself is a fine thing, but we should be careful that it not be misrepresented in an effort to eliminate government services that help many Americans just because a few Americans don’t want to help pay for them. Beware of right-wing extremists in reformers’ clothing.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Friday, February 11, 2005


Rolling Stone has a story about Sinclair Broadcasting out now. Much of it will be familiar to regular readers, but there are some wonderful details that were new to me (particularly Sinclair owner David Smith's first job in the media). Here's the link.

Waiting for Bush to Pay Up

Mark Hyman says that several congressional representatives should reimburse the government for time they spent away from the job, but as is all too typical, his logic (such as it is) is one-sided.

Citing a study by the National Taxpayers Union (ostensibly a nonpartisan organization, but which is considerably to the right of center and receives
much of its funding from right wing sources, including the Scaife Foundation), Hyman notes that several members of Congress missed a significant number of votes in the last year. The leaders in absenteeism are, as one would expect, those members who ran for the presidency (all Democrats, of course). The NTU points to a long-outdated law that says members of Congress must pay back salary they received when they were not in Washington. The law hasn’t been enforced in ages, but since the current circumstances allow the NTU and Hyman to use it as a means of attacking Democrats, they pull it from the legislative dust bin.

But Hyman may have a point. Perhaps we should hold elected representatives accountable for the costs inflicted on the American people for time not spent in the office. If that’s the case, however, we should be equal opportunity tightwads. To that end, consider the following:

President Bush spent significant proportions of the months from July through October away from the Oval Office. Shouldn’t he pay back his salary for those days?

Bush’s campaign stops often drained local governments dry. After swings through Oregon, Wisconsin, Ohio, Iowa, and Michigan (to name but a few), the Bush campaign stuck local towns with the bill for the extra security and arrangements for the presidential visits. The total bill for these towns runs into the millions. True, local governments footed the bill for a number of Kerry stops as well, but the GOP regularly coughed up significantly less in reimbursements than did the Democratic candidate. Even more importantly, Kerry campaign stops were open to the public. They were truly civic events. Bush campaign stops, however, were by invitation only, complete with the administering of loyalty oaths and bouncers to toss out anyone who looked the least bit unsupportive. In essence, the Bush/Cheney campaign held private parties and stiffed their hosts with the bill.

These cities and towns were often already strapped for cash because of the enormous federal giveaways in the form of tax breaks for the wealthy (thanks to you-know-who). Local governments ended up having their budgets stretched to the breaking point to make up the shortfall in services. Shouldn’t the Bush administration, doubly responsible for this predicament, pay back their hosts?

Then there’s the issue of vacation. Even before the campaign, Bush spent more time on vacation than any other president (according to The Guardian, Bush spent 500 days of his first term away from the White House). Shouldn’t the taxpayers be reimbursed by their part-time president?

And finally, speaking of not showing up for work,
an investigation of Bush’s National Guard service (or lack thereof) suggests that the commander in chief owes quite a bit of back pay to Uncle Sam, along with 30 years of interest, his “honorable” discharge, and an apology to those who actually fulfilled their military obligations.

In short, Bush owes American citizens a heck of a lot of dough. But don’t hold your breath waiting for the White House to cut you a check.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

The Hyman Who Cried "Censorship"

“Sit down and shut up!”

That’s the message Sinclair Broadcasting is sending to its customers.
Mark Hyman’s latest editorial claims to be a meditation on the abuse of the internet, but it’s a thinly veiled swipe at any an all who would voice their disapproval of Sinclair Broadcasting and Hyman himself.

Citing the use of internet petitions and mail campaigns targeting the FCC concerning "everything from indecency to broadcast ownership regulations," [emphasis added]Hyman suggests that a lot of hubbub can result from a small cadre of devoted of emailers.

It’s true that complaints to the FCC have sometimes been overblown because a handful of activists used internet technology to make it appear as though tens of thousands of complaints were coming in, rather than a couple of dozen (the most egregious example being the brouhaha following “Nipple-Gate” at last year’s Superbowl).

