Thursday, March 31, 2011

Clay & Carnahan: Partisan Redistricting Plan Would Screw Over St. Louis Region

Ok, so maybe that wasn't their exact wording, but I think it covers the basic idea. Here's their joint press release:
Clay and Carnahan Say Missouri Congressional Redistricting Map Fails the Fairness Test, Weakens St. Louis Region

-WASHINGTON, DC- In a joint statement issued today Congressman Wm. Lacy Clay (D) Missouri and Congressman Russ Carnahan (D) Missouri objected to the proposed congressional redistricting map for Missouri as "overly partisan, damaging to the St. Louis region, and unfair to communities of common cultural and historical interests.":

"We are extremely disappointed that the Missouri House Special Committee on Congressional Redistricting has produced a map that emphasizes partisanship over fairness," said Mr. Clay and Mr. Carnahan.

"The population of the St. Louis metropolitan area clearly justifies three congressional districts.

"We are surprised that the committee chose to weaken representation for our region, which is the economic engine that drives Missouri's economy.

"Historically, the City of St. Louis has been represented by two Members of Congress who strongly advocated for neighborhoods of like interests.

"This proposed map ignores vital historical and cultural considerations which should be taken into account in this process.

"The current proposal is unfair and it ignores the best interests of the people of Missouri and the entire St. Louis region."
BTW, I'm not so sure this plan doesn't screw over Kansas City as well. It sure looks like a blatantly partisan power-grab meant to disenfranchise half of the state's voters.

Post-Dispatch Covers 200 Person Tea Party in Washington D.C.

Three weeks after the St. Louis Post-Dispatch provided no coverage of a 4,300 person rally in support of unions in St. Louis and offered an incredibly lame excuse for doing so, they have now posted an AP article on their website about a puny tea party rally in Washington D.C.

According to reporters at the event, only about 200 people showed up. In D.C.! Think about that: if the American Society of Left-Handed Ninjas held a rally in D.C., they could probably get at least 400 people! Yet the Post-Dispatch gives coverage to this pathetic P.R. stunt while ignoring a 4,300+ person rally in their backyard.


Update: Also worth noting is the misleading framing in the AP article about the tea party, which claimed that their popularity has remained the same since the elections. Actually, if you look at the monthly CNN polls, you'll see that the tea party's unfavorables have increased dramatically since November, even as the 30% fringe supporters number stays the same (the same %, by the way, as the birthers and people who think the moon is made of swiss cheese).

Update #2: The Post-Dispatch Weatherbird suggests that AP articles automatically feed into the site:

It would be a little strange to me if there was no selection process whatsoever for which articles appear on their national news section, but perhaps this is accurate. However, this clearly would not be a good excuse for them deciding to run the story in the print edition tomorrow.

Is Child Labor Back in Missouri?

Senator Jane Cunningham's proposal to roll back Child Labor Laws in Missouri was widely mocked, both in Missouri and nationally. But after Cunningham dropped her bill under pressure from just about everybody, it seemed like Missouri Republicans had decided to pursue their quest to crush working families using other despicable methods.

Not so fast, though. It turns out the new budget just passed out of the Missouri House actually eliminates all of the people who investigate child labor and minimum wage complaints, effectively defunding any enforcement of the laws.

KMOV has the story:
The cuts would get rid of all the investigators who look into child labor and minimum wage complaints.

Lara Granich, director of Missouri Jobs for Justice has a hard time believing the cuts. "This puts workers terribly at risk of unscrupulous employers,” she says. “If a worker is being denied a fair wage, or children in dangerous condition, there's no one to do anything about them."

Click here to email your state senator and tell them to keep these enforcement mechanisms in place.

Even Conservatives Shocked With Loesch's Latest Distortions About Planned Parenthood

Yesterday, I detailed how Loesch's attempt to smear Planned Parenthood failed miserably. Today, she's still defending the post while demonstrating absolutely no comprehension of the word "access." In fact, her defense is so sad that she has had to threaten to block conservatives who have a basic understanding of reality and are calmly refuting her points.

Loesch started out by attacking Eric Boehlert without, of course, actually addressing the issue:

@SarahWW is a conservative on Twitter, who in fact doesn't even support federal funding of Planned Parenthood:

However, as she pointed out, Loesch was clearly distorting the truth:

Loesch's response was to flail around and continue distorting the truth:

This claim is false, as was noted yesterday: Cecile Richards clearly said that Planned Parenthood offers access to mammograms, not that they provide mammograms, on the clip that Loesch is referring to. So even conservative @SarahWW had to ask Loesch why the folks at Big Journalism can't make honest arguments for their positions rather than relying on dishonesty:

And since Loesch was losing the argument, badly I might add, she of course had to threaten to block Sarah with the feeble excuse that Sarah was "flooding her timeline:"

As I've stated many times, the problem with the astroturf leadership of the tea party is not that they're extremely conservative; it's that they don't even allow honest conversations to take place. If they don't like Planned Parenthood, then make an honest argument and let people decide for themselves based on the facts: don't just make up nonsense and threaten to block everyone who points out that it's nonsense. Loesch is so afraid of honest debate that she'll even threaten to block people who are just as conservative as she is, but still care about making sure they get the facts right.

Loesch Tries to Smear Planned Parenthood, Fails Miserably

Note to Big Journalism: Fact-checking is much easier if you have basic linguistic competence.

Dana Loesch tweeted the following earlier today:

That tweet went to a mind-bogglingly dumb blog post at Big Journalism demanding a retraction from Media Matters latest debunking of a b.s. right-wing talking point. The wingnuts were claiming that the president of Planned Parenthood Cecile Richards was lying when she said that Planned Parenthood provided access to mammograms because they called a few Planned Parenthood clinics that said they couldn't do mammograms at the facilities. In response, Media Matters wrote this:
FACT: Planned Parenthood Provides Access To Mammograms By Referring Patients To Locations That Perform The Service

Planned Parenthood Website: "A Staff Member At Your Local Planned Parenthood Health Center Can Discuss Breast Cancer, Breast Exams, And Breast Health With You And Help You Find The Services You Need."
To which Big Journalism brilliantly responded:
Providing "access" to mammograms is not the same as giving them.
Well, this would sure be a witty point by Big Journalism if Cecil Richards had claimed that Planned Parenthood gives mammograms. But her actual quote was:
If this bill would ever become law, millions of women in this country are going to lose their health care access, not to abortion basic family planning, mammograms..."
So her quote was that the provide access to mammograms, and they do provide access to mammograms, and Big Journalism's idiotic response is "but access to mammograms isn't the same a giving mammograms so she's lying." Truly astounding.

