Thursday, November 30, 2006

A P.S. to An Open Letter to Mark Hyman

Almost everything important to say about “The Point” is captured in the statement in your penultimate commentary:

No doubt the most enduring foreign policy comment associated with
The Point is when the French were referred to as "cheese eating surrender

Indeed. What does it say about the impoverished nature of your editorials when *that* is your claim to talking-head fame?

Well, among other things, it serves as a microcosm of what “The Point” has so often been: infantile, mean spirited, unoriginal, and wrong.

Perhaps it’s fitting that the phrase you point to as the enduring legacy of your commentaries is a phrase cribbed from a cartoon, and which wasn’t even first used in a political context by you, but rather a fellow conservative pundit, Jonah Goldberg long before you uttered it. (Given your high standards when it comes to plagiarism, I assume citing the original source simply slipped your mind.)

While we’re at it, let’s take a whack at a few other items you’ve kindly teed up for me.
You talk about “checking in on the terrorist detainees” at Guantanamo Bay. I’m just wondering: how did you know all of the detainees were terrorists? Apparently, not even the government itself can be sure, since a number of people held there have since been released. And while you were “inspecting their cells” and “examining their medical care,” did you also give waterboarding a try?

You brag about going to Iraq, but oddly, in a commentary devoted to patting yourself on the back for your foreign policy insights, you don’t tout your support of the war in Iraq itself. Perhaps now that even those who were architects of the war are running for cover and disavowing responsibility for the disastrous policies there, you want to keep your cheerleading for Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et. al, on the down low. Understandable. Not terribly forthcoming or honest, but understandable.

You talk about being threatened by viewer mail, but you don’t say anything about your own defamation of people like George Soros, who’ve you told outright lies about, or people like John Kerry, Peter Jennings, Ted Koppel, etc. who you have said hate the troops and support the terrorists.

You claim that the boycott organized against Sinclair after the Stolen Honor debacle “failed,” but you don’t mention that Sinclair’s stock plummeted, advertisers pulled ads from the broadcast of your propaganda piece as well as from Sinclair’s newscasts, and that the incident shone a bright light on the seamy underbelly of Sinclair’s business practices.

You also claim vindication in being allowed to show political propaganda as “news,” although you cynically refer to it as your “free speech position.” I can’t help but wonder: why does the Sinclair passion for “free speech” not extend to its own offices? When Jon Lieberman, your lead political reporter, argued that it was a mistake to air propaganda and label it news, you didn’t simply offer a thoughtful rebuttal in the spirit of open and free debate; you fired him. So much for Sinclair’s valuing of honest debate.

You say, "All in all, The Point has made an impression and a difference.”
Perhaps it would be better to say “The Point” has left a bad taste in America’s collective mouth.

As for a difference, I must admit that you have. Sinclair, and your commentaries in particular, have been the single best example of the dangers of media consolidation. Those who might have dismissed concerns about relaxed ownership regulations as unfounded have come to see that the threat is very real, and there’s been a groundswell of activism in the fight to take back the public’s airwaves. You’ve single-handedly advanced the cause of a more democratic media, despite the fact that this was the very last thing you wanted to do.

And for that, America *does* owe you its thanks.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

An Open Letter to Mark Hyman

An Open Letter to Mark Hyman:

In your recent commentary in which you reflect on your tenure doing “The Point,” you make a number of claims about your role as a public voice that simply aren’t true. Specifically, you claim your commentaries have been thoughtful, that you’ve served regular Americans by giving them a voice, and that you honored servicemen who deserved to be heard.

All of these claims are at best disingenuous mischaracterizations, and at worst out and out lies.

In fact, virtually none of your commentaries have been “thoughtful.” Thoughtfulness means considering both sides of an issue, acknowledging complexity and subtlety in issues, and engaging in self-reflection.

Not only have your comments rarely shown any of these qualities, but they’ve provided vivid examples of their opposites. You not only don’t consider the opposing side of an argument, but suggest anyone who disagrees with you is morally or ethically bankrupt. Your arguments reduce complex issues into dumbed down “I’m right; you’re wrong” contests. And you have never shown any willingness or ability to recognize that your opinions are just that: your opinions.

You talk about your trips around the country and lambaste “cultural elitists” who you claim see people who don’t live in Manhattan, LA, or DC as “white trash,” “hillbillies,” and “red necks.”

Who are these “cultural elitists?” Can you name anyone who has said anything of the sort?

Moreover, I can’t help but notice that all of the derogatory categories you list as terms “cultural elitists” use for regular Americans refer specifically to white people. Are people who suggest that Hispanics are lazy and shiftless, as you have done, not elitists?

And what could be more elitist than the attitude you and your fellow Sinclair executives have toward your audience? Your big contribution to journalism, “Newscentral TV,” is based on the premise that those of us who live in smaller media markets don’t deserve to have our own local reporters doing stories about what happens in our communities. Sinclair regularly fires a majority of local journalists, many of whom have worked in the community for years, and replaces them with one-size-fits-all prefabricated news you create in your big city studios and pipe out to the rest of the country. What could be more elitist than that?

Well, maybe your commentaries themselves. In your self-satisfaction, you demand that stations across the country run your two minutes of blather, a length of time usually greater than the amount of airtime devoted to the lead story on the local newscast. You packaged yourself as simply a commentator, not revealing that you were a Sinclair executive, that you had no journalistic background, or even that you weren’t a local figure. Not until you outed yourself through your plans to run propaganda as “news” during the 2004 campaign did most viewers learn who you were.

You take time away from the newscasts that reach regular Americans, forcing yourself onto their publicly owned airwaves so that you can spout your particular opinions, rather than allowing local voices to be heard. You don’t even allow viewers to respond to your editorials—something that all legitimate journalistic enterprises do. And then you actually have the nerve to present yourself as the champion of middle America (or at least the white portion thereof). That isn’t just chutzpah; that’s arrogance.

And it’s this arrogance that led you to throw any pretension of journalistic ethics out the window when you chose to run political propaganda as “news.” Not that showing large chunks of Stolen Honor was your first foray into trying to affect elections under the guise of journalism. Those of us who’ve looked into your past found out about your attempts to help out Republican friends and allies, such as the recently-ousted Governor Bob Ehrlich, by running hit pieces on their Democratic opponents.

Using vague and wishy-washy language, you say of the Stolen Honor fiasco:

Our viewpoints have gained widespread attention. No one had more
earned their right to speak out regarding their experiences in Vietnam than the
hundreds of Americans held prisoners of war. We spoke up when the news
gatekeepers snubbed them.

Ah, yes! Those poor snubbed anti-Kerry vets. They didn’t get any airtime did they? Only so much that many people suggest that the smear campaign launched by the Swifties torpedoed the Kerry campaign.

And as you made this limp excuse for your running propaganda as news, you showed a montage of some of the men interviewed in Stolen Honor, including a man who had illegally worked with both the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth [sic] and the Republican party at the same time. Is this the sort of honest person who has “earned his right” to slander a fellow vet for political reasons?

Of course, truth telling isn’t a trait you put much value on, is it? More than a month after the group behind Stolen Honor and the notorious Swifties had signed a pact formally connecting their groups, you went on national television and denied that there were any connections between the folks behind Stolen Honor and the Swifties.