But that’s not the case with the campaign to stop media ownership deregulation. The FCC received between one and two million letters from people across the political spectrum protesting the relaxation of ownership rules (a relaxation that directly benefits Sinclair Broadcasting). Hyman tries to equate this groundswell of opposition to the prefabricated outrage of the decency police, but it’s an apples and oranges comparison.

Hyman then mentions the ability of website authors to mimic the style and look of authoritative institutions, following this with the statement, “The danger, of course, is the trade defamation that accompanies such efforts.”

Of course. We doubt Hyman knows what “trade defamation” means. He certainly uses it erroneously in this case. “Trade defamation” is defined as "
the knowing publication of a false matter derogatory to the plaintiff's business calculated to prevent or interfere with relationships between the plaintiff and others to its detriment." It’s aimed at businesses who slander or libel competitors to gain economic advantage. It’s not aimed at people who make websites to dispense information (or disinformation).

Where did Hyman pick up such fancy language? Probably from the legal team at Sinclair Broadcasting who
threatened to sue a plethora of people for “trade defamation” in the wake of the announcement by Media Matters for America that Staples Office Supply had pulled advertising from Sinclair-owned stations in part because of complaints from irate viewers.

Even in this extremely narrow context, “trade defamation” is not applicable, since Media Matters had made the announcement in good faith and had their press release vetted by Staples.

But let’s not get picky. Hyman’s misappropriation of the term “trade defamation” is part of a much larger goal on the part of Sinclair: to intimidate those who dare speak out against them.

The First Amendment is for everyone, not just those who own dozens of television stations. Sinclair has cried “censorship” because of letter-writing campaigns to advertisers. But that isn’t censorship. If the government passed a law that told Mark Hyman he couldn’t criticize Democrats, that would be censorship. But customers writing to advertisers and asking them not to buy ad time from Sinclair is simply free speech. I have the choice of what businesses to patronize and which ones not to. I also have the right to tell these businesses why I’m choosing to patronize or not patronize them. This is a perfect example of free speech and the free market working together, not censorship.

But Hyman and Sinclair seem to think that those who don’t own their own media empires should sit back and take it without complaining. Mark Hyman should be able to say whatever he wants without consequence, while those who complain about him are guilty of “censorship” and “trade defamation.”

But Sinclair might want to be careful about invoking trade regulations. Their legal eagles should look up “material misrepresentation,” which, in the context of business, means presenting a product in a false or misleading way to consumers, making them think they’re getting something they’re not.

Let’s think up some examples (hypothetical, of course). Maybe there’s a television commentator who packages a bit of corporate damage control as newsworthy “commentary.” Or what about a regular editorial spot that appears on local news, but that doesn’t identify the person editorializing as a corporate employee, causing viewers to assume he’s a local voice? Or maybe that commentator is presenting himself as a newsman when he has no journalistic background whatsoever. Or maybe that commentator routinely makes demonstrably false and misleading statements in order to get customers to support political candidates that are favored by his employer.

What about a company whose entire business model is based on presenting canned news created in a centralized studio in a way that makes it seem “local” to its viewers?

We’re just wondering . . .

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005


Just a brief heads up for regular readers: the Air America radio show "Ring of Fire" (hosted by Mike Papantonio and Bobby Kennedy, Jr.) will devote this week's broadcast to Sinclair Broadcasting and Mark Hyman. I taped an interview with Mr. Papantonio about Sinclair, Hyman, and this blog that will be part of the show. The show will air this coming Saturday, February 12, from 6:00-7:00 pm Eastern Standard Time and be rebroadcast at the same time on Sunday. You can find your local Air America station (or stream the broadcast over the Net) at

I'd like to thank Air America, the folks at "Ring of Fire" and Mike Papantonio for keeping the pressure on Sinclair since the election, and for allowing me to play a small role in their efforts.

