Finance Reform "At Long Last"; Lauer’s Switch on Tax Cuts; Terrorism Pay-Off for Arafat; Editor Takes Liberal Bias Seriously
1) "At Long Last, Campaign Finance Reform,"
trumpeted the headline over a Time magazine online story which didn’t
hide its enthusiasm for the regulatory scheme.
2) ABC’s Diane Sawyer celebrated the passage of campaign
finance reform as a "big moment in Washington," but George
Stephanopoulos dampened her enthusiasm by explaining that it's only
"going to shift the influence from these fat cats who can write
$200,000 checks to networkers who have big Rolodexes and then get 100
people to write $2,000 checks." CNN’s Aaron Brown worried the new
law may not go far enough and may be vulnerable in the courts.
3) Last summer, after the tax cut rebate checks started
being distributed, NBC’s Matt Lauer raised the argument that the
government could not afford to lose the revenue. But this week, Lauer
noted that "thanks to the new tax laws Americans are seeing bigger
tax refunds this year" and declared: "It's nice that people are
getting more money."
4) Newsweek’s Dan Ephron pointed out on MSNBC that
terrorism has paid off for Yasser Arafat since "the way Arafat has
employed violence in the last couple of months has certainly produced
gains for the Palestinians. It has brought about international decisions
that are good for the Palestinians."
5) Miami Herald Executive Editor Tom Fiedler "was so
impressed with [Bernard] Goldberg's book that he invited him to lunch
recently with several of the paper's senior managers." But Herald
reporter Glenn Garvin found that ABC’s Peter Jennings is still in
denial, maintaining journalists "recognize bias and work hard to keep
it out of their coverage."
6) More subscriber comments on sending CyberAlert in HTML
versus plain text. Plus, the debate put to prose.
Attention Yahoo! Mail users: If you didn’t receive the March 21
CyberAlert in your "in box" check your "bulk mail"
folder. In my Yahoo! Mail account that’s where I found that Yahoo placed
the March 21 CyberAlert. You can also view it online at:
magazine’s online page certainly didn’t pretend to provide an
impartial look at campaign finance reform, displaying in its headline its
enthusiasm for the new regulatory scheme: "At Long Last, Campaign
Finance Reform." The subhead over the article posted late Wednesday
and brought to my attention by the MRC’s Owen Sweeney: "It's been a
long road for John McCain, Russell Feingold and the other supporters of
reform, but their moment has finally arrived."
A link highlighted beside the March 20 story
by Time reporters Jessica Reaves and Douglass Waller brought readers to a
February 20 opinion piece by Waller in which he hailed how the bill
"choking off hundreds of millions of unregulated soft dollars that
poured into the Republican and Democratic parties to buy influence will
certainly be a welcome reform." For that piece: http://www.time.com/time/columnist/waller/article/0,9565,211553,00.html
But the March 20 story was just as opinionated
in applauding the wonderful virtues of the bill which restricts free
speech for everyone but incumbents and the news media. Reaves and Waller
were concerned not about impingements on free speech but about how the law
is not strict enough, so people may find a way around it to still get evil
money into politics. An excerpt:
Victory and vindication came at last for John McCain Wednesday when the
Senate gave up and passed the sweeping campaign finance reform bill that
had made it through the House last month....
Supporters hope the bill will lessen the impact of massive
contributions on political decisions by restricting the amount of
"soft money" that companies or organizations can inject into the
system, either directly to a party or candidate or through television or
radio ads promoting their agenda. The move away from giant, unregulated
donations is critical, reform advocates insist, for politicians anxious to
regain the trust of the electorate.
The legislation's sponsors, including Sen. McCain, hail the passage as
a step toward cleaning up a system polluted by big money. But not everyone
is quite so optimistic; some politicos doubt whether the new laws will do
much to pare political contributions, theorizing that serious donors will
simply find new avenues for their cash. And others fear the changes will
only reinforce the power of incumbents by drying up challengers' primary
source of funding: the Republican and Democratic National Committees. And,
as with every law, there are ways around it....