Monday, March 28, 2011

ForwardSTL: Why St. Louis Needs A Progressive Media Voice

A few weeks ago, St. Louis labor unions and supporters held a rally that attracted over 4,300 attendees. This rally was completely ignored by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. In contrast, the Post-Dispatch wrote a full-length article with photos about a tea party rally attended by only 500 people last year and provided similar coverage for many, many similar tea party events.

The St. Louis media regularly covers for the St. Louis tea party by ignoring their more extreme conspiracy theories and actions. The Post-Dispatch and the St. Louis Beacon dutifully reported the tea party appointing a new state lobbyist, but completely left out the fact that the lobbyist was the originator of a ridiculous conspiracy theory pushed by the tea party that the local control bill passed by the Republican Missouri House was a secret plot by the New Black Panther Party. The allegations were so absurd that even Republican House Speaker Steve Tilley described them as race-baiting. Meanwhile, the statewide media has been obsessively fixating on Senator McCaskill's catching of her own tax problems, while ignoring numerous similar problems with Senator Roy Blunt.

Last year, the local media (with the exception of the RFT) largely ignored the St. Louis tea party setting fire to a photo of Representative Russ Carnahan. They largely ignored the fact that the following day the tea party carried a coffin to Carnahan's family's home until the national media reported on it, and even then they managed to get the story wrong and ended up making up some story that the tea party was victimized because even though they carried a coffin to Carnahan's home, they didn't actually leave it on the ground.

Over and over, time and time again, we see the St. Louis media handing a megaphone to right-wing extremists that represent only a small part of the St. Louis area's population while ignoring the views of a much larger commonsense liberal population. And despite the fact that the media has been critiqued repeatedly over the past several years with facts and rational arguments, they have largely ignored these arguments and continue to pander to the right.

People with political views of anything other than Large-Corporations-Should-Be-Given-Free-Reign-to-Do-Whatever-They-Want-No-Matter-The-Consequences need a full voice in the St. Louis media, and it's been proven time and time again that we will not get that voice by simply asking the gatekeepers to please, please cover our issues. We need to develop our own vehicles for creating and distributing the news. Karoli at Drums and Whistles, in a blog about Ariana Huffington, wrote the following:
I will give her this: In 2008, she did a good job of providing a platform for true progressives to be heard, something the left wing really doesn’t have. We have a lot of great blogs and sites out there (some that even get decent traffic, like Crooks and Liars and Balloon Juice), but nothing aggregating them or highlighting great thinkers.
Actually, the same is true of St. Louis. We already have all of the talent, time, and ability we need to create a powerful progressive voice, we just need to do it. We have amazing bloggers at Show Me Progress, Angry Black Bitch, Occasional Planet, Urban Review STL, Dangerous Intersection, Arch Pundit (not to be confused with Gateway Pundit), Momocrats, and Show Me No Hate. We have Ryan Witt at the Political Buzz Examiner who provides excellent coverage of national news. We have Fired Up Missouri which does an amazing job keeping up with state politics and covering story the mainstream media ignores. We've got a fantastic local environmental political cartoonist Joe Mohr. We've got Jeff McIntire-Strasburg, who founded the excellent Sustainablog. We have well known journalists like Sylvester Brown, Charles Jaco, and Chad Garrison who shine the light on politics from a progressive perspective. We have frequently excellent articles in the weekly St. Louis American. And, even more importantly, we have an incredible amount of talented and thoughtful people who can contribute even more, whether through direct reporting, photography, video, or many other mediums, if they are just given the opportunity and incentive to do so.

In short, a progressive voice in the media is ours for the taking: we just need to make it happen. And that is why a group of us bloggers created ForwardSTL, the voice for progressives in St. Louis. How can I so boldly claim that it's the voice for progressives? Easy: because if there's a progressive St. Louis voice in the media, we will make sure to highlight it! And if we missed something, then as long as someone tells us we will make sure to put it up. ForwardSTL is an aggregator, meaning it highlights the content of the excellent and caring individuals we have in St. Louis. And it does so in a way that doesn't take traffic from anyone: in order to read the full articles, you go to the original sites. So ForwardSTL drives traffic to the online content that expresses news or analysis of interest to progressives. Often, this will be progressive blogs: but we will also make sure to highlight important stories in the mainstream media to reward them for actually looking out for a key part of their readership.

Please help build progressive media in St. Louis. You can do so first by "liking" ForwardSTL on facebook by going here and following ForwardSTL on Twitter. If you make ForwardSTL a part of your regular web browsing routine, you will be guaranteed to get crucial information about news and politics on our region and the world (from St. Louis authors). Not only that, but if you are interested in contributing to the web site, via reporting or art or photography or video or audio or organizing social events or anything else that I'm missing, all you have to do is contact us and we'll be thrilled to include you on the site. And please make sure to invite all of your progressive friends to get involved as well. The media is moving further and further to the corporate Right: if we don't develop a way of amplifying the voice of the mainstream Left, Missouri will quite quickly be decimated by extreme right-wing hardball politics while our local media twiddles their thumbs.

Let's Be Honest: Gateway Pundit is a Conspiracy Theorist

Someone suggested that I make my This Week in Gateway Pundit post a regular feature. Unfortunately, he's so far out there I'm afraid I can't wait until the end of the week.