But most damning of all is your attempt in this defense of your actions to hide behind people who serve in the military. You couch your explanation in terms of recognizing the rights of servicemen who served and were captured in Vietnam. But the truth is that here, as in so many of your commentaries, you mock the very idea of honoring military service by deciding who should and shouldn’t be honored based on your political whims.

You desecrate the record of a war hero, John Kerry, because you don’t happen to support his political views today. You mock a mother who lost her son, even going so far as to imply she didn’t truly love him, because her views on foreign policy differ from yours. When a news program decided to offer a silent and apolitical tribute to servicemen and women who gave the last full measure of devotion in service to their country, you banned it from your stations because you thought it might make people question the policies of a president you’re a fan of.

And all the while, you claim that anyone who doesn’t agree with you hates the troops and the country. You don’t have the guts to stand on your own and argue your positions on their merits. You hide behind the sanctity we place on service to our country in times of war. You hide behind the esteem we have for those that put their lives on the line. You steal their honor for your political use.

There’s a word for someone like that: a coward.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Counting the Days to VH-Day

A post Turkey Day short takes catch up, as we count down the final days to VH Day: Victory Over Hyman!

Mark Hyman recently repeated the canard about Kerry calling U.S. troops “stupid” in the context of an attack on Charles Pinning, a novelist and author of an essay that Hyman misidentifies as an “editorial” for a Rhode Island newspaper. In the piece, Pinning says many enlistees in today’s Army, as they were in Vietnam, are young people with few options because of the lack of financial and scholastic options.

Hyman predictably accuses him of hating the troops and patriotism, and says the high school graduation rates in the Army are higher than the national average and that “66% come from middle or upper” income homes.

Now, I think Pinning’s rhetoric is overheated and goes too far, but Hyman is simply dishonest when he suggests that lack of options doesn’t play a role in recruiting. No, our soldiers are certainly no dummies. Despite the recent relaxing of recruitment standards, a high school degree has long been a baseline educational level for recruits, so certainly a higher percentage of soldiers have degrees than the general population. But that doesn’t mean that the general educational level in the military is at or above the national average.

Not that this is a slam on the IQ of soldiers. You can’t be Rainman and drive an M1 Abrams tank. But a large percentage of soldiers *do* join because they don’t have the finances to pursue higher education on their own. Heck, that’s been one of the major recruiting carrots held out to potential recruits: money for college. That 66% figure? It sounds good, until you realize two things: saying that 2/3 of our troops come from middle OR upper income families doesn’t say anything about how many sons and daughters of the wealthy are serving. By combining these categories, Hyman distorts the numbers. Secondly, we still have a full third of our troops coming from lower income families.

Mark, it’s not a slam on our troops to say that their numbers are not representative of the entire socio-economic spectrum. It’s a slam on the policies that send a disproportionate number of working class kids to fight wars dreamt up by wealthy men.

In another editorial, Hyman mentions that in the recent “hubbub” (one of Hyman’s favorite words) about the election, the investigation into four member of the voter registration group ACORN in Missouri went unnoticed. They are suspected of filing false voter registration forms. He labels ACORN as a union-friendly group.

What he *doesn’t* tell you is that ACORN’s raison d’etre is registering poor and/or minority voters. He also doesn’t tell you that
ACORN itself identified the fishy registrations and has supported the FBI investigation. He also doesn’t mention that the GOP in Missouri sent intimidating letters to those first time voters signed up by ACORN to try to keep them from voting.

He also doesn’t have anything to say about the
shenanigans perpetrated in Maryland by his former boss, the defeated incumbent governor Bob Ehrlich, who along with GOP Senate candidate Michael Steele bussed in unemployed African Americans from around the D.C. area, put them in Ehrlich T-shirts, and had them pass around misleading sample ballots in Maryland that suggested that Ehrlich and Steele were Democrats and had been endorsed by prominent African Americans.

Speaking of the elections, in
his Thanksgiving Day commentary, Hyman lamely tries to spin the Blue Wave that swept the country by saying that voters simply expressed “their unhappiness with about three dozen incumbents in Congress.”

Right. And the American Revolution was just an expression of unhappiness about the price of tea.

We have
a farewell edition of the Mailbag segment, in which Hyman predictably quoted widely from letters that praised him, and quoted only a few contrary emails, all of which were picked and edited to make the writers seem unhinged or unfair (e.g., including a letter in which an expletive had to be deleted).

And finally, Hyman uses the “c” word about himself. In a commentary praising legislation putting limits on Congressional earmarks, Hyman labels himself a conservative.

Thanks for the news flash, Mark.

And those are the catch-up Counterpoints.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Who Knew Idaho Was a Blue State?

There’s not much to be said about the latest of Hyman’s many, many returns to the Kelo case and the issue of eminent domain. This time, he’s mentioning that some states in the recent election voted to strengthen protections against seizure of lands, while other didn’t. He comically attributes the defeat of such measures to mobilization of urban voters, which might make sense if one of the states where eminent domain initiatives went down to defeat wasn’t Idaho (that bastion of big city, big government liberalism).

Actually, the key to Hyman’s comments comes when he mentions that environmental groups lobbied strongly against further limiting eminent domain.
The reason for this is simple. While people like Hyman portray eminent domain as an issue of protecting individual family homes, the much larger goal is to limit government regulation of land use, including restrictions on pollution. He wants to appeal to our fear of Big Brother taking our house away in order to protect private corporations from having limitations placed on their ability to befoul the air, water, and land on which they stand—air, water, and land that act as conduits for whatever pestilence they unload into it, bringing it to our own front door.

That’s all I’ll say on that for now. I’d refer you to
this well-written article on the true motivations and sources of the eminent domain legislation initiatives that populated state ballots. It’s what Hyman doesn’t want you to know.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Careening Toward Irrelevancy

The wheels continue to come off as Mark Hyman careens toward the end of his career as a media figure. He’s abandoned any attempt to make a sensible argument—or to make sense at all.

The latest example is the series of wild rhetorical haymakers he throws at the entity he refers to as “Hollywood.”

The commentary, which is apropos of nothing, imagines what a Hollywood treatment of Saddam Hussein’s life would be like.

For reasons known only to him, Hyman thinks Hollywood would create a loving ode to the former dictator. He imagines that . . .

The movie would tout his classrooms, in which textbooks referred to
Jews as pigs and gorillas, as the model for an educational system.

Well, only if Mel Gibson was directing. Actually, I’m sure Hyman’s right. After all, there aren’t many Jewish people in Hollywood in positions of power. It’s quite the hotbed of anti-Semitism.

Hyman’s other musings are just as nonsensical:

It would view his ambitions to invade Iran, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and to
bomb Israel as statesman like.

No doubt it would characterize U.S. servicemen and women as criminal
terrorist thugs, the killers of women and children.

He ends with a gratuitous and ugly attack on Ted Kennedy:

After all, Hollywood is where Ted Kennedy is viewed as the conscience of
America and he left a woman to drown in the back of his sedan in 1969.

Unfortunately, Mary Jo Kopechne could not be reached for comment.


Life’s too short to bother with such drivel. This isn’t simply pandering to the right wing, but to the most woolly-headed, dunderheaded of far right wackos, and I’m not sure how many of them would actually buy it.

This is simply a ritualistic display of a right wing tenet: those who create the media are against us. This tenet flies in the face of all evidence, including the corporate ownership of so much major media outlets and the need for commercial media to appeal to a wide audience to succeed.