After Nov. 5, however, the bill would have a dramatic effect --
preventing corporations, unions and fat cats from writing million-dollar
checks to buy influence with the parties. (Enron and its affiliates, for
example, spent over $2 million in soft money for the 2000 elections.) But
just as water tends to find ways to flow, "money will still get to
the campaigns," predicts a G.O.P. fund raiser. Special-interest
groups wouldn't be able to use soft money to broadcast attacks on radio or
TV just before an election, but the bill doesn't prevent them from putting
that cash into direct-mail, e-mails or get-out-the-vote campaigns against
a candidate. The soft-money spigot would be shut for the parties, but more
regulated "hard money" would be allowed to pour in. Under the
bill, a donor could give $2,000 to a single candidate and a maximum of
$95,000 to different candidates and party organizations during a two-year
election cycle. That's almost double the current hard-money limits....
The last time Congress passed sweeping campaign-finance reform was in
1974, after the Watergate scandal. But the big bucks have long since crept
back in. "Any campaign-finance reform law works for a period of
time," says Anthony Corrado, a Colby College professor of government.
"But it has to be revisited from time to time, or the money will find
ways to get back into the system."
END of Excerpt
In other words, it’s a never-ending process
which assumes money is bad.
To read the entire article: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,218989,00.html
Sawyer celebrated the passage of campaign finance reform as a "big
moment in Washington" and in "American politics," but
George Stephanopoulos soon dampened her enthusiasm by explaining that the
Supreme Court may knock down some provisions and it's only "going to
shift the influence from these fat cats who can write $200,000 checks to
networkers who have big Rolodexes and then get 100 people to write $2,000
The night before, CNN anchor Aaron Brown
shared in Senator John McCain’s triumph, telling him: "You must be
extraordinarily happy today." Brown only worried about the new law
not going far enough: "Do you have any concern that...there's still
going to be plenty of money in politics and plenty of opportunity to spend
money." Brown wanted to know: "Are you concerned about
vulnerability of any part of this in the courts?"
> The MRC’s Jessica Anderson caught this
exchange on the March 21 Good Morning America:
Diane Sawyer: "Well, a big, big moment in
Washington yesterday and American politics. John McCain said after seven
years of struggling for campaign finance reform, he couldn't believe he
just got it....What difference is it going to make?" George
Stephanopoulos: "Well, it's a big win for John McCain, a powerful
symbol, but I'm not sure how much difference it's going to make on the
ground. First of all, it doesn't take effect until after the 2002
election, so no effect at all on these congressional elections. Secondly,
this is going straight to the Supreme Court and they may knock out
provisions of the bill -- that's number two. But I think the big
difference is it might not change how much money is raised, but it's going
to change how the money is raised, and it's going to shift the influence
from these fat cats who can write $200,000 checks to networkers who have
big Rolodexes and then get 100 people to write $2,000 checks....My guess
is the Court will decide this before the 2004 election."
"Alright, well, a big event in Washington yesterday, maybe."
"Yeah, right. We'll see."
> CNN’s Aaron Brown posed these questions
to McCain on the March 20 NewsNight, MRC analyst Ken Shepherd observed:
-- "Senator McCain, when did you begin to
believe, really believe that this day would happen, that you'd win
"Because you'd never believed opponents could filibuster it to death
or amend it to death?"
to the Enron scandal: "It made it more difficult for people to vote
do you have any concern that in some respects you all have promised more
than in fact the bill can deliver that there's still going to be plenty of
money in politics and plenty of opportunity to spend money."
you concerned about vulnerability of any part of this in the courts?"
argument being there that it is an unconstitutional infringement on free
a half a minute or so left, you must be extraordinarily happy today."
NBC’s Matt Lauer appreciates the benefits of the tax cut. Last summer,
after the tax cut rebate checks started being distributed, Lauer pointed
out how "Democrats are now saying, ‘You know what? People are
running around spending those checks to spur on the economy and it’s
money the government can’t afford.’" But on Thursday morning this
week, the MRC’s Geoffrey Dickens noticed in picking up on the contrast,
Lauer noted that "thanks to the new tax laws Americans are seeing
bigger tax refunds this year" and declared: "It's nice that
people are getting more money."