It's one thing to have extreme positions. But the reality is that Gateway Pundit is an out-and-out conspiracy theorist. In fact, due to the sheer volume of conspiracy theories he endorses, you might say he's even further out there than your average birther or truther. He just got done excitedly saying that Donald Trump has "given a bold new voice to the birther movement" yesterday, and now today he repeats the absolutely idiotic claim that Bill Ayers admitted he wrote Dreams of Our Father. Here's what Hoft wrote:
Like many have suspected, but most in the mainstream media and certainly in the White House will deny of course.. Just more affirmation of the fraud that is our President.
Imagine the media onslaught upon discovering that a former unrepentant radical terrorist repeatedly admitted on video he wrote George Bush’s first book. We would never hear the end of it. Of course they play by different rules when it comes to Obama. This will get the usual “nothing to see here, move along” from the MSM.
Unfortunately for Hoft and other full blown conspiracy theorists, the statement from Ayers was obviously a joke. Via Media Matters, here's the transcript:
Bill Ayers: One more, one more (question)

Question: Thank you sir, thank you, thank you. Time magazine columnist Joe Klein wrote that President Obama's book, "Dreams from My Father," quote: "may be the best written memoir ever produced by an American politician."

Ayers: I agree with that.

Question: What is your opinion of Barack Obama's style as a writer and uh ...

Ayers: I think the book is very good, the second book ("The Audacity of Hope") is more of a political hack book, but uh, the first book is quite good.

Question: Also, you just mentioned the Pentagon and Tomahawk ...

Ayers: Did you know that I wrote it, incidentally?

Question: What's that?

Ayers: I wrote that book.

Several audience members: Yeah, we know that.

Question: You wrote that?

Ayers: Yeah, yeah. And if you help me prove it, I'll split the royalties with you. Thank you very much.

Laughter and Applause
You can watch the video yourself to see that he's obviously joking:

In fact, this isn't even the first time Ayers made this joke.

I wonder if the tea party is going into full-blown conspiracy theory land because they know that the St. Louis media will never hold them accountable for any of the insane things they say. Ever.

Did Chip Wood "Forget" Or "Choose Not" To Pay His Website Bill?

Updated: See below.

Uh oh! We know that Republican County Assessor candidate Chip Wood didn't pay his property taxes. He first claimed that he didn't know about them, then he claimed that he chose not to pay them. But now it looks like he might not have paid the bill for his website either! Here's the screenshot from, which is apparently now suspended!

In stark contrast, the website of Jake Zimmerman, who does pay his taxes, is working just fine.

By the way, aside from this blog and Show Me Progress, no one has reported on Wood's blatantly conflicting statements. Naturally, the mainstream media completely missed it.

Update: Seems like the best answer is that Chip Wood forgot to pay, since his website is now back up. Nice of him to get around to paying his bills.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Shocker: Either Breitbart or Stranahan Isn't Telling the Truth

Not a huge deal, but just to illustrate that these folks have a chronic issue with being dishonest...

In a recent article, Andrew Breitbart claimed that Ariana Huffington reached out to him about blogging at the Huffington Post:
According to Breitbart, the idea for him writing for HuffPo’s front page came directly from the website’s founder, Arianna Huffington herself.

While he was at her house a month or so ago, Huffington floated the idea of her conservative friend writing some more prominent pieces for her site. After thinking about it for a few weeks, Breitbart agreed and published “NPR Is Collateral Damage in Battle to Brand Tea Party” on March 11.
However, Breitbart's blogger Lee Stranahan, whom Breitbart regularly promotes as "the Huffington-Post-blogger-who's-totally-liberal-except-for-hating-Planned-Parenthood-the-NAACP-ACORN-poor-people-Color-of-Change-President-Obama-the-Democratic-Party-Daily-Kos-public-schools-and-NPR" (by the way, if you think this means that maybe Stranahan isn't a liberal, that makes you a "facist"), claims that it was his idea and that he encouraged Breitbart to reach out to Ariana Huffington:

The Breitbart thing is partially my fault. I suggested to Andrew that he reach out beyond his normal base and spend a little time writing to people on the other side, specifically at HuffPo. I’ve had a few months now of seeing up close how Andrew has been badly maligned and viciously misrepresented by his critics and I thought that liberals deserved a chance to hear what he had to say without a filter.

More Stranaplant:
A couple of weeks back, I encouraged Andrew Breitbart to reach out a little to the other side and write something for The Huffington Post. He wrote a piece about the just breaking NPR scandal and he brought up those video tapes again that show that stories about the Tea Party’s racism were fake as the recent ‘poor people can only carry $20’ story.

So one of them isn't telling the truth. Which is it? Was it Stranahan's great idea? Or did Ariana Huffington reach out to Breitbart?

Hattie Jackson for STLCC Trustee

A note from friend and community leader Martin Rafanan:
I've known Hattie and Ron Jackson for years. They are progressive, focused on inclusion of all, and they have been stalwart leaders in the "achievement gap" movement and support of public and community education. I have worked with Hattie, who has been an administrator at St. Louis Community College (STLCC) for years. She is a great person whose grace and leadership under fire is well-known throughout the St. Louis community. She is fair and brings tremendous judgment to challenging issues because she has lived these issues as a parent of three successful public school graduates, as a successful administrator at STLCC and as a community advocate on education issues (leader of Achievement Gap work and supporting public and community education).

With her husband, Ron Jackson (recently retired from Vision for Children at Risk - community appreciation for Ron is scheduled for Monday, 3/28, 4-7pm at Vision for Children at Risk) who was a member of the Board of SLPS for many years, Hattie has been in the forefront of fighting for the education of ALL of our children and for inexpensive, accessible college education for all. Both have also been in the forefront of fighting bias, bigotry and racism throughout our community, working for inclusion and fair, equitable access for all.

If you want a leader who really cares about education and about our community's children, young adults and more mature learners, you need look no further than Hattie Jackson.

To learn more about her campaign and get involved, click here.

This Week In Gateway Pundit

In case anyone was wondering what our local right-wing conspiracy theorist was up to:
Back when the GOP had some dignity, Hoft would have been laughed or shamed out of the party.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Wagman: McCaskill Voting To Protect Middle Class Is "Cultivating An Image"

Ed Martin is running for something, and that inevitably means that his buddy Jake Wagman at the Post-Dispatch will be publishing a string of nonstop attacks on Martin's opponents. This past week, Wagman has been stretching out the McCaskill-paying-her-taxes-late story with a eye for trivial details that was never applied to, for example, Roy Blunt. Today's hit piece was questioning whether Claire McCaskill's wealth would be a liability for her.