Ted Remington

Hyman Pimps for a Liar

Does the name “Jerome Corsi” ring a bell? If you watched Mark Hyman’s latest commentary gushing over Corsi’s upcoming book (published by radical right publishing house WND) , you probably felt you’ve heard the name before.

Given that the book discusses the possibility of Iran weaponizing its nuclear program, you’d guess that you heard of Corsi because he’s an expert in Middle East affairs, nuclear weapons, or international law.

But that’s not why you’ve heard of Corsi. You’ve heard of Corsi because he was co-author of “Unfit for Command,” the
now-discredited book that slandered Senator John Kerry during the presidential campaign. You also might remember the lies he and his co-author, John O’Neil, told about Corsi’s role in writing the book, their political ties to right wing extremists, and O’Neil’s account of his own service record.

You might also remember that Corsi was exposed as a racist and bigot,
having written numerous public statements attacking Jews, Muslims, Catholics, Democrats, women, gays and lesbians, the Pope, Chelsea Clinton, Martin Sheen, and John Lennon (apparently being a pop star who’s been dead for a quarter century doesn’t stop you from being an enemy of the state in Corsi’s book). In short, Corsi despises anyone who doesn’t look, act, vote, love, pray, or believe exactly as he does.

But the fact that Corsi is a hate-mongering liar who has no particular expertise in the subject doesn’t prevent Hyman from turning “The Point” into a two minute infomercial for his upcoming book.

Apparently, Corsi’s book is intended to flame fear of Iran that will pave the way for yet another war. It’s not clear how the U.S. is supposed to invade yet another country given that the military is already stretched beyond its capabilities, but let’s not get bogged down in details.

More importantly, it’s not clear why Iran (or any other country) would be deterred from producing nuclear weapons. After all, as the Bush administration’s adventuring in Iraq has proved, you don’t need to actually have nuclear weapons, or even a nuclear program of any kind, to have the possibility that you might have such weapons used as a pretext for the preemptive invasion and occupation of your country. The U.S. invades Iraq, a country with a decimated military, no control over their own airspace, and no nuclear program. Meanwhile, the U.S. negotiates with North Korea, a country with nuclear weapons, missiles that can deliver them, and ties to terrorism. Given this, it’s hard to blame the Iranian government, or that of any other country that considers America an antagonist, for trying to obtain nuclear weapons. The Bush administration has taken away the last motivation to not pursue such weapons: the desire to avoid being attacked.

But that’s probably a moot point for Corsi, Hyman, and others on the radical right. War is an end in itself, and it’s the best solution for the world’s ills, in their book. But we’re just wondering: given our lack of military resources, will Corsi and Hyman volunteer to lead the charge to Tehran?

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Hyman Goes AWOL

For someone who’s against amnesty for undocumented immigrants, Mark Hyman has an odd affinity for people who dodge taxes. At least that’s the gist of his recent editorial lambasting a bipartisan congressional study that suggests several ways of maximizing tax revenue.

According to the government, there is a yearly shortfall of over 300 billion dollars in tax revenues. That is, the government ends up being shorted roughly a third of a trillion dollars by taxpayers through non-payment, abuse of loopholes, and finding unintended tax shelters to avoid contributing to the well-being of the nation. Senators Grassley and Baucus thought it might be a good idea to see if we could do something about this, and their study suggests a number of ways the tax code could be simplified, tax loopholes closed, and tax collecting made easier (particularly for self-employed persons). But for Hyman, this is the government trying to take more of “your” money.

But it’s not. It’s only taking “your” money if you’re one of the people who doesn’t pay your taxes or uses every trick in the book to avoid paying your fair share. The vast majority of Americans do pay their taxes. This study has nothing to do with them. In fact, the study is meant to make things easier for those who play by the rules. Think of it: if dead-beat tax dodgers paid their fair share, that would be more than 300 billion that could either be spent on education, homeland security, etc., or that could be given back to those who pay their taxes. The tax cheaters are not cheating the IRS or “the government”; they’re cheating us.