Back on the August 28, 2001 Today, Lauer
pressed OMB Director Mitch Daniels with the odd argument that the tax cut
hurt the economy because it deprived the government of money it could
better spend: "Let me go back and play devil’s advocate for a
second. You talk about the rebate checks that were sent to the, to the
taxpayers. It was their money and sent back to them. The President wanted
$1.6 trillion in tax cuts. He got about $1.35 trillion. Democrats are now
saying, ‘You know what? People are running around spending those checks
to spur on the economy and it’s money the government can’t
Fast forward seven months, and on the March 21
Today Lauer set up a segment: "This morning on Today's Money what to
do with that tax refund? Thanks to the new tax laws Americans are seeing
bigger tax refunds this year. Averaging at roughly $2100 per person.
Today's financial editor Jean Chatzky is here to suggest some things you
can do with all that money. Jean good morning, nice to see you. It's nice
that people are getting more money. Now the question is what do you go out
and do with it?"
media often refer to the "cycle of violence" in Israel, as if
Palestinian terrorism and the Israeli response to it are equally at fault.
But on MSNBC’s The News with Brian Williams on Monday night, a Newsweek
reporter pointed out what many conservatives have, that by employing
suicide bombers for which Israel retaliates, which leads to international
condemnation of Israel and consideration of Palestinian demands, Yasser
Arafat has made terrorism pay off for him.
In a March 18 "First Person"
segment, in which a reporter recounts his observations on camera, Newsweek
reporter Dan Ephron delivered the following analysis, the MRC’s Brad
Wilmouth noticed: "Palestinians
say openly that they have been inspired by the Hezbollah, by the militants
in Lebanon, that the militants managed through violence, through
inflicting the pain on Israelis to get the Israelis to get up and
withdraw. Militants in Lebanon killed about 25 Israeli soldiers per year
in the last years of Israeli occupation in south Lebanon. The Palestinians
have killed nearly 350 Israelis in the last year-and-a-half alone. So if
the strategy worked for the militants in Lebanon, Palestinians certainly
see it as something that could work for them. What could be said is the
way Arafat has employed violence in the last couple of months has
certainly produced gains for the Palestinians. It has brought about
international decisions that are good for the Palestinians, and it brought
American attention. I would imagine that the signal that gets sent is that
in certain scenarios violence is effective, it does work. I think we'll
probably see in next couple of days some kind of cease-fire...I'm sure
that Sharon has an interest in lowering the level of violence in terms of
his own popularity. I'm not sure that for Arafat's domestic and
international interests that lowering the level of violence serves
top-level journalist has taken as a serious problem to be addressed
Bernard Goldberg’s premise that the media tilt to the left. The Miami
Herald reported on Sunday that its Executive Editor, Tom Fiedler,
"was so impressed with Goldberg's book that he invited him to lunch
recently with several of the paper's senior managers."
But Miami Herald reporter Glenn Garvin found
that ABC’s Peter Jennings is still in denial. While Garvin reported that
Jennings "concedes that newsrooms sit well to the left of American
society," he "insists that makes no difference" since,
Jennings maintained, journalists "recognize bias and work hard to
keep it out of their coverage."
You may recall the name Tom Fiedler from 1984
when he was the Miami Herald reporter who discovered Gary Hart’s
relationship with Donna Rice.
Jim Romenesko's MediaNews (http://www.poynter.org/medianews/)
highlighted the story and former MRCer Clay Waters alerted me to the
Fiedler and Jennings comments deep within it. An excerpt from the March 17
Miami Herald story about Miami-area resident Goldberg and reaction to his
book, Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News:
ABC anchor Peter Jennings says bias is hard to detect because it isn't
there. He concedes that newsrooms sit well to the left of American
society, but insists that makes no difference.