Here's the most absurd part:
That type of financial wherewithal is a stark contrast to the image McCaskill has cultivated in nearly three decades of politics in Missouri — where she has traveled the state in an RV and stumped with her mother — and in Washington, where she has fought to increase the minimum wage and railed against Wall Street bonuses.
Actually, voting for the minimum wage and railing against Wall Street bonuses are not "cultivating an image." They are standing up for members of the non-leisure class.

But this is exactly what's wrong with our modern media, and with Jake Wagman in particular. The media is supposed to inform the citizens about issues that matter. Of course, what really matters are the policies under discussion and the effects those policies would have on people's lives. But this is precisely what the modern media does not want to discuss, for a number of reasons. First of all, it's hard work to understand policy, and some reporters are stretched thin and others are busy watching the Cardinals. Second, describing policy opens them up to charges of "bias" from people who have an interest in distorting reality. Thus, today's media adopts the cowardly position of "Democrats say this, Republicans say that," on all policy issues, and then does "investigative reporting" on relatively trivial issues like whether McCaskill has money. When I say "relatively trivial," of course I realize that having a lot of money can affect someone's judgment; however, it's not nearly as important as the actual political positions a person takes. Senator McCaskill's track record has consistently been one of standing up for the middle-class (at least, relative to the current D.C environment).

So here we are, with a mainstream media that inevitably focuses on the trivial while leaving readers uninformed about the actual issues. And this plays right into the Republican Party's hands since, after all, an informed public would never tolerate Republican's nonstop pandering to corporate giants who screw consumers, screw taxpayers, and don't even live up to their own stated ideology of "loving free markets."

Tea Party Valiantly Protects Bank of America From "Big Government"

OK, so maybe Bank of America regularly screws over the citizens of St. Louis and the rest of the United States. You can see examples of that here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. But they've got the word "America" in their title, so they must be extremely patriotic, right?

Tragically, from what I'm reading on tea party blogs, it must be extremely difficult for Bank of America to survive in this era of Big Government oppression. For example, after BOA and their other corporate buddies crashed the American economy in 2008, BOA only received a $45 billion dollar bailout. And, on top of that, they've had to pay zero dollars in federal taxes while their executives eeked by with only $6 to $30 million dollar salaries! With oppressive big government action like that, it's totally understandable that the St. Louis tea party is now working hard to protect the nearly defenseless (aside from billions of dollars) bank from protesters who remind the public of BOA's actions and challenge them on their unjust foreclosure practices.

Thank goodness the tea party is out there protecting the most vulnerable citizens of all: multibillion dollar companies who regularly distort the free market by infusing the political system with blood money.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Chip Wood's Conflicting Stories About Why He Didn't Pay Taxes

Yesterday, I noted how the Republican running to be in charge of property taxes does not even pay his own property taxes. In the original article reporting this, here's what Republican Chip Wood had to say:
The St. Louis City Collector of Revenue confirms that L.K. “Chip” Wood owes $12,458.56 for two years of unpaid property tax, penalties and interest — on the L.K. Wood real estate office at 5600 Hampton Avenue. “I guess the company didn’t have the money to make the payments,” Wood said Tuesday. “I apologize. It’s an oversight. I didn’t know where we stood with that until you just called me."

So he first claimed that he didn't know about it until he was called and that it was "an oversight." However, in the Post-Dispatch story yesterday, his story was quite different:
As for the city bill, Wood said his company had financial problems in December, when he decided to defer the taxes.

"We ran out of cash," Wood said. "Times are tough. We were caught flat-footed and had to make a decision."

Wood promised to pay the total due "in late spring or summer. ... There is no sinister or devious plan here, just an honest business guy trying to get by in hard times."

So he first claims that he didn't know about it, then he claims that he did know about it but decided not to pay. These two claims are not consistent.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Republican Who Wants To Be In Charge Of Property Taxes Doesn't Pay His Property Taxes

Since back taxes are in the news, maybe we should consider something with a little more serious practical implications than Claire McCaskill noticing that her accountant hadn't been listing some personal property taxes and then voluntarily paying them. There's an election coming up on April 5 for St. Louis County Assessor. This election will determine the person in charge of assigning property tax values to county real estate.

The entire function of the job is to deal with property taxes, so you would think it'd be a given that both of the candidates would have made sure that their own property taxes were in order. You'd be wrong. KMOX reported:
The St. Louis City Collector of Revenue confirms that L.K. “Chip” Wood owes $12,458.56 for two years of unpaid property tax, penalties and interest — on the L.K. Wood real estate office at 5600 Hampton Avenue. “I guess the company didn’t have the money to make the payments,” Wood said Tuesday. “I apologize. It’s an oversight. I didn’t know where we stood with that until you just called me.
And that wasn't his only problem:
Last week, Wood blamed a mailing address mix-up after a move for being late paying $2,400 in St. Louis County personal property tax. The county counselor has sent Wood a letter of apology noting that while Wood was late, he did pay his county tax bill before the county sued him for nonpayment.
So, if your job is to be in charge of property taxes, but you don't even pay your own, isn't that a pretty major problem?

Fortunately, Democrats have a great candidate in Jake Zimmerman:
So, if you live in St. Louis County, and you're voting for the guy who's in charge of property taxes, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that you should go with the guy who actually pays his own. Or, as the Post-Dispatch puts it:
If there must be an elected assessor, it should be someone professional enough to understand the complications of the job and compassionate enough to care about people with problems. Also, his taxes should be current. We recommend Jake Zimmerman.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Peter Kinder Hates High Speed Rail

Via Jason Rosenbaum, here's a video of Lt. Governor Peter Kinder dissing high-speed rail and praising Republican Governors who refused federal money for high-speed rail lines. Kinder refers to high-speed rail as "19th-century technology."

So much for capturing any of the urban enthusiast vote.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Tea Party Vs. The People

The St. Louis tea party and their associates like Chip Gerdes of Quincy, Illinois have been disturbingly obsessed lately with the local group MORE (Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment). Naturally, they go through their usual routine of claiming that MORE is a secret plot to take over the United States, but the real reason they hate MORE is because MORE has the audacity to challenge bad corporate actors like Bank of America who are scamming homeowners in St. Louis and across the country.

Charles Jaco had a nice report on this that riffed off of a meeting organized by MORE:

When they first started, the tea party claimed to stand up for the working guy. Now, they are proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were formed for the sole purpose of defending corporate abuses of power.