Of course, Hyman puts in a call for a labor tax or a sales tax (euphemistically called “a flat tax” and a “consumption” tax) as a way to make everyone pay their “fair share.” But they won’t. Both of those taxes put the burden of tax paying on working and middle class families (e.g., 20% of $25,000 is a much bigger bite than 20% of $250,000). This seems to matter little to Hyman, however, who’s on the side of those who want to go AWOL on one of the minimal duties we as citizens have: to contribute to the well-being of the nation now and for future generations.

And that's The Counterpoint.

Punishment at All Costs

Imagine this situation: Mark Hyman sees someone jaywalking across an intersection. Outraged at this flaunting of the law, Hyman pursues the jaywalker in order to make a citizen’s arrest. The chase happens to take them along a cliff. The ground suddenly gives way and Hyman and the jaywalker slide off, both grabbing a branch to save themselves. They dangle hundreds of feet above the ground. The branch is about to give way, but both Hyman and the jaywalker happen to have a length of rope with them (I know. . . just go with me on this!). The problem is that neither length of rope is long enough to help them climb up the cliff to safety. But if they cooperated and tied their lengths together, they’d both be saved. The jaywalker looks hopefully toward Hyman . . .

Mark Hyman revisits a favorite topic in his latest commentary: undocumented immigration. We’ve seen how terrified Hyman is of the people he calls “terrorists” and “riff raff.” But as we’ve pointed out in this forum, these immigrants fill key roles in the economies of several states, often taking jobs that would go unfilled otherwise.

This is why the Bush administration proposes a plan that would allow undocumented immigrants to work legally in the United States for three years. The idea is that this will allow undocumented immigrants to become part of the legitimate economy, pay taxes, get health insurance, and a number of other things that will contribute not only to their own well-being, but to the well-being of the nation as a whole. The immigrants benefit. Employers benefit. The people who use services provided by immigrants benefit. We all benefit by having these workers pay taxes. It’s hardly a progressive plan, but it’s at least more forward looking than placing machine gun nests and pill boxes along the Texas/Mexico border.

But this is an issue where Hyman is always to the right of even the Bush administration. Ignoring the multiple benefits of humanizing our policies regarding undocumented immigrants, Hyman implies that such policies will increase drug trafficking and violent crime. The evidence? Well, there is none, but that doesn’t stop Hyman from suggesting none too subtly that white America is about to be ravaged by Hispanic hordes. Never mind the fact that most undocumented immigrants become citizens. Never mind that many small businesses rely on the labor of immigrants. Never mind that many studies suggest undocumented immigrants contribute more to the economy than they take from it. Never mind that the supposed “amnesty” offered by Bush only lasts three years. They deserve to be punished, and that’s the top priority for Hyman and his ilk.

As he tumbles into the abyss, death rushing up to meet him, Hyman screams out, “I will not reward illegal behavior!!!!”

And that's The Counterpoint.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Social Security vs. Social Insecurity

Both Mark Hyman and President Bush say Social Security is going broke. Both are lying.

At worst, Social Security will cover 75% of its intended benefits in four decades. That’s with a very conservative estimate of the growth of the economy, and assuming we do nothing to prevent this from happening (such as undoing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, which would by itself keep Social Security fine and dandy for the foreseeable future).

But President Bush and Mark Hyman say that privatizing Social Security is the only answer. In fact, there are only two things wrong with privatization: it won’t work and it’s immoral.

First of all, it’s inefficient. The overhead costs for managing the funding for Social Security are less than 1% of total benefits.
Privatized funds would end up costing 12-14% of the total funds just to pay for red tape and paper shuffling. This translates into up to a 20-30% reduction in benefits as compared with what Social Security can do on its own. That’s not a deal; it’s a ripoff.

Hyman suggests that lots of retirement and pension funds involve private investing. That’s exactly the point. Plenty of retirement and pension funds have gone bankrupt or ended up paying far less in benefits than what was promised. (How would you like to be an Enron employee nearing retirement right now without the promise of Social Security?) The whole purpose of Social Security is to provide an insurance plan that all retirees will know is there for them, no matter what the market does or whether the folks managing their funds do their job properly.