"We all have baggage," Jennings says. "But one of the
good things about journalists is that they recognize bias and work hard to
keep it out of their coverage...You can have all sorts of people who voted
for Bill Clinton, but the media gave Clinton one hell of a time. Now we
hear a lot from people who complain that we don't give George Bush as hard
a time as we gave Bill Clinton."
Others are not so sure. "Goldberg is right in that there are
belief systems at work here that influence us," says Tom Fiedler, The
Herald's executive editor, who was so impressed with Goldberg's book that
he invited him to lunch recently with several of the paper's senior
"I hate to say there's a political correctness that guides us, but
I think there is. We tend to give more credibility to groups on the
liberal side of the spectrum than on the conservative side... We have to
guard against falling into a groupthink."
END of Excerpt
For the entire article:
As for Jennings’ contention about giving
Clinton "one hell of a time," let’s not forget how hard a time
they gave the law enforcer, Ken Starr, as the networks worked to undermine
the legitimacy of his probe. To whatever extent Jennings is on to
something, Clinton got a hard time from the media for the mechanics of his
administration and his personal behavior, not for his policies -- at least
whenever they pleased liberals. In short, Clinton was criticized for the
incompetence of needing three tries to find an Attorney General. George W.
Bush was criticized for picking a "far right" one who once
defended the Confederacy.
our survey about whether CyberAlert e-mail subscribers would like to have
the CyberAlert distributed in HTML.
The March 18 CyberAlert featured some
subscriber comments and initial results. Check:
We’re now up to about 375 responses, but the
result is holding steady at 66 percent in favor, 34 percent opposed.
Below are some more comments received since
last weekend. As before, since they are sans any identification, I hope
those quoted don’t mind my sharing their views. I’ve added
observations of my own. Plus, one reader put the options to prose.
-- File size. "The basic issue for me is
file size. If you send out the daily updates in HTML, would that be a
larger file than the plain-(vanilla)-text that we currently receive?
"I archive many of these mailings, and my
web mailer limits the total storage that I can have. So, if converting to
HTML greatly increased the size of the files that you send, I'd have to
vote against it."
# My comment: Yes, the file size would be
larger, probably nearly doubling the size of a CyberAlert.
-- Plain text simpler. Several conveyed this
belief, two examples:
"Please don't change your format from
text to html. Although my system would support receiving html format I
however do not want to wait the length of time it takes to open email
received in html format. Text is instantly opened and available for read.
And isn't that what it's all about. Being able to read immediately what
MRC has to offer and clicking the available links. Receiving html will
also mean I will receive obnoxious advertisements and probably a bunch of
cookies also. Lets keep it simple. There are already enough obnoxious
advertisements proliferating the internet."
"I want to vote to KISS: keep it simple
(you pick the next word). If you are considering a switch to HTML with
minimal graphics so readers can jump down to only the articles they are
interested in, can't they do that now by just reading the numbered
summaries at the top of the page and just hit page down until they get to
the articles they want to read??? Just bold the article numbers and leave
it alone unless you have some other added functionality in mind."
# My comment: Very good reasons for keeping it
as is. Just because we could put in ads does not mean we will. If we were
to do HTML, it would just be to add internal navigation and a nice logo up
top. And you can’t do bolds or italics or anything like that in plain
-- HTML and viruses. Three comments along that
"Reading the reasons given by some
supporters of HTML surprised me; they urged using HTML but not loading it
up with graphics. Read any basic text on the advantages of HTML and you
find only one real advantage -- graphics! The disadvantages are many --
security for anyone using Microsoft Outlook or Outlook Express, VERY long
download times for most users, etc. I previously voted for plain text and
stand by that vote."
"There was a comment about those of us
who use plain text e-mail to get into the 21st century. Well us plain text
e-mailers are not the ones spreading ‘Pictures from my party’ and ‘I
love you’ viruses!"
"I voted ‘yes’ at first, but after
reading some of the comments, I was not aware that HTML e-mail newsletters
would be so vulnerable to virus's or hackers. So I have changed my mind.
Better to be safe than worry about fancy bells & whistles."