Friday, March 18, 2011

James O'Keefe's Straw Man

In light of On The Media's magnificent takedown of James O'Keefe, I thought it might be worthwhile to address his weak arguments head on. I don't imagine that many people who dislike O'Keefe will be very sympathetic to his claim that there's a double-standard against him, but there clearly is a small group of people who seem to take the claim seriously.

O'Keefe's basic argument is this: it's unfair that people expect him to release the full videos of his interactions when we don't expect the same from other media outlets. I can see how, on a completely abstract level, and after ignoring or being blinded to O'Keefe's history, this might make sense. However, the fact is that there are pretty important differences between O'Keefe and other media outlets and O'Keefe does have a problematic history.

So there are two basic problems with O'Keefe's argument: first, he has a history of dishonestly editing video and lying about the contents. This was clearly demonstrated in the On The Media interview. So even if you thought that we should trust information from outlets generally, we certainly shouldn't trust information from outlets that have demonstrated track records of dishonesty. Hence, there's a good reason why O'Keefe and Breitbart should be held to different standards than people who have no track record of dishonesty.

The second problem with O'Keefe's claim is that mainstream media outlets are accountable in a way that he is not. People who watch news from mainstream media outlets expect them to be honest, so if they were ever caught being as dishonest in their editing as O'Keefe is, they would severely jeopardize their self-interest (both in terms of profit and in terms of credibility). On the other hand, as has been demonstrated time and time again, if O'Keefe is caught being dishonest, he does not really lose anything of significance. His extremist followers still love him, because they believe he's waging a holy war against "the enemy," and his wealthy backers still support him because they care more about ideological battle than about the truth. Thus, O'Keefe has no accountability because he has no incentive to be honest, whereas mainstream news outlets clearly do have this incentive, even as they are being driven by market forces.

So O'Keefe's strawman is doubly flawed. His documented dishonest and lack of accountability provide good reasons for "holding him to a different standard."

James O'Keefe Exposed on NPR's "On The Media"

Since I've been discussing the unethical practices of O'Keefe and his disciples in the St. Louis tea party, this is an absolutely fantastic recent takedown of James O'Keefe on NPR's "On the Media":

The host expose exposes blatantly misleading edits by O'Keefe, and O'Keefe's only response is to attack some vague straw man that says "everyone must release full unedited video at all times." The reality is that O'Keefe has been busted numerous times blatantly lying and editing video to reflect the exact opposite of reality. That's indefensible, and it's no wonder that O'Keefe refuses to take on the criticisms directly.

Would The St. Louis Media Report Responsibly On An O'Keefe/Breitbart Smear Job?

A couple years ago, James O'Keefe worked with a small group of students at Washington University to set up a mock "gulag" that warned about the "dangers of Communism" while blasting loud music across campus. O'Keefe created a video claiming that "University Political Officials Shut Down a Gulag Memorial" and his partner John Burns claimed the university shut down the display because it was "too offensive." These claims turned out to be blatantly false, as even members of the student group who co-sponsored the display, Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), admitted that the group only got permits for passing out fliers and never mentioned that they would be building a display in the middle of campus. Also noted by the YAL members, the university is quite accommodating to different viewpoints, as long as the rules are followed, which they were not in this case.

Despite the blatantly misleading spin of O'Keefe, Burns, and the Breitbart websites, the local St. Louis media never pointed out the facts. Both KMOX and the Post-Dispatch covered the story, but neither bothered to fact-check the blatantly misleading claims from the O'Keefe/Breitbart crew, which could easily have been verified by asking the university for the specific policies. The Post-Dispatch does mention the university perspective, but presents it as a "one side says this, the other side says this" story rather than bothering to get the actual facts. Readers were not given an opportunity to come to an informed opinion about the incident, because they were not provided with the facts needed to do so.

But that was a while ago, at the beginning of the new era of right-wing smear jobs posing as "citizen journalism." Since that time, a number of things have happened that should discredit Breitbart's websites and James O'Keefe in the eyes of anyone who has the slightest concern for the truth. For example:
  • James O'Keefe entered a Senator's attempting to illegally record phone conversations. They were arrested under suspicion of wiretapping, and later plea bargained down to a charge of entering a federal building under false pretenses.
  • James' O'Keefe's videos on ACORN for Breitbart's site were said to be severely and misleadingly edited by the Attorney General of California and many other public officials.
  • O'Keefe was caught trying to sexually humiliate a CNN reporter by luring her onto a boat full of sex toys and trying to "seduce" her under false pretenses.
  • Breitbart released misleadingly-edited videos suggesting that USDA employee Shirley Sherrod was "racist" when in fact she was telling a story about how race doesn't matter.
  • O'Keefe misleadingly edited a video to suggest that NPR executive Ron Schiller called the tea party "racist" when in fact Schiller was recounting what someone else said.

  • So given this clear track record of blatant dishonesty from the Breitbart and O'Keefe school of smearing, would any credible journalistic institution still take their word on videos without first fact-checking? Unfortunately, given recent statements from Steve Parker at the Post-Dispatch and the overall pathetic media performance around the NPR video, I'm not very hopeful about the answer to that question. Nevertheless, I have some things to say about how a media institution that was motivated by the ideals of responsible journalism and a pursuit of the truth might react to material from Breitbart and O'Keefe in the future.

    First, it should be obvious that a credible media institution shouldn't take the word of anyone at Breitbart's websites at face value without fact-checking. This should be true of taking the word of anyone for journalists, but is especially the case for institutions that have a proven track record of distorting the truth. Passing on information from a Breitbart web site without fact checking given what we now know about them exhibits a blatant disregard for the truth and for honest journalism.

    Second, video stories from Breitbart web sites should not be reported on unless the full videos are released.
    This should be standard practice, but again is especially crucial in cases where you're dealing with people with proven track records of twisting the truth. This applies to O'Keefe, to Breitbart, and to local folks like Adam Sharp and Bill Hennessy who have been caught lying and engaging in disingenous tactics. Posting information before getting the full facts has resulted in a number of innocent people being fired, and our modern media shares some of the blame for this fact.