Hymn also claims privatizing Social Security would end up creating some sort of economic boom. But right now, Social Security funds are invested in bonds, which in turn play a pivotal part in the economy, precisely because they are secure. Privatizing Social Security doesn’t suddenly add money to the economy; it takes money that’s already supporting the economy and puts it at needless risk.

Moreover, it’s not likely that private accounts would return more than Social Security now does. In fact, over the long haul,
Social Security is today providing retirees with as much or more money than they would have received through investing in stock portfolios. In fact, other countries have tried privatizing their versions of Social Security, and the result has been an increase in poverty among the elderly that will end up costing far more than simply leaving things alone would have.

Most importantly, privatizing Social Security fundamentally changes the nature of the program. Social Security has been the most successful insurance program in the history of the nation, keeping millions of elderly Americans out of poverty.
Privatizing it changes Social Security from an insurance plan to an investment scheme which will certainly have winners and losers. Are we as a nation comfortable with the idea of a large increase in elderly men and women living in poverty? That’s a certain result of any privatization scheme.

So why do conservatives want to privatize Social Security anyway? If this is all so obvious (and it is), why are they pushing for it?

Because they don’t believe in the basic principle behind it: that Americans owe it to each other to make sure no elderly person faces the end of their life in debilitating poverty. Not in the richest country in the world. Conservatives don’t simply want to partially privatize Social Security. They want to do away with it and let the invisible hand of the free market take over. They want to scare Americans into handing over their guarantee of a modest but respectable old age so that these funds can be put in the hands of Wall Street profiteers who’ll make a killing on commissions while putting the futures of millions of Americans on a giant craps table and rolling the dice.

In the conservative’s mind, that’s just fine: whatever puts money in the hands who will risk it in the name of the free market is good for the whole country. After all, we don’t really owe anything to each other anyway, right? It’s everyone for themselves in this world.

There’s only one thing wrong with this position.

It’s a lie.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

The Price of Bush

“Deficits don’t matter.”

So much for waiting to see whether the Bush administration is serious or not about fiscal responsibility. With those three words (as reported in Ron Suskind’s book The Price of Loyalty) Vice President Dick Cheney told us long ago all we need to know about where we’re headed in the next four years.

Mark Hyman suggests that the upcoming proposed budget from the White House will let us know how serious George Bush is about reducing government expenses. Here’s the thing: we’ve already had four years to figure this out. When Bush came into office, the main economic worry was the possible consequences of paying off the national debt too quickly. That’s one problem the 43rd president nipped in the bud. We now have record budget deficits and the national debt climbs steadily higher. The war in Iraq that we were told would pay for itself has become a money pit of gargantuan proportions. Tax cuts for the haves and have-mores (whom Bush calls “his base”) have shifted the tax burden to the middle class and driven up the debt in the process. The effort to begin the dismantling of Social Security by raiding the funds and giving them to the private sector will cost between 1 and 2 trillion dollars.

Pork barrel spending, as ugly as it can be, is a non-factor in the larger issues of the economic soundness of the country. Yes, individual legislators use ethically shady means to help out their constituents. But eliminate every penny of this kind of spending, and there won’t be a bit of difference in the big economic picture. We should be critical of those who put their own political interests ahead of the common good, but anyone who says cracking down on pork barrel spending will do a thing to change the economic situation of the country is either fooling themselves or committing first-degree demagoguery.

The fact is that the Bush administration, along with a Republican controlled Senate and a Republican controlled House of Representatives, has given us exploding deficits and a national debt that will still be getting paid off by our grandchildren. Contrary to Hyman’s suggestion, we already know exactly how serious this cast of characters is about fiscal responsibility: they’re not.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Good Thing Cheney's Not on Medicare

In his latest commentary, Mark Hyman praises the fact that Medicare now covers a device that will supposedly lower the death rate due to cardiac arrest and be a more cost efficient option than using prescription drugs to achieve the same benefit.