Precisely because of its absurdity, it’s a tenet that must be invoked on a regular basis. It’s part of the conservative creed. It’s not intended to actually persuade anyone; it’s meant to invoke a sense of community among those who already believe it.

After all, the only people thickheaded enough to buy Hyman’s assertions in the first place are already right-wingers.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Monday, November 20, 2006

What Is This "Irony" That You Speak Of?

"Oh, ho, ho, irony! Oh, no, no, we don't get that here."
--Steve Martin in

Apparently irony is not something they “get” at Sinclair Broadcasting, either. Otherwise, Mark Hyman wouldn’t deliver a commentary accusing others of defaming U.S. troops in which he defames a decorated war veteran.

As we’ve noted before, Hyman loves sticking up for the supposedly sullied honor of U.S. troops. Of course, he’ll gladly defend those who send them to in insufficient numbers and with insufficient equipment to fight and die in an unnecessary war sold on faulty evidence and that has made us demonstrably less safe. But when it comes to being called names, Hyman draws the line.

Fair enough, but as we’ve also pointed out before, Hyman has no problem sullying the honor of selected members of the military (or their mothers) if it’s politically expedient to do so. Ergo, the mini-series of “Points” he delivered in September of 2004 accusing John Kerry of lying about his service, aiding the enemy, and shooting a wounded teenage Viet Cong.

Given that, it’s hard to take Hyman’s faux outrage seriously when he chooses to vent it at desired political targets for political reasons, as is the case in his recent attack on Seymour Hersh.

Hersh, the investigator who, among other things, brought the My Lai massacre to the public’s attention during the Vietnam War, recently gave an address in which he said that “there has never been an [American] army as violent and murderous as our army has been in Iraq.”

This sends Hyman into waves of prefabricated outrage, comparing Hersh to John Kerry (whose recent comments occasioned another soap-opera caliber acting performance by Hyman and others on the right).

Hersh was referring to videotape he claims to have seen of U.S. soldiers gunning down civilians after being targeted by an IED explosion.

Hersh hasn’t written about this footage yet, nor has it been seen publicly. If it doesn’t materialize, Hersh certainly owes the military an apology for attributing such actions to it.

But the problem with Hyman’s outrage is that it ignores the fact that we’ve already
had plenty of documented atrocities in this war. Abu Ghraib, Haditha, and countless other incidents involving individual soldiers and civilians have surfaced.

And that’s just in Iraq proper. Atrocity is now official government policy, thanks to secret prisons, water boarding, and signing statements that relieve the president from dealing with the inconveniences of the “antiquated” Geneva Conventions.

That brings us to the wider point. Hyman doesn’t get (or pretends not to get) that the target of the attacks by Hersh and others on atrocities committed by American soldiers in Iraq, just as it was the target of Kerry and others when speaking out about atrocities committed in Vietnam, is not the rank and file military personnel, but the people who command them. (Hyman offers aid and comfort to those responsible by trying to paint attacks on “neo-conservatives” as anti-Semitism.)

Certainly, the individuals who pull the triggers deserve severe punishment for their actions. But the larger target are the policies that create the atmosphere that leads to such atrocities. To attack Hersh and to attempt to defend Bush, Hyman pretends that Hersh’s charges are leveled at the average U.S. soldier, rather than the actual target: the policy makers who implicitly, and sometimes explicitly, condone such actions and create circumstances in which some U.S. soldiers, having been placed in untenable and excruciating positions, occasionally break down.

By playing (or actually being) dumb, Hyman condones and defends the policies that have done such damage to U.S. troops on the ground that morale and leadership have broken down to the point where such atrocities can take place.

In his pseudo-defense of the troops, Hyman actually helps perpetuate their mistreatment, which in turn leads to the mistreatment of civilians—not by all U.S. personnel, but by a tragically predictable minority.

Ironic, isn’t it?

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Hyman Index: 3.55

Hyman's Master Class in Fallacy

Recently, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in Britain suggested that there be a wider discussion about how to best handle cases of severely premature and/or disabled infants, and that this discussion should include consideration of if and when it was the moral and ethical thing to do to allow such children to die, and even if in some cases, it might be best to practice active euthanasia.

In his commentary on this suggestion, Hyman predictably takes an important and complex topic and reduces it to distorted talking points.

First, we have a combination of red-herring and guilt-by-association when he begins his commentary by talking about Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood, linking her to Nazism.

Sanger’s views on eugenics have nothing to do with the debate going on in Britain, but Hyman brings them in as a way of slamming Planned Parenthood, always a popular move among conservatives (despite the fact that Hyman has stated that he himself is pro-choice).

Then we have a distortion of the facts. Hyman says the RCOG, “recommended an element of eugenics -- euthanasia to dispose of disabled and other unwanted babies.”

This is wrong on a number of counts. First, the College specifically did not recommend any particular action; they simply said that discussion of medical ethics involving newborns should take up this topic. Second, Hyman’s characterization of the position suggests the college was talking about “disposing” of any disabled or unwanted baby.

In fact, the conversation primarily involves extremely premature infants who have little to no chance of survival, or those who, if they do survive, will likely live extremely brief lives with profound mental and physical disabilities. Hyman paints a picture of British doctors practicing infanticide on any newborn who is less than perfect, but that grossly and perversely misrepresents the discussion.

Hyman then offers us another red herring in the example of Stephen Hawking, and example that “being disabled doesn't make one's life worthless.” Of course, no one has said that. The question is whether infants with little to no chance of a life of any length without pain or the mental ability to understand, feel, and think should be kept alive at all costs. Stephen Hawking doesn’t this example.

Then we have the classic slippery slope argument:

“Where would such barbarism end? Sorry hon, we didn't get the
blue-eyed, blond haired, button-nosed baby we wanted. So, let's dispose

That’s an absolutely textbook example of one of the most elementary argumentative fallacies there is.

Now, to put all my cards on the table, I *do* have a great deal of sympathy with the argument that human life is inherently precious and should be protected even when many might say it’s not worth it. So I’m not necessarily disagreeing with the idea that euthanasia of newborns, even those too premature to live anything approximating a normal life, is morally wrong.

What I *do* disagree with is Hyman’s cheap trivialization of a profoundly important discussion. Not that this should surprise us. Hyman likely doesn’t care that much about the issue or have deeply philosophical or religious beliefs in the sanctity of all human life. Remember that this is a guy who is pro-choice himself, but happily jumps on the pro-life bandwagon, at least rhetorically, when it suits his political purposes.

No, what we have here is yet another wonderful example of the fact that it’s not so much Hyman’s views themselves that are objectionable, but the infantile way he argues. By polluting the public sphere with dishonest, cheap-shot arguments, Hyman makes it all the more difficult for reasonable, respectful arguments to be heard above the din.

At least we only have a few more days until this particular sewer pipe is stopped up.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Hyman Index: 5.31

Friday, November 17, 2006

Hyman Repeats Terrorists' Nonsense

Apparently, Mark Hyman takes terrorists at their word, but ignores the consensus opinions of U.S. intelligence agents.

In a recent harangue about the incoming Democratic Congress, Hyman cites several comments alleged to have been made by terrorist organizations he says show that they are happy Democrats are in charge.

That’s funny . . . I always thought terrorists basically said whatever they thought would infuriate or insult their enemies, not what they actually felt. I kind of doubt many members of al-Qaeda actually know anything about the difference between Republicans and Democrats, so I’m not sure why one would take anything a terrorist says about them as being authoritative, sincere, or even coherent.