    Third, and finally, these outlets should not blast out a "BREAKING!" story without speaking to the people highlighted in the smear videos and giving them an opportunity to look into the issue and produce a thoughtful response.
    Of course, the pressure of the modern news cycle makes this difficult, but journalistic institutions need to be about having their audience's trust first, and focus on the "OMG BREAKING" stuff second. In particular, O'Keefe and Breibart often link their stories to grand conspiracy theories that implicate their political enemies, and news organizations should be particularly careful to resist guilt-by-flimsy-association allegations.

    And this, ultimately, is the most important point. If you call yourself a "new organization," you should engage in careful, thoughtful pursuit of the real facts. If you lazily or sensationalistically pass on information from Breitbart, O'Keefe, or their local lackeys, you are betraying your audiences trust. And while you may think it's worth it to push for those short-term ratings boosts, in the long run this approach to news will lead to the demise of organizations who practice it.

    Post-Dispatch Asks if NPR Smear is Ethical Without Noting that Videos Were Deceptively Edited

    How's this for being completely out-of-the-loop? The Post-Dispatch wrote a post today asking if James O'Keefe's video smear pieces are "ethical reporting." Of course, they don't bother to mention that O'Keefe's despicable tactics include attempting to sexually humiliate a female CNN reporter by isolating her on a boat full of sex toys and attempting to "seduce" her. But even worse, the author Steve Parker doesn't even seem to be familiar with the basic facts about O'Keefe's smear job on NPR. The original video presented by O'Keefe falsely suggested that former NPR executive Ron Schiller called the tea party racist. As originally caught by conservative website The Blaze, and since reported on by numerous outlets including CNN, NPR, Media Matters for America, Slate, Schiller was actually passing on what another person told him.

    Here's how O'Keefe originally presented the words:
    SCHILLER: The current Republican party is not really the Republican party. It's been hijacked by this group -- that is --

    "AMIR MALIK": The radical, racist, Islamophobic, tea party people?

    SCHILLER: And not just Islamophobic but really xenophobic
    And here's reality:
    SCHILLER: I won't break a confidence, but a person who was an ambassador -- so a very highly placed Republican -- another person who was one of the top donors to the Republican Party, they both told me they voted for Obama, which they never believed they could ever do in their lives. That they could ever vote for a Democrat, ever. And they did, because they believe that the current Republican Party is not really the Republican Party. It's been hijacked by this group that is

    "AMIR MALIK": The radical, racist, Islamophobic, Tea Party people?

    SCHILLER: Exactly. And not just Islamophobic but really xenophobic.
    O'Keefe's edit completely changed the sound of the conversation and falsely implied that Schiller was using that terminology himself.

    Yet the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, while asking people whether O'Keefe is "ethical," leaves out the fundamental criticism of his "sting," and information that completely undercuts his case. Great way to foster healthy dialogue.

    Post-Dispatch Reports on Protest Without Saying *Why* There Was a Protest

    Almost one week after completely ignoring a 4,300 person pro-union rally in Kiener Plaza and then offering a lame excuse, the Post-Dispatch today reported on Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE) protesting at a "100 Most Influential St. Louisans" event." The only problem? They didn't even bother to explain why MORE was protesting. Jake Wagman titled his post "Polite Protesters Interrupt Nixon at SLU" and only provided this as an explanation:
    An appearance by Gov. Jay Nixon at St. Louis University was briefly interrupted Friday morning by a group protesting foreclosures and bank bailouts.
    How exactly are readers supposed to know anything about the group's motivations based on that description?

    For those would who like to know the actual statement of the group, Damien Johnson grabbed some video of the actual speech:

    What they were asking for is that foreclosures be stopped until a just system be put in place, in contrast to the shameful actions currently being practiced by Bank of America and other bad banks.

    Again, compare this to their coverage of the tea party. Would the Post-Dispatch ever even dream of covering a tea party event without passing on the tea party explanation of what the event was about? Why is it so hard for the Post-Dispatch to give fair coverage to anyone who opposes the abuse of power by corporate America?

    Wednesday, March 16, 2011

    Creepy Tea Party Tweets About Activist's Home

    Apparently, carrying a coffin to Congressman Carnahan's home last year just wasn't quite creepy enough for the St. Louis Tea Party, as they now have taken up tweeting about where local activists live.

    Chip Gerdes (@tookiew on Twitter), a Republican operative from Quincy, Illinois, started tweeting about where a local female organizer for Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment lives, making sure to use the term "DemRats," and Bill Hennessy and the St. Louis Tea Party quickly followed suit. Here are Gerdes obsessive tweets:

    And here's Bill Hennessy and the official St. Louis Tea Party retweeting Tookie's claim about "rats."

    In addition to calling liberal activists "rats" and obsessing about where they live, Gerdes also likes to suggest that liberals have "ticks," and that people who ride the trains "eat out of dumpters:'

    Hmm, where have we heard that type of rhetoric before? This kind of dehumanizing rhetoric from the tea party and their ability to put aside all standards of decency when dealing with people they perceive as "the enemy" is seriously disturbing.

    Tea Party's John Burns Involved in O'Keefe's Smear of Heroic New Jersey Teacher

    John Burns of the St. Louis Tea Party is a part of James O'Keefe's crew of dishonest videographers. He and O'Keefe collaborated on a hoax at Washington University where they claimed they were being oppressed after setting up a display without getting the necessary permits (the fact that it was a hoax, by the way, was revealed by an intern at the right-wing Show Me Institute). O'Keefe and Burns later attempted to disrupt an LGBT rally in St. Louis by interfering in the rally and writing "free abortions" on one of the signs. And as reported by CNN, John Burns was also part of the crew that was planned O'Keefe's failed attempt to sexually humiliate a CNN reporter.

    Now, in the wake of revelations from Glenn Beck's website that O'Keefe deceptively edited a video attacking an NPR executive, I thought it might be worthwhile pointing out another shameful O'Keefe project John Burns was involved in. I wrote back in November about an innocent victim of a Breitbart/O'Keefe smear campaign. Loesch and others had claimed that the video showed that New Jersey teachers union members called students "the n-word" and focused their attacks on a teacher named Alissa Ploshnick. Actually Ploshnick did not call a student "the n-word:" rather, she described that another teacher had done so while telling a story about how difficult it was for teachers to be fired. Nevertheless, she was initially suspended from her job after O'Keefe's smear video came out. It turned out that Ploshnick was a heroic teacher who had previously thrown herself in front of a van to protect her students.

