Political Animal


WE MAKE IT UP REPORT, YOU DECIDE….Via Jeanne d’Arc, Fox News has finally prevailed in their fight for the right to lie on their news programs. Two producers, Jane Akre and Steve Wilson, produced a show about Monsanto’s Bovine Growth Hormone for Fox’s WTVT subsidiary in Florida, but ran into trouble:

Shortly before the original TV series was to run, an attorney from Monsanto contacted Fox TV and demanded that the script be altered. The station gave in to Monsanto’s demands and told Akre and Wilson to rewrite and tone down the script. One year and 73 rewrites later Monsanto still wasn’t satisfied and Akre and Wilson were fired.

….As reported by Jeanette Batz in the St. Louis newsweekly, Riverfront Times, David Boylan, WTVT station manager, was blunt in demanding that Akre and Wilson tell the story about rBGH the way Monsanto wanted it told. “We (the Fox TV network) paid $3 billion for these television stations. We will decide what the news is. The news is what we tell you it is.”

After they were fired Akre and Wilson sued under Florida’s whistleblower statute, which prohibits retaliation against employees who threaten to disclose employer conduct that violates the law. They won damages, but a few weeks ago an appellate court overruled.

Why? Because although the FCC does have a policy against the intentional falsification of news, this policy didn’t qualify as a “law” under the Florida statute. So Akre and Wilson couldn’t have threatened to disclose a violation of the law, and therefore they couldn’t have been fired for this.

I’m glad to see that TV news is once again safe for corporate America. I feel safer, don’t you?

MORE ON TORTURE….Glenn Reynolds, responding

MORE ON TORTURE….Glenn Reynolds, responding to an unfortunate post from one of my fellow liberals, says this about torture:

Yeah, the torture of Al Qaeda guys concerns me less than the torture of, I don’t know, innocent people — but it’s still wrong, and if the practice goes into general use a lot of innocent people, perhaps named by torture victims who just want to name someone to make it stop, will suffer. And so will the people who do the torturing, and so, indirectly, will the rest of us.

That’s exactly right.

Plus the French used to do it, and we don’t want to be like them, do we?


WHY THE WAR NO LONGER MAKES SENSE….A few people have asked me to explain what caused my change of heart yesterday about the war. It would be convenient for me to have a post that puts the whole argument in one place, so here goes.

My support for war has always been strongly influenced by the likelihood of using it as a springboard to build a better Middle East, something that the U.S. simply can’t do alone. So while Friday’s report about the forged uranium documents was what tipped me over the edge, my real problem is that it has become increasingly clear that Bush’s implementation of the war is the very one that will prevent it from ultimately being successful.

Originally, my skepticism about Bush’s goals was due to the fact that he never spoke about them. Then, over the past couple of weeks, when he started addressing the problem, he just made things worse. First a “blueprint” for a military occupation was presented to Congress, but it reassured no one with its vision of a U.S. military governor and a solidly U.S. occupation force. Then there was his AEI speech, where he had a chance to rally the country behind a long-term vision, but instead just spoke a few platitudes and promised that we’d get out as soon as possible. Then there was the sellout of the Kurds. And the decision that we wouldn’t support any kind of federal government in Iraq. And then, finally, at the Thursday press conference he devoted all of two sentences to the subject:

The form and leadership of that government is for the Iraqi people to choose. Anything they choose….

Put all this together with things like Paul Wolfowitz’s fanciful testimony before Congress last month and it’s simply become wishful thinking to believe that Bush is really committed to any kind of serious effort to promote democracy in Iraq. Unlike Tony Blair, he’s not willing to take political risks, and selling the American public on a long, arduous, expensive, and risky rebuilding is something he’s just not willing to do.

Without that, the war isn’t worth it. Saddam’s direct threat to the U.S. is marginal, and while I’d rather get rid of him now instead of later, I don’t think it’s worth the risk if we do it by demolishing the collective security system that, flaws and all, has served us pretty well for the past 50 years.

So that’s it. There are other reasons to support or oppose the war, but they’re just fluff. It’s the chance to stabilize the Middle East that’s key, and I no longer think there’s even a remote chance that Bush plans to do this.

POSTSCRIPT: As one of my readers has thoughtfully pointed out, I’ve never really supported war without UN approval anyway, so despite all the hoorah yesterday I guess all I was really doing was stating my opposition to war without UN approval a bit more loudly. Of course, several months ago I was confident that we would be able to present evidence strong enough to persuade the UN to act, so that seemed like a minor impediment. Now it’s not.