But apparently Hyman does. Or at least he takes WorldNetDaily, the ultra-right wing website, as authoritative, since
that’s where he cribbed the majority of his commentary, including all of the quotations from terrorists.

The WND article, penned by Aaron Klein, has been
thoroughly dealt with by Terry Krepel at ConWebWatch. As Krepel points out, at least one of the alleged “terrorists” is living in exile in Ireland. Moreover, Klein is simply repeating terrorist propaganda (something that Hyman is participating in as well).

Thanks for defending freedom, Aaron and Mark.

Moreover, Krepel points out that Klein has long history of trying to tie terrorists as fans of the Democrats, including the suggestion that the late PLO leader Yasser Arafat wanted John Kerry to win in 2004.
So Klein and Hyman are repeating terrorist propaganda for their own political purposes. That’s immoral, but what makes it stupid is that it’s probably counterproductive. In fact, the CIA noted that when Osama bin Laden made statements on the eve of the 2004 presidential election, they were almost certainly intended to support the election of George W. Bush.

As Krepel notes, it’s difficult to know if the handful of terrorists Klein has developed relationships with are intentionally giving him disinformation, or if they’re just happy to be quoted spouting off in a way that will get them some ink from their right-wing buddy.

The more important question is “who cares?”

What we *do* know is that a recent National Intelligence Estimate has said that the invasion and occupation of Iraq had made the terrorist threat worse, not better. Not that this should surprise us: in issuing his fatwa in 1998 to kill Americans, bin Laden used the occupation of Muslim land by American forces and hostility toward Iraq to motivate terrorists.

The Bush administration and the neo-cons have played right into bin Laden’s hands, giving him the perfect propaganda victory he needs to motivate still more terrorists, regardless of how well or poorly things go on the ground in Iraq.

But cutting and running in Afghanistan in order to fulfill the neo-con fantasies of invading Iraq (fantasies that long predated 9/11), the Bush administration has destabilized the Middle East and, according to our own intelligence, put us at greater risk from terrorism.

Perhaps that’s why Americans ignored the propaganda of both the terrorists and shills like Klein and Hyman and voted overwhelmingly for a new course last week.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Hyman Index: 6.60

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Hyman Defends Criminals

Hyman recently lobbied for the case of two border patrol agents to be “fast-tracked to resolution with President Bush pardoning both men.”

The offense they should be pardoned for? Shooting a fleeing unarmed suspect after catching him smuggling marijuana over the Mexico/U.S. border.

The two men were recently given more than 10 years each, not only for shooting the fleeing man, but for covering it up (they failed to report the incident, picked up shell casings, etc.). Hyman fails to mention that.

He also fails to mention that the Department of Homeland Security (that well-known bleeding heart organization) cooperated with the prosecution.

He also failed to mention that there are reports that the two men stated they were going out to “shoot some Mexicans” the night the incident took place,

Hyman doesn’t make a case why shooting a criminal who is running away from you and poses no direct threat is an okay thing. In fact, he has previously suggested that John Kerry committed an atrocity when he shot a Viet Cong soldier who was running away after using a grenade launcher to attack Kerry’s swiftboat during the Vietnam War. But apparently armed enemy soldiers deserve more rights than unarmed dope peddlers.

And that's The Counterpoint.

Hyman's British Blunders

Hyman makes some elementary logical blunders in his commentary about “Big Brother” and alleged tax redistribution in Britain.

The subject is a recent reform of the Council Tax, the closest British equivalent of local property tax. Hyman is upset because the new tax system will base the value of a home not simply on the value of the property, but on a complex set of metrics that include quality of life issues.

Hyman wonders ominously whether Big Brother will come to the U.S. eventually.

Obviously, there’s an appeal to fear at work here, but that would be okay if the fear was justified and/or the thing feared was accurately described. But that’s not the case.

First, Hyman implies that the British plan would “redistribute” income from the well-off to those who aren’t. But in fact, the Council Tax is a local tax that contributes a rather small amount (25%) to the upkeep of the local government and all it oversees. In other words, those living in posh areas are paying more for the upkeep of their own posh areas; the landed gentry of Upper-Cummerbund-Upon-Thames aren’t subsidizing the buskers hustling coppers in the Tube.

Second, the plan, like it or not, is not that different from our local property taxes, which are based not only on the value of the property (which *is* influenced by all kinds of small, quality-of-life, variables, even if they aren’t factored in explicitly and individually), but on home improvements. Again, the British system is doing little more than codifying a process that’s more hazy and ill-defined in the States, but not altogether different.

So what we have is a slippery-slope argument based on false premises. Even if the British system were the Orwellian nightmare Hyman portrays it to be, there’s no reason to think that this will affect U.S. tax policy (although I’m sure Hyman’s intent is to make his listeners have a knee-jerk reaction against any change in the regressive tax policies of the Bush administration).

Moreover, the slippery slope he portrays ends up with something not too dissimilar from what we already have in this country.

An argument from false premises and a slippery slope: two, two, two big fallacies in a single “Point!”

And that’s The Counterpoint.

More on Hyman-Gate

As many of you know, Mark Hyman recently offered a pseudo retraction for his smear of George Soros.

In his most recent “Short Takes” segment, Hyman claims that he was told by a representative of Soros that the philanthropist had made a mistake in answering a question posed in the “60 Minutes” interview Hyman cited in his smear, a mistake attributable to Soros not being a native speaker of English.

Hyman says the Soros representative explained that Soros was “hiding for his life” during World War II, not (as Hyman said) helping to identify Jews in hiding.

Now, I have not problem believing that a representative for Soros said this to Hyman. But I’m certain it isn’t *all* that was said. In fact, as we pointed out in this space earlier, Soros’s statements in the interview didn’t say what Hyman claimed they did. Whether or not Soros misspoke, nothing that he said could possibly be construed to mean what Hyman claimed it did.

Hyman is hiding behind a fig leaf, claiming his slander was just an honest mistake (and not even *his* mistake).

That’s utter nonsense. And the fact that Hyman offered any sort of retraction at all suggests he knows (or was told) how much trouble he had gotten himself into. As we know, Hyman’s not one to correct his misstatement of fact unless he’s absolutely compelled to.
And even when he does, he does everything he can to cover up the extent of his dishonesty.

While the whole story behind Hyman’s imminent departure is yet to be told, this pseudo-retraction supports my working thesis that the Soros slander was the precipitating factor, and if that’s the case, we all owe Mr. Soros a big “thank you!”

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Is Hyman on Drugs?

Hyman recently touted Wal-Mart’s announcement that it was discounting prescription drugs to prices as low as $4. This is an example, he claims, of the wonders of the free market, and that it’s bad old liberals who are spoiling the fun by, among other things, trying to force Wal-Mart employees to unionize even though they don’t want to.

A few facts:

The Wal-Mart discount on drugs is limited to handful of states.

Only a few of their medications are discounted significantly. Those who choose to go to Wal-Mart to get their prescriptions will likely be surprised when it turns out their particular medications aren’t part of the discounts.

Many discounted medications are already incredibly cheap, particularly basic antibiotics.

The same conservatives who praise Wal-Mart for limited discounts on certain medications have opposed allowing the government to do the same thing they praise Wal-Mart for: bargaining for the best price for medications.