# My comment: All good concerns, but if you
already are getting HTML e-mail from others with these possible dangers,
what’s the harm of one more? If we do start sending an HTML version of
CyberAlert I can assure you that making sure it is securely sent from us
without any viruses will be a top priority.
subscribers a choice of HTML or plain text. Several e-mailers suggested
this. Here are two:
"In my opinion, the simplest option would
be to maintain parallel lists, one in text format and the other in html. A
number of other lists use this system and it seems to work quite well. I
hope, strongly, that the list does not convert exclusively to html. I
generally refuse to subscribe to any service which cannot deliver plain
"Here's an idea. Add a field in your
registration system that indicates the mail style preference and default
everyone to text. Occasionally add reminders to your readers that they can
re-register to begin receiving in HTML format (or switch back to
# My comment: I think this is where we’re
going given the significant percent of subscribers who do not want HTML.
offer a service in which I would create the CyberAlert as an HTML and then
the distribution software would automatically recognize whether each
recipient could handle HTML. If they could, they’d get it. But if they
couldn’t, they’d get it in plain text or, if on AOL, an AOL-ized
"HTML Light" version. Downside: Some who have HTML-capable
e-mail don’t want CyberAlert in HTML, all recipients would receive a
larger file which would mean many plain text e-mail services would convert
it to an attached file, and I really wonder about the accuracy of the
conversion process from HTML to plain text.
So, I think
that means we’re headed toward creating two or three lists: HTML, plain
text, and maybe an AOL version. Of course, that means more work up front
to create more than one version, but it also means those who want HTML can
get all those advantages while those who prefer plain text can still get
This is my
next challenge: Figure out how to best move current subscribers from here
to there. Topica now places ads in all new mailing lists, so to avoid that
we’d have to sign up with their paid service when we create a new list
(or go to another paid service.) That will cost about $200 per month per
list, which is something we did not budget for this year.
-- Better navigation in current format.
"Understanding your problems and attempting to come up with a
solution, I came up with 2 small changes to your existing alerts that
might be a good compromise....a suggestion to add a link to the top to
give people an option to choose graphics. The second change is to simply
add a section break between each article. My biggest problem with your
mailing is the little numbers at the start of a new article are hard to
see when you scroll. This section break would allow people to quickly
scroll to the correct article. I ‘designed’ one that looked like
I think it is more of a stop gap measure. Eventually all of us plain
typers will be drug kicking and screaming into the HTML world. But maybe
this will get you by for a couple of more years."
# My comment: We do currently provide link, in
the paragraph below the title, to the online version. As for making the
start of articles easier to catch, an excellent idea. With the last
CyberAlert I began adding a space between each table of contents item and
another space between each article, so there are now four blank lines
between each story. I’ll experiment with the idea above to see how to
make the start of each article even easier to catch.
-- Kind words. "I can get html mail, but
I would prefer newsletter stays the same....I like the simplicity of it,
& I don't think scrolling down is that irritating...gee, aren't we all
in such a hurry that we need a link to get to bottom of page! Anyway, you
encapsulize the contents at the beginning, so anyone who wants the full
version of a particular story can just scroll down to it. Need I say
‘keep up the good work’? I may automatically delete a lot of mail, but
I can't delete your newsletter -- I always read it -- somehow, it would
make me feel un-American -- ok, ok, I won't succumb to distorted
nationalistic lingo!!! Seriously, you help me to have a balanced
viewpoint, something it seems too few people care about these days. Thanks
for all your hard work."
# My comment: A brilliant and insightful
reader with the proper priorities in life. Thanks Mom.
-- We close with the options put to prose by
CyberAlert reader Matthew Irish:
To HTML, or not HTML?
That is the
question, and I hear it well.
We could use pics and colors and such,
But would it slow our read while adding a nice
My love for artwork is great indeed,
though, than my love for speed.
I try to read each, word by word.
Could speed increase with pictures of trees or
Nay, I say, but it would look nice.
If "right" information is the primary
aim, perhaps you should think twice.
More comments welcome. Send them to: firstname.lastname@example.org