Of course, as a member of the liberal elite, I’m outraged by the very idea of healthy hearts. Arterial plaque has rights too! Who are we to get in the way of its chosen lifestyle? What a disgusting display of human-centrism! Moreover, who’s to say what defines a “healthy heart” anyway? Keep your rigid definitions off of my cardiovascular system, if you please! Strength through diversity!

Sorry—you can only hear so much nonsense from the Right about how anyone who questions the Iraq war hates America and anyone who doesn’t think a flat tax is a peachy keen idea is a Marxist before you start performing according to stereotype.

In all seriousness, though, there’ s nothing wrong with new regulations that help fund productive treatments via Medicare. The problem is that Medicare itself is in need of resuscitation. Thanks to the Bush administration, it may not matter how forward-looking the Medicare regulations are. The program might be out of money.

As with Social Security, the Bush administration is attempting to dismantle an incredibly successful service program under the cover of “reform.” In both cases, Bush wants to give handouts to Wall Street operators through privatization. With Social Security, the administration has concocted a non-existent crisis to justify this huge payoff to its allies. In the case of Medicare, however, there is a real problem looming. But the even bigger problem is that Bush’s plan makes it worse, not better.

Remember that the Bush administration has a less-than-stellar record when it comes to dealing with Medicare. They threatened their own expert on Medicare expenses that he’d be fired if he told the truth about cost estimates involving the prescription drug benefit. Moreover, keep in mind that
conservatives disagree with the very principle on which Medicare is based: healthcare is an essential service that we need to provide to those who need it the most. Is it any wonder, then, that the Bush proposals on Medicare systematically do harm to the system they are advertised as “saving”? Everything’s going according to plan.

This excerpt from and editorial that appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution gives you the specifics: there’ll have to be fewer benefits or higher taxes. Guess which one the Bush administration will choose.

President Bush has insisted the Social Security program is already in
crisis, although it is backed by a trust fund big enough to support full
benefits until 2042.In comparison, the Medicare trust fund that covers hospital
expenses will be exhausted by 2019, according to the most recent report of the
program's trustees. Add in doctors' bills, and Medicare expenditures will exceed
Social Security's by 2024.

Marilyn Moon, director of the health program at the American Institutes for
Research, who has served on Medicare's board of trustees, said seniors should
get ready for proposals to change the program in ways they may not like.The Bush
administration "will require people to go into private plans or pay a lot more
for traditional Medicare," Moon predicted. "They'll do it because they want to
avoid taxes, and won't be able to find reasonable solutions that totally avoid
taxes unless they are quite restrictive for both current and future

David Cutler, a professor of economics at Harvard University, believes it
is possible to reform Medicare without reducing benefits."The only way you can
do it . . . is you must raise taxes," Cutler said.
. . .

"I think they'll cut services to pay for the drug benefit" that goes into
effect in 2006, said Bob Moffit, a conservative Medicare expert at the Heritage Foundation. Medicare, Moffit concluded, "is a full-scale mess."

So even intellectually honest conservatives admit Medicare is in dire straits. Better get that pacemaker while you can.

And that’s The Counterpoint

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Every Vote Didn't Count

Consistency, as we’ve noted many times in this space, is not a “Hyman-esque” trait. A case in point comes in Hyman’s latest commentary on voter disenfranchisement in Ohio.

The title of Hyman’s editorial,
“Every Vote Counted,” is a lie, even according to Hyman himself. Just days ago, Hyman railed against the injustice of Byzantine procedures that prevented some overseas members of the armed forces from voting. We agreed with him, with the caveat that we can’t be selectively outraged about voter disenfranchisement. The beauty of elections is that everyone’s vote counts equally. Given that, we should be equally outraged when any U.S. citizen is denied the right to vote.