As for Hyman’s predictable union bashing, he’s simply making stuff up. According to him, Wal-Mart employees are just so gosh darn happy and satisfied that they have no desire to unionize. (To see what it’s *really* like to be a Wal-Mart employee, read Barbara Ehrenreich’s chapter on it from Nickel and Dimed.)

What that fails to explain is why Wal-Mart managers are given extensive training in how to stop unionization in their stores.
There have been plenty of people who’ve tried to unionize at Wal-Marts, but have been stopped through strong-arm tactics of Wal-Mart brass.

This is crucial, since this point is absolutely central to Hyman’s argument. His argument weakens considerably, at least in its popular appeal, if he admits the reality that Wal-Mart employees *have* been trying to unionize and have been stopped. To caricature unions’ attempts to represent Wal-Mart employees as solely self-interested, he’s forced to float the canard that the employees have no interest in joining a union.

Of course, he *could* argue that unions are bad, despite the fact that many employees belong to them and many more want to join them. But that would be an argument that would require some subtlety of thought and wouldn’t be nearly as clean and neat as just saying unions are trying to seduce innocent, satisfied employees.

Ironically, one of the main motivations behind the drive to unionize is the need for better health insurance. Currently, Wal-Mart employees are often
forced onto government healthcare rolls because they don’t make enough to be covered by the company that employs them.

So in a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul, Wal-Mart can offer discounts on a select number of drugs in part because they slash labor prices through not paying their employees a living wage.

If that’s Hyman’s idea of the wonders of the free market, he can keep it.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Hyman Index: 4.78

Friday, November 10, 2006

Hyman Already Spinning for 2008

Mark Hyman offers us his services as a political prognosticator, and in the process, gives us an example of one of the most basic argumentative fallacies there is: stating something as fact that is actually an unsubstantiated opinion.

In his handicapping of the 2008 presidential race, Hyman states unequivocally that “the majority of primary voters just don’t trust” John McCain. About Rudy Giuliani, he says cryptically that “he doesn’t have the juice to get the Republican nod.”

Hyman doesn’t even suggest why these statements are true; they’re just flat-out assertions. My guess is that these are simply things that Hyman hopes or believes to be true because neither Giuliani or McCain are sufficiently conservative enough for his tastes, given Hyman’s far right leanings. And who knows? He might be right. But as with so many of the claims he makes on “The Point,” Hyman offers no reason for us to believe him.

Note to Mark: making an assertion and making an argument are two different things.

Of course, we also get the gratuitous shot at Hillary Clinton, who is now “freed from the distraction of running for reelection” and probably sees Barak Obama as “a nuisance.”

Parenthetically, it’s striking that in the list of folks Hyman names as potential candidates in 2008, the Democrats have by far the stronger field. In folks like Clinton, Obama, John Edwards, and (less likely) Al Gore, and John Kerry, you have a stable of nationally-known candidates with credibility and gravitas. And in Gore, you’ve actually got a candidate who’s already won a presidential election.

On the Republican side, after McCain, you’ve got folks like . . . Newt Gingrich?! Sam Brownback? Bill “She’s Alive!” Frist? Please.

It’s nice to see Tom Vilsack join the race, the former Governor of Iowa. Although less well-known, he’s smart, charismatic, and a governor (governors have a far better track record of success in presidential elections than do senators). Heck, Bill Clinton was a relatively unknown governor from a small state before 1992.

Fortunately for Hyman, he’ll have plenty of time on his hands to do volunteer work for whatever GOP candidate he happens to favor, now that he’s finished with the “exhausting” work of doing “The Point.”

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Hyman Index: 2.75

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

How Sweet It Is!

As Mark Hyman’s commentary on the traditionally low voter turnout aired yesterday, history was being made.

As of this writing, the Democratic Party has picked up at least 28 seats in the House, and may well take the Senate, if thin leads in Virginia and Montana hold (and it looks like they will). Karl “The Architect” Rove’s house of cards collapsed—apparently hot air doesn’t make for much of a foundation to build on.

Particularly galling to Hyman must be the fact that his one-time boss and long-time Sinclair buddy Bob Ehrlich went down hard on Tuesday night.

It was particularly gratifying to see this after Ehrlich’s 11th hour dirty tricks, in which his staff circulated flyers attempting to associate him with popular Democrats in the state and imply that he was endorsed by them.

I’m sure those of you who have been following Hyman’s escapades and/or visiting this site are familiar with the sordid history of the quid pro quo relationship between Ehrlich and Sinclair. Well, now perhaps Bob and Mark can go golfing together or work on those “special projects” Hyman is supposed to be committing himself to.

It will be fascinating to see how Hyman spins the rout of Republicans on Tuesday. Perhaps this commentary was meant to set up a claim that, “Well, not that many people vote in midterms anyway, so this election doesn’t say all that important.”

Ah, I can’t wait to see what he’ll come up with. With the news of his own lame duck status, the signs suggest Hyman is going off the tracks on a crazy train (e.g., his appallingly bad commentary stating--not just implying--that Osama bin Laden would vote Democratic if he could).

It should make for some good viewing.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Monday, November 06, 2006

I'm Osama bin Laden and I Approved this Message

Praise be to Allah, and greetings American imperialist infidels! This is Sheikh Osama Bin-Muhammad Bin-Ladin, but you can just call me Osama.

I’m sitting here in an undisclosed location with my laptop computer and have hacked my way into the website of one of your despicable countrymen, Ted Remington (death unto him!) for purposes of corresponding with you. I will try to be brief—getting a stable wireless broadband signal on the Pakistani border is a bitch, I tell you!

It has come to my attention that I’ve been slandered by one of your media figures. This person,
Mark Hyman (may locusts nest in his nose hair!) has made untrue statements about me. He has said that I would vote for your donkey candidates (I believe you call them “Democrats”) in your so-called “elections” tomorrow.

Why I would care whether you voted for a candidate that consorts with donkeys or one that claims to be an elephant is beyond me. If you ask me, I wouldn’t allow either sort of degenerate to break bread with me. Yet, I feel compelled to clear up some misunderstandings perpetrated by Mr. Hyman (may rabid goats copulate with his mother!).

Let me defend my—how do you say?—“homie,” George W. Bush (all praises and peace be unto him).

This Hyman suggests that Bush has been hard on me and that your donkey candidates would make life easy. Such calumny! How could such a thing be said? Does not this Hyman recall that Bush let me go when I was at Tora Bora and nearly killed by the invading infidel hordes? It would have been the work a moment to forcibly release me to Paradise, yet Bush allowed me to escape.

And does this Hyman not acknowledge that Bush gave up in Afghanistan to go after Iraq, allowing my friends the Taliban to reassert control? I think the phrase you Americans like to use is “cut and running”—yes? –Bush was kind enough to “cut and running” from Afghanistan.

And does this Hyman have so much camel dung in his ears that he has not heard that all the generals of your imperialist armies implored him that invading Iraq had nothing to do with the “war on terrorism” and would be a distraction to hunting me down? Did he not hear how Bush thankfully ignored them and “cut and running” from Afghanistan anyway to attack that bloated bastard Saddam?

This Hyman says your donkey candidates see...