    Ploschnick, at the time, commented on the deceitful manner in which O'Keefe's collaborators operated:
    "I felt like I was raped,’’ says Ploshnick referring to the moment she learned that what she thought was a private, even flirtatious, talk with a "nice" young man who bought her drinks was really part of a political scam to discredit her union in an web videotape called "Teachers Gone Wild.’’

    "Give me a smile and say hello and I’ll do anything for you,’’ says Ploshnick. "I’ve always done it. It’s hard to reteach your heart and your brain.’’
    I recognized John Burns' voice in the video speaking to Ploschnick, and I also thought this person looked remarkably similar to Burns:

    I emailed the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) back in November, and told them I thought I knew who one of the people who deceived Ploshnick was, and they asked me to pass along photos and video, which I did. When I asked if it was Burns, they confirmed that he was one of the O'Keefe agents involved.

    My email:

    The response:

    (note: I've blacked out the names here, but am happy to provide the original emails to the press)

    This seems to reveal a disturbing pattern for Burns. In one instance, he was involved in helping O'Keefe plan how to isolate a CNN reporter, whom they referred to as a "bubble-headed-bleach-blond", on a boat full of sex toys where O'Keefe would try to "seduce" her. In another instance, Burns and another guy buy drinks for and flirt with a teacher, while egging her on to say things that would damage teachers. These incidents call Burns' character into serious question.

    In the Media Matters discussion of O'Keefe's misleadingly edited NPR tapes, they asked, "Why Would Anyone Trust What O'Keefe Says About His NPR Video?" Given the local tea party's close collaboration with O'Keefe and Breitbart, and their own history of shamelessly distorting and inventing facts, I think we can ask something similar for St. Louis: "Why would anyone trust what the St. Louis Tea Party claims about their edited videos?" There's no question that the local tea party will continue to release misleadingly edited videos. However, there is a major question looming about how much integrity our local media will show in carefully evaluating the claims and doing a thorough investigation before reporting on willfully distorted videos.

    Gateway Pundit Outraged By Things He Did Less Than A Year Ago

    Jim "Gateway Pundit" Hoft has naturally been looking for anything he can find to try to demonize the peaceful Wisconsin protesters whose rallies put the tea party to shame and showed the country what real grassroots looks like. Unfortunately for Hoft, however, most of the stuff he finds to be morally indignant about is stuff that he did last year.

    First, Hoft was ranting about the left was "indoctrinating" children by teaching them chants against Scott Walker. Says Hoft:
    Of course, the kids have no idea what they’re chanting about.
    But apparently you're never too young to be taught to hate "evil leftists" since Hoft and other St. Louis tea partiers encouraged young children to throw boots at a picture of Congressman Russ Carnahan:

    A little earlier, Hoft was outraged that Wisconsin Democrats protested at a Republican politician's home. Which seems to me like a reasonable criticism, except for the fact that Jim Hoft carried a coffin to Russ Carnahan's home the day after the health care reform bill passed, and after a week of saber rattling rhetoric from the St. Louis tea party (Bill Hennessy is speaking in the video, but Hoft is standing on the right side of the screen):

    Hmmm, OK, so the tea party has young children participate in their actions, and they have no qualms about going to people's houses, but I guess there is one big difference between their behavior and that of the Wisconsin protesters. Namely, I haven't seen any evidence that the Wisconsin protesters have set fire to photos of Republicans. But that's exactly what the tea party and Hoft did last year (that's CNN contribute Dana Loesch's voice in the video, by the way):

    So yeah, Hoft is morally outraged that the Wisconsin protesters are behaving better than he did. Figures.

    Tuesday, March 15, 2011

    Activist Hub Radio 3/13/11:The Media's problem with Labor & NPR Punked by James O'Keefe's Lies

    Adam and I discussed the mainstream media's poor coverage of the 4000+ pro-Labor rally in St. Louis, particularly the St. Louis Post Dispatch, and KMOV. We moved on to NPR getting punked by James O'Keefe's deceitful video editing, and ended the show discussing the Obama administration's maltreatment of Pfc. Bradley Manning.

    Also we are on itunes so please subscribe Activist Hub Radio on Itunes.

    Monday, March 14, 2011

    Christopher Ave's Inadequate Explanation of the Post-Dispatch Ignoring a 4,300 Person Labor Rally

    I received an email response from Chrisopher Ave with a purported explanation of why the St. Louis Post-Dispatch shamefully ignored a pro-union rally of over 4,300 people last Friday in Kiener Plaza:
    Thanks for taking the time to email. I'm sorry that we failed to cover Friday's rally. As you know, Friday was a very busy news day with two local court sentencings and the tragedy in Japan. We had a reporter at the rally, but he was called away to help cover local reactions to the tsunami. Our photographers were engaged covering the court developments that unfortunately were scheduled at the same time.

    Again, thanks for expressing your views. While we don't cover every rally, this is one we should have covered. I'm sorry that we let you down in this case.


    Christopher Ave
    Political Editor
    St. Louis Post-Dispatch
    While I agree that the Tsunami was an shockingly tragic story and one well worth covering in the paper, this response strikes me as incredibly odd and stands in contradiction of previous comments. First of all, when the Post-Dispatch was criticized earlier for completely ignoring the protests in Wisconsin, their response was that they are a "local paper" focused on local news. This confirms what former columnist Sylvester Brown reported at the online organizing training in December, where he said he was continually told not to write about national issues at the Post. Yet when there's a huge pro-worker rally in St. Louis, all of a sudden they need all hands on deck to get local reactions to a story from across the world. Don't get me wrong: there's no question Tsunami coverage needed to be in the paper, but why send a reporter away from a rally in progress with 4,300 people? Also, Ave's response claimed that the reporter was called away "to help" get local reactions, which implied that there were already other reporters working on that story. Did they really need multiple people working on a nonlocal story? Shouldn't the main daily be prepared and able to cover multiple events? How hard would it have been for them simply to have included a photograph or a short paragraph that noted that 4,300 people rallied in downtown St. Louis?