But Hyman tries to cover himself by focusing specifically on the issue of Cleveland, Ohio, suggesting that, at least in that one locale, things really weren’t all that bad as claimed (sure, people might have had to wait for line for hours and hours to vote in predominantly minority precincts, but certainly not 11 hours, as some have said!).

He also suggests that those who have spoken out against long voting lines, antiquated voting machines, and inadequate facilities in certain precincts are claiming the election was “stolen.” In fact, almost no one has said that. The many members of the House and the Senate (including John Kerry himself) who have brought up these issues preface their comments by saying that they do not question the outcome of the vote. That’s not the point. The point is that as soon as we become lackadaisical about disenfranchisement, we’ve abandoned a fundamental principle of representative democracy.

Hyman himself as argued as much, complaining within the last year that voters in the heavily Republican panhandle of Florida were disenfranchised in 2000 by network predictions of an Al Gore victory in the state which came only ten minutes before the polls closed.

If having a network predict a winner only moments before the polls closed supposedly disenfranchised voters, what are we to say about the hours-long lines, out-of-date and inadequate voting machines, illegally purged voting rolls, and polling place irregularities that plagued many places in the country (including Ohio), usually in places with heavy minority populations?

There’s evidence aplenty that, intentionally or unintentionally, thousands and
thousands of voters in Ohio alone didn’t have an adequate chance for their vote to count. There’s just no denying this. Public hearings have provided a laundry list of problems with the voting process. This should concern all Americans. The lame rejoinder of “well, it won’t change the outcome” misses the point. Someone else might not have ended up being elected, but to the extent the election results don’t count every person who wanted to vote and had a right to do so, disenfranchisement eats away at the foundation of democracy. As soon as cynicism and suspicion become the order of the day when it comes to elections, democracy dies. The only solution is to investigate and attempt to solve all problems that lead to the disenfranchisement of any voter.

When it comes to ensuring the right to vote, consistency is essential.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Mapping the Future

Instead of offering a commentary, Mark Hyman uses his latest “Point” to summarize some specific findings of the National Intelligence Committee’s report, “Mapping the Future.”

It’s interesting that Hyman, an avowed Bush supporter, would champion a report by this organization. After all, it is the NIC that told us several months ago that
the long term outlook in Iraq is bleak (possibly leading to civil war within a year), prompting President Bush to term the report a “guess.”

It’s also the organization that announced that
the war in Iraq had been a boon for Islamic terrorists, directly contradicting the Bush administration’s claims that the invasion of Iraq was a centerpiece of the “war on terrorism.”

Speaking of terrorism, “Mapping the Future” doesn’t see the “war on terror” ending anytime soon. The report says that while the major players might change, terrorism in general, and militant Islam in particular, will be alive and well in the year 2020. Of course, this is perhaps good news for an administration and its supporters who profit from the American people being in a constant state of anxiety. (Paging Mr. Orwell . . . Mr. George Orwell . . .).

Other than that, it’s not exactly clear what a supporter of the Bush administration would see as the up side of this report. Sure, there’s the stuff on how the United Nations must change or become obsolete, but that begs the question of why the United Nations isn’t the force it should be. Could it be because of a certain lone superpower that doesn’t pay its dues and an administration that thumbs its nose at the whole idea of the U.N.? The biggest change that needs to happen in the U.N. is for the United States to take an active and engaged role in its activities.

Moreover, even reading through the selected tidbits Hyman lists, one thing becomes clear: the future of the United States and much of the world will depend on America’s willingness to actively engage with the rest of the world. That’s not something this administration is good at, or even thinks is valuable (unless you define “actively engage” as “preemptively invade”). It will require the U.S. to actively consult with traditional allies, even when they might not agree with us (e.g., France). It will also require an ability to talk honestly with friends when they make mistakes that endanger themselves and others, regardless of the temptations to pander to domestic political interests (e.g., Israel). It will also require the U.S. to take a good look at who really is a friend and who isn’t, and base that decision on principle rather than short term economic interests (e.g., Saudi Arabia).

In short, it will take someone other than George W. Bush.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

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