“defeating Islamic fascism and defending our nation as something
dirty and disgusting that we should abandon. They believe if we stepped up
multicultural diversity training in our schools that people who fly jetliners
into skyscrapers would nod approvingly and then ignore the world's greatest

Okay, for starters, I don't know what "Islamic facism" is, but more importantly, I have heard no such promises from your donkey people. Indeed, it is President Bush (may 72 virgins greet him at the time of his passing) that abandoned chasing me! He said he wanted me “dead or alive,” but he has been gracious enough to not only allow me to live, but to get back to my old life again! Please, Hyman, do not praise your vile donkey candidates for what the honorable president himself has already brought to pass himself.

And it is almost difficult to believe, but it seems your Hyman doesn’t even read the National Intelligence Estimates of your own government. For crying out loud, even *I* read those! If he had, he would know that your hated CIA and other intelligence services have noted that the war in Iraq has been the best thing that could happen for a humble ol’ jihadist like yours truly. They have seen and written about how the Saddam war has enraged the Islamic world and brought countless souls to the point of sacrificing their earthly existence for the mere chance to kill imperialist Americans. Yet Hyman acts as if such a document doesn’t exist!

Not that you should have needed your American spies to tell you such things. I spelled it out for you myself. Back in 1998, when I ordered true believers to kill Americans whenever and wherever they can,
I said very specifically it was because of the hostility toward Iraq. Listen,—I’ve always thought that Saddam was a SOB of the highest order. But your animosity toward the country of Iraq was a wonderful recruiting tool. In that fatwa, I actually gave no other rationale behind my call to kill you Americans than your occupation of Muslim soil and your aggression against Iraq. Go read the fatwa now! I command you! It’s short and sweet.

And now, how gracious has Allah been to lead Bush (long may his clan prosper!) to invade and occupy not only a Muslim country, but the very country whose plight I used in my 1998 fatwa! It’s a freakin’ two-fer, people! Yet your Hyman says that this invasion was some sort of act of aggression against me. How despicable of Hyman (may sand fleas reside in his pubis!) to say such things when all evidence proves the opposite. By using your aggression against Iraq and occupation of Muslim countries, my 1998 fatwa got a bunch of losers to fly planes into buildings and kill 3000 of you. Think what I can do now that Bush has *occupied* Iraq! What action could more obviously and completely play into my hands?

Now, don’t get me wrong. As generous as Bush (long may he reign!) has been to me, I don’t believe he likes me. What American could? I swear, I don’t get you people sometimes. I got people to crash airplanes into your buildings! Who among you could possibly not want to disembowel me and serve me in a falafel? Who could allow a woman to look on him without fear of shame if he did not despise me? Yet, you talk of whether donkey candidates or elephant people are “on the side of the terrorists.” What’s up with that? I thought *I* was supposed to be the hateful fear monger!

But although Bush may despise me in his heart, his actions have been models of beneficence. By making your countrymen afraid of me, but doing nothing to stop me, he does me great honor. By invading a country and living up to exactly the cartoonishly demonic caricatures of your country that I perpetuate, he has done me service that few of my 53 brothers would do for me.

If you wish, you may continue your silly battles over whether your donkeys or elephants hate me more. That’s fine with me. It suits my purposes, so by all means continue. Believe me when I say I know that no American would weep over my corpse. I have no friends there.

Yet, there are those whose actions are friendly to me and those that are not. And your Hyman (may scorpions sting his procreative parts!) makes a mockery of himself by not acknowledging that your president Bush's actions have been my greatest allies, even if he himself despises me.

So, vote for whatever donkey or elephant you want tomorrow. Despite what your Hyman says, I really don’t give a rip. Just please tell me you’ll continue to invade countries so that we may kill your soldiers and inspire the next generation of jihadists!

I’m going now. A few of us are riding into town to see that new Borat movie. It should be a hoot! I love the way he talks smack about the Jews. Ha ha ha! High five!

Oh, and one more thing: Death to America.

Osama, out.

More Fun Reading

For an amusing take on the reasons for Hyman's impending departure, you might get a kick out of Wonkette's take on it.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

K.O. KO's Hman

So, I’m sure most of us have now heard the news--at the end of the month, Mark Hyman is apparently going to where all public figures go to die: to “spend more time with his family” and work on “special projects.”

I won’t really believe this until he actually signs off and doesn’t show up the next night. I’m reminded of my father’s comment when he heard that Richard Nixon had finally died: “I won’t believe he’s dead until they pry open his coffin and hammer a stake through that S.O.B.’s heart.”

There were a number of comments a few posts ago on this topic, complete with links to the Sinclair press release about Hyman’s departure, as well as a couple of news articles.

As I mentioned in my response to those comments, my personal fantasy is that this is linked to the sudden disappearance of Hyman’s slanderous commentaries on George Soros from the website a couple of weeks ago. In my dream, Soros calls up David Smith, CEO of Sinclair, and says, “Either you get that dolt off the air, or I’ll sue your asses for so much money that you’ll be lucky to get a Baltimore cable-access show going.”

At any rate, it looks like we won’t have Hyman to kick around anymore (another Tricky Dick reference for ya).

But it’s nice to see that some people are putting a last few steel-toed Kodiak work boots in his midriff before he disappears. If you haven’t seen it, go over to MSNBC and see the inimitable
Keith Olbermann lambaste our Mark as “the Worst Person in the World” last Friday. On Hyman’s stated reason for leaving, being “exhausted,” Olbermann says, “Of course you are: it’s hard work carrying that much guilt around!”

We’ll continue to tap dance on Hyman’s head before we change our venue to his grave. After that, I’ll likely take a brief hiatus before returning to blog another day. I’ll probably return to the original idea I had before starting The Counterpoint, which was to do a regular critique of various notable mediocrities in public discourse. The problem was that I had a hard time finding anyone who could beat out Mark Hyman for that title, day-in and day-out; hence, the Hyman-centric blogging of the last couple of years (jeesh—has it really been that long?).

I’ll keep you posted as things develop, and if anyone else has news on the causes and details of our impending collective Hyman-ectomy, please share with the class!


Hyman Running Out of Gas

The Mark Hyman’s recent attack on Democratic politicians who favor policies that would lessen our dependency on foreign oil and reduce our consumption of fossil fuels is an exercise in playground childishness.

His argument seems to be that it’s hypocritical to favor such policies if you arrive at public events with a motorcade (a la Al Gore) or don’t drive the most fuel efficient car on the market (he chides Harold Ford for driving a Tahoe, although the Tennessee Congressman actually is using a bio-diesel truck on the campaign trail).

This is, of course, dopey. I suppose Al Gore could bike to each and every speaking engagement on his Schwinn, with his bevy of Secret Security agents peddling furiously behind him, but that’s a bit impractical.

What’s more interesting is simply the way Hyman frames the issue. For him, taking steps to conserve fuel is punishment. What’s immoral about Gore et. al from his point of view is that they are telling us to punish ourselves by not using so much fuel, while they continue to do so.

That argument is shaky, even if one grants the frame he’s using. (For example, would having an overweight doctor tell you that you should watch what you eat and exercise reduce the validity of that advice? I think not.)

But the whole point of the move to greener energy sources is that it doesn’t have to be “punishment” for our “excessive use” of gasoline. The push to have more alternate fuels available, to raise mileage rates on cars, to improve public transportation, etc. are all things that can be done without asking for dramatic sacrifices, and they will produce dramatic results.