    Furthermore, compare this non-coverage to the fact that the Post-Dispatch bends over backwards to write a 600 word article about a tea party rally with 1/8 as many people last April. Would they even dream of ignoring a 1,000 person rally from the tea party, let alone a 4,000 person rally, in St. Louis? Of course not.

    I don't think Ave's response is adequate. If Ave and the Post-Dispatch were really concerned, they could still find ways of writing about this story and informing their readers. But if they keep this shoddy coverage up, they're not going to have many readers left.

    Activist Hub Radio 3/13/11: Interview with Cathy Sherwin

    Adam and I interviewed Cathy Sherwin about the recently passed anti-labor legislation in Wisconsin, and the groundswell of protest across the country including the 4000+ rally in St. Louis. The second segment of the show will be in a separate post.

    Also we are on itunes so please subscribe Activist Hub Radio on Itunes.

    Surprise! Gateway Pundit Was Completely Wrong On Attempted Smear of Rep. Ellison

    First Jim "Gateway Pundit" Hoft made fun of Representative Keith Ellison's heartfelt testimony about a Muslim first responder killed during 9-11. Then he called Ellison a liar. His evidence? One of his knuckle-dragging right-wing buddies wasn't able to find anything about the story on the google. Unfortunately for Hoft, other people who actually know how to do basic research looked into the story, and found out that he got it compltely wrong.

    From TPM:
    But it turns out there were multiple reports in newspapers and on television supporting the fact that there were rumors about Hamdani. In a Sept. 21, 2001 interview with CBS, Hamdani's mother said they were "having troubles coping with it because we can't go outside without having people give us looks and have this feeling that, 'Hey, you're to blame for this.' It's, like, we're being targeted for something we didn't even do."

    As Shaffer points out, a Oct. 12, 2001 New York Post story titled "Missing -- or Hiding? Mystery of NYPD Cadet from Pakistan" (which no longer exists online) reports that "investigators for the FBI and NYPD have since questioned the family about which Internet chat rooms he visited and if he was political." (His mother called that article "slander" in an interview on Democracy Now following the hearing yesterday.)

    Then the New York Daily News reported on April 6, 2002, that the "story of a Pakistani-born Muslim man living in Queens who was unexpectedly missing after Sept. 11 quickly took on sinister implications."

    The New York Times reported on March 9, 2003, that "ugly rumors circulated: he was a Muslim and worked in a lab; he might have been connected to a terrorist group. Months later the truth came out.
    Don't expect an apology from Hoft, though. He likes to keep his readers stupid, uninformed, and perpetually angry. Otherwise, how else could they stand to read his garbage?

    Sunday, March 13, 2011

    The Fox Guarding St. Louis's Henhouse

    In the wake of the Post-Dispatch's shameful non-coverage of 4,300 union supporters rallying in Kiener Plaza, I want to return to a story that I meant to discuss in much greater detail a while ago. After Lee Enterprises bought the Post-Dispatch, they tried to persuade a number of employees to retire early. As part of this persuasion, they said, in writing, that they would provide free health care for life to the employees that accepted early retirement. However, despite Lee's continued profits, late last year they sent a letter to retirees informing them that they would no longer be paying for their health care. That, as you might imagine, had devastating effects for many retirees.

    One such retiree is Fred Jackson, a man currently undergoing treatment for cancer. Lee Enterprise's greedy decision will quite literally bankrupt Mr. Jackson at a time he needs to pay for his treatment, but they simply do not care. Please take four minutes and watch the excellent video produced by Hotflash at Show Me Progress:
    Just think about that for a second. The company managing the "paper of record" for the St. Louis region cares so little about humanity that they are willing to lie to cancer patients and then screw them over for the sake of a couple fractions of a percentage of extra profit. Lee Enterprises directly embodies the picture of corporate greed unburdened by an inkling of conscience. Can we really expect them to give fair coverage to workers fighting for a fair salary? Can we really think that they, when the chips are down, will provide unbiased coverage of a battle between corporate entities that share their exact same philosophy (profit! profit! profit! and screw the collateral damage!) and the middle class?

    Increasingly, I think we can't. The Post-Dispatch has an excellent editorial board and many great employees, but their local political reporting has been going down the toilet and is doing so in a way that tips off the owners' allegiances. I really hope the Beacon, the Riverfront Times, and the St. Louis American can increasingly fill the giant gap left by the failure of the Post-Dispatch's political reporting. And I hope even more that citizens of St. Louis who believe in anything other than mindless, heartless, unwavering support for corporate profits will begin to create and distribute their own news, and cease to be dependent for their primary local news on an entity with so little respect for human life.

    We will always fight for progress and reform, never tolerate injustice or corruption, always fight demagogues of all parties, always oppose privileged classes and public plunderers, never lack sympathy with the poor, always remain devoted to the public welfare, never be satisfied with merely printing news, always be drastically independent, never be afraid to attack wrong, whether by predatory plutocracy or predatory poverty.
    -Joseph Pulitzer (though I first heard it from Sylvester Brown)

    A Tale of Two Rallies

    Hotflash at Show Me Progress wrote yesterday about how the St. Louis Post-Dispatch shamefully ignored a 4,300+ person Rally Against Corporate Greed at Kiener Plaza in downtown St. Louis on Friday.

    As a point of reference, compare this to a 500 person rally in downtown Clayton last April by the tea party. For the tea party rally:
    • The Post-Dispatch wrote a 600 word article about the rally.
    • The article was accompanies by a photograph.
    • The article contained absolutely no opposing voices or criticisms of the tea party, but instead just shared their unfiltered message.
    On the other hand, for a rally with 4300 (8 times more) people who support the middle class we had:
    • No story.
    • No photographs.
    • Nothing.
    It's becoming increasingly clear that the political reporting of the Post-Dispatch completely fails to fairly report on the issues that the citizens of St. Louis care about. One thing we can do is contact their political director Chistopher Ave ( ) and tell him to stop ignoring everyone to the left of Michelle Bachman. But the most important thing is that we need to start building our own media. We need our own people to cover, record, and photograph events, and our own ways of distributing the content. Relying on corporate media like Lee Enterprises will be a losing propositions in the long-term, and one only needs to glance at how they treat their workers to know that their loyalties lie far away from Joseph Pulitzer's.