That’s one of the lessons of Gore’s film, and Inconvenient Truth. One doesn’t need to go live in the woods and eat bark to do incredible things to help the environment. If we all just used energy saving light bulbs, did curbside recycling, turned off electronic equipment we weren’t using, we’d have a huge impact on our nation’s energy bottom line, without doing much of anything to disrupt our current lifestyles.

(As an aside, let’s acknowledge that Gore gave up untold millions in potential private sector money to devote himself to in-depth study and advocacy of environmental issues, so the man’s paid his dues. Hyman’s charge that Gore “has been on the environmental bandwagon to keep in the public eye” is one of the more laughable statements he’s made lately; heck, Gore damn near built the bandwagon!)

But right wingers like Hyman don’t see it that way. In calls for sensible moves to make us more energy independent, they see simply calls for self-flagellation—punishment for the sake of punishment.

And if one sees it that way, then perhaps one can understand why they might take exception to those advocating for such policies who aren’t already taking them to an extreme themselves, even to the point of being impractical.

But that’s not what’s going on in the move toward more sustainable energy sources. No one’s suggesting that truckers try to pull their loads with a Prius, or that people in Minnesota commute to work in January on Segway scooters. People can and should still live their lives. And for public figures with entourages, far flung speaking engagements, and security concerns, that means driving trucks, using airplanes, and having motorcades.

The point is to broaden the scope of what’s available so that we can live our lives in a way that’s more sustainable and affordable in the long run.

Given how little we’ve bothered as a country to explore the benefits of sustainable energy, it’s not surprising that we have few choices when it comes to living our lives *and* being energy efficient. But that’s exactly what folks like Al Gore are trying to change, and through such change, we can live our lives and be sure that our children and grandchildren will be able to live theirs as well.

But for those, like Hyman, who see any calls for environmental action as nothing more than snarky browbeating and guilt-tripping, they’ll have a hard time seeing the big picture because of the way they choose to frame the issue. They’ll never see the forest for the ever-shrinking number of trees.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Hyman Index: 4.59

Hyman Slanders Kerry--Again

Man, I don’t want to write this rebuttal to Hyman. Not because it’s going to be tough. Quite the opposite. Does faux outrage really need to be rebutted?

Hyman joins (in a timely fashion—more on that in a moment) the caterwauling of right wing talking heads who’ve spent several days delivering dinner-theatre-level performances of pseudo-outrage at the alleged “slur” of American troops by John Kerry.

Never mind that Kerry’s prepared remarks showed that he was making fun of the president, not the troops, and merely flubbed the joke.

Never mind that even if you think Kerry is Beelzebub himself incarnate on earth, you can’t possibly believe he’d be stupid enough to make a scripted slam of American troops the week before midterm elections.

Never mind that even right wing zealots like Tom DeLay and Bill O’Reilly have said Kerry obviously didn’t mean to insult the troops with his comments.

Nope. Never mind all that. If there’s political hay to be made by willful ignorance, there are some, such as Hyman, who are only too happy to do it.

Hyman tries to claim this is just one of a long series of Kerry blasphemies regarding the honor of U.S. troops, tying it to his testimony in 1971 before Congress (ignoring the fact that Kerry was testifying on behalf of the troops and ripping the civilian leadership for sending them into a war, and lying that Kerry said U.S. troops “routinely” committed atrocities) and a comment on ABC news last year in which he said U.S. troops shouldn’t be “breaking down doors” of Iraqi civilians (ignoring the fact that Kerry’s remark was made in the context of saying why he—like the president—thought it was important for the Iraqi military to take a more active role in maintaining order in the country).

But the pattern isn’t in any alleged Kerry slander of the troops. Let’s remember, he was a combat soldier himself, for crying out loud!

No, the pattern is in Hyman’s continual willingness to lie about a decorated combat veteran because he disagrees with the man’s politics.

Let’s remember that during the 2004 campaign, Hyman delivered a slew of commentaries demeaning John Kerry’s war record, including charging him with shooting an unarmed, wounded child.

And let’s remember Hyman’s role in hyping the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth [sic] and the running of anti-Kerry propaganda on Sinclair stations days before the election.

While were at it, let’s add to Hyman’s list of repeat offenses his attempt to swing elections. I know from some inside folks at Sinclair that Hymn tapes his editorials about a week in advance. Given that schedule, I was expecting to have to deal with Hyman’s predictable piling on regarding the Kerry comment on Election Day, or so.

But Hyman clearly rushed back to the studio to crank this editorial out mid-week to get it out quick (the better to sway voters, my dear). Not only that, but it clocks in at a bloated 300 words, Roughly 75% longer than his editorials have run of late. And, if there was any doubt about his intentions, Hyman closes his diatribe with this little gem:

Imagine how much damage Kerry could do to the troops as Senate Armed Services Chairman.

Meanwhile, the theatre of the absurd that’s gone on this week, with right wingers pretending to be outraged and the rebuttals and corrections by others, including—groan—yours truly, has taken away time from talking about *real* affronts to our troops.

This past week, the Bush administration caved in to the Iraqi government by calling off checkpoints in an area where a U.S. serviceman was kidnapped. We’re now leaving soldiers behind when the ragtag government of Iraq, in order to curry favor with the likes of Moktada al-Sadr, tells us to take a hike.

Then, you’ve got Republican
John Boehner defending Rumsefeld’s handling of the war by saying that he’s not in charge—it’s the generals on the ground.

This is shades of Condi’s infamous statement about how thousands of “tactical mistake” (i.e.,, mistakes made by the troops on the ground) have been made in Iraq, but no strategic ones (i.e., those made by Rummy, Cheney, and Dubya).

So tell us again Mark: who’s slandering the troops?

And that’s The Couterpoint.

Hyman Index: 6.00

Friday, November 03, 2006

Pardon Me?

Mark Hyman dusts off a five-year-old scandal in a recent commentary, apparently in an attempt to embarrass presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton. Specifically, he brings up the charges that her brother was paid to help get presidential pardons from Bill Clinton in 2001.

(Among the many other distortions in the piece: Hyman says, “Clinton dished out 140 pardons in exchange for payments to family members and associates.” Clinton pardoned 140 people in total. Even if one were to accept Hyman’s allegations that some of Clinton’s pardons were motivated by personal connections and donations, it doesn’t come close to suggesting all of his pardons were so motivated. Just another bit of dishonest and logically flawed argumentation.)

A couple of things are interesting about this. First, one can only wonder what words will be used to describe the pardons that will be gushing out of the Oval Office in January of 2009. If Hillary’s brother getting paid to lobby for pardons is “scandalous,” what adjectives will be needed then?

Second, if the misdeeds of a sibling are enough to tarnish the reputation of a politician, then let’s take a gander at the resume of one Neil Bush:

Silverado—Bailout of the savings and loan on whose board of directors Neil Bush served cost taxpayers:$1 billion.

Ignite! Learning—Neil Bush uses family connections and overseas funding to start an educational software company that is
making millions directly from the “No Child Left Behind” policy put in place by . . . hmmmmm . . . who’s the president again?

Boris Berezovsky—a shady Russian “businessman” with whom Neil Bush has had a business relationshp with for many years.

Kopin Corporation—Neil Bush makes suspicious sales of stock in a company he’s been consulting for in 1999.

Sexual escapades—Neil Bush has sexual relations with seveal women in Thailand and Hong Kong, contributing to the end of his marriage.

Of course, these could only tarnish George W. Bush if the president didn’t already have destroyed his credibility as a man of character. Add up all of Neil’s sleaziness, and it doesn’t add up to even the value of a single life of a serviceman or woman lost in Iraq.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Hyman Index: 5.00

Playing the NAMBLA Card

Picture this: a mild-mannered college English teacher gets out of his car after driving to campus. He slings his book bag over his shoulder and starts toward the classroom building.

Suddenly, shots ring out. The teacher slumps to the ground, felled by assassin’s bullets. From a grassy knoll across the Quad, the shadowy figure of a member of the militant group, PAP, (Parents Against Plagiarism) disassembles a rifle, stuffs it in a gym bag, and steals away into the misty dawn air.

Why was the teacher shot? Because
a commentator on national television had falsely claimed that he didn’t care if his students plagiarized or not. Despite the fact that he got plenty of students put on academic probation for turning in copied work, he lies dying in a pool of his own blood because a wacko anti-plagiarist got it into his head that he turned a blind eye toward students passing off other people’s work as their own.

Less humorously, what if someone had seen Mark Hyman call John Kerry a murderer and a traitor, and assassinated him as a result? What if someone had tuned in and heard Hyman slander philanthropist George Soros as a Nazi collaborator who identified Jewish people in hiding, and in a fit of rage, murdered Soros as a result?

According to Mark Hyman’s own logic, he would bear responsibility for these acts and could be sued for millions by the families of the teacher, Kerry, or Soros.

That’s what comes
from Hyman’s recent trilogy lambasting the ACLU for defending NAMBLA in a lawsuit accusing the pedophile-friendly group of bearing responsibility for a murder of a boy by a man found with NAMBLA literature in his possession.

Calling ACLU the “Anti-Children Litigation Union” (perhaps we should assemble a scrapbook of the various witty plays on the ACLU’s name Hyman has used), Hyman slams the organization for taking the case and defending NAMBLA in the suit filed by the parents of the murdered boy against the organization. (The suit against the organization was actually thrown out of court, but it’s going ahead against several individual members of NAMBLA.)

In fact, Hyman actually claims that “the ACLU doesn't want to separate men from copulating with young boys.”

No. What the ACLU doesn’t want is for individuals to be held accountable for the unintended consequences of their words without having a chance to defend themselves in a court of law.

Remember that, in addition to NAMBLA, the ACLU has defended the rights of Nazis, Jerry Falwell, and lots of other individuals and groups who are hateful and whose views aren’t shared by the ACLU. The beauty of the ACLU is that they defend the principle of free speech regardless of who is practicing it.

Now, it’s certainly possible for an individual to be found civilly culpable for a wrongful death based on what they say, if a court finds that they intended to incite violence with their words (the best example of this is the Southern Poverty Law Center’s successful lawsuit against white separatist Tom Metzger).

But that bar is set awfully high, and for good reason. As morally culpable as Mark Hyman would be if someone killed George Soros based on the lies Hyman said about him, it would be another matter to find Hyman criminally or civilly liable for the crime. If every criminal could use the excuse that something they saw or read made them do it, then freedom of speech would be a thing of the past.

Not that NAMBLA is a group that deserves much sympathy. They are a microscopically small group of pathetic losers and criminals who get way more attention from the media than they deserve to get. But what they *do* deserve, as does every American, is to have their day in court if they are accused of something.

Hyman tries to portray NAMBLA as openly advocating violence against boys by calling some of their materials a “Rape and Escape Handbook,” a phrase that was coined by the lawyer filing suit against NAMBLA, not the group itself (although Hyman does his best to suggest otherwise). Any materials that are meant to facilitate statutory rape are despicable, but the NAMBLA materials apparently don’t advocate or advise how to commit violent acts.

NAMBLA is a disgusting group, and as such, couldn’t find a lawyer to defend them until the ACLU came to the aid of their members. Apparently Hyman thinks people should be convicted without trial if they belong to a reprehensible group or believe despicable things. But that’s exactly the sort of speech that needs to be defended. It might even turn out that the members of NAMBLA will be found liable for the child’s death, but that only has meaning if they received an adequate legal representation. That’s what the ACLU is providing, just as they provided it for Nazis, Falwell, and, if necessary, they would provide to Hyman if my wife sued him for instigating my death at the hands of a radical member of PAP.

So that’s the substance of the issue. The big picture, of course, has everything to do with the upcoming election. In recent weeks,
Brent Bozell of the conservative Media Research Centre tried to link Nanci Pelosi to the ACLU/NAMBLA case, and the laughingstock of Ohio, Ken Blackwell, tried to link his Democratic opponent with NAMBLA in a debate last week.

This is apparently what you resort to when you’ve run out of ideas.

Or, in Hyman’s case, never had one to begin with.

And that’s The Counterpoint

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Hyman's "Voter Fraud" Fraud

With election day coming up, Mark Hyman wonders, “why on Earth would the government print foreign language ballots when naturalized citizens are supposed to speak English?”

We’ll tell you why in a moment, Mark, but first, let’s correct a few things.

You say “foreign language ballots reward those who choose not to assimilate into the melting pot of America.”

Is providing a document in someone’s native language that they will see likely no more than once or twice every few years actually going to disincline them to learn English?

And even if it did, it’s their right as an American citizen not to assimilate. We might not like it, but then again, I don’t like your insistence on not assimilating yourself into the reality-based community. Yet, it’s certainly your right not to. Moreover, if it would actually help you to better understand your ballot on election day by having leprechauns, unicorns, a photo of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden shaking hands, and other bits of fantasy in the margins, I’d support your right to have such a specialized ballot.

You say, “Foreign language ballots are ripe for election fraud.”

Why? What evidence do you have that such ballots have been particularly susceptible to fraud? What reasonable explanation do you have for why they might be problems in the future? Perhaps there is such supporting evidence, but you don’t provide it (I suspect because it doesn’t exist).

This is a sloppy bit of argumentation, one that, if it appeared on freshman composition essay, I’d immediately annotate with the words “WHERE’S YOUR EVIDENCE?!” scrawled in the margins in red ink.

Your final argument is that someone has to be “fluent” in English in order to become a citizen, and therefore its silly and wasteful to print up ballots in alternate languages.
But as you yourself note, the requirement is simply that a potential citizen have a basic working knowledge of typical, everyday words and phrases. I doubt “County Comptroller” or the niceties of

a voter recall of a governor are words and phrases that come up in daily conversation, yet they appear on ballots all the time. Heck, most native speakers of English could probably use a translation of some of the gobbledygook that appears on ballots.

The reason we print ballots in other languages in voting areas with a high density of non-native speakers of English is because voting is the most fundamental of rights in a democracy. Everyone, whether their ancestors stepped off the boat at Plymouth Rock centuries ago or at Miami a couple of decades ago, deserves the right to make an informed choice on election day. Printing a handful of ballots in other languages for those areas where languages other than English are still the norm, even for longtime U.S. citizens, is a small price to pay to ensure that right.

Not that the actual price, or even the supposed rewarding of non-assimilation, is your goal. Like unconstitutional voter ID bills, your proposal for all-English ballots is a transparent attempt to turn the clock back by discouraging or preventing people from voting—particularly people whom you suspect won’t vote the way you want them to.

Jim Crow attempts to disenfranchise voters were ugly in the past, and they are no less ugly now, even when gussied up in the vestments of “common sense.”

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Hyman Index: 3.38

Cost of the War in Iraq
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