Donaldson: FBI Rules “Trample” on Rights, “Intimidate” Worshipers; NPR: They Take Us Back to “the Hoover Era”; Peter Jennings’ One-Sided Indictment of the Pharmaceutical Industry
1) ABC’s Sam Donaldson pressed Attorney General John Ashcroft only from the left in questioning him about the FBI’s new operational guidelines, demanding he respond to charges the new rules will lead to the “trampling” of rights and to worshipers at Mosques being “intimidated.” But on Fox News Sunday, Brit Hume managed to do what Donaldson didn’t even attempt: hit Ashcroft from both sides. After raising concerns that the new rules go to far, Hume wondered: “Are you confident that these steps are enough?”
2) NPR’s Barbara Bradley noted on PBS how “civil libertarians” are “really scared” of the new FBI rules since “they’re worried that we are kind of rolling back to the period of the Hoover era.”
Bradley also fretted about how allowing FBI agents to go into mosques will have a “very chilling effect.” But Newsweek’s Evan Thomas complained on Inside Washington that the new FBI rules “didn’t go far enough” and he predicted: “We’re going to have another terrorist attack and then we are going to go further.”
3) ABC’s May 29 prime time Peter Jennings Reports special on drug company profits championed the two claims routinely made by liberals demanding more government intervention in the health care industry: U.S. drug companies make too much money and waste resources creating redundant medicines that are easily marketable.
Jennings concluded: “The rules by which this hugely profitable industry operates do not always serve consumers adequately, and nothing is gong to happen -- no matter how angry consumers get -- unless the Congress and the President decide that the time has come. The country can do better.”
>>> MRC article on National Review Online (NRO). On Friday, NRO posted a piece by me, Brent Baker, about Brian Williams’ record of liberal reporting. Prompted by NBC’s announcement last week that Williams will assume the NBC Nightly News anchor seat after the 2004 election, it’s titled, “From the Same School: Brian Williams is more liberal anchoring from NBC.” To read it:
ABC’s Sam Donaldson pressed Attorney General John Ashcroft only from the left in questioning him about the FBI’s new operational guidelines, demanding he respond to charges the new rules will lead to the “trampling” of rights and to worshipers at Mosques being “intimidated.” But on Fox News Sunday, Brit Hume managed to do what Donaldson didn’t even attempt: hit Ashcroft from both sides. After raising concerns that the new rules go to far, Hume wondered: “Are you confident that these steps are enough?”
On the June 2 This Week, Donaldson raised how Republican Congressman James Sensenbrenner, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, had complained that with its new rules the FBI had “gone too far in changing domestic spying regulations.” Donaldson asked: “Why is he wrong?”
Ashcroft read the actual wording of the new rule in question to show how it is limited to terrorism and just allows FBI agents to observe what anyone else can see: “For the purpose of detecting or preventing terrorist activities, the FBI is authorized to visit any place and attend any event that is open to the public on the same terms and conditions as members of the public generally.”
That didn’t satisfy Donaldson, who followed up: “Well, Mr. Attorney General, people like Chairman Sensenbrenner, and I’m going to use his words again, worry about going back to the bad old days when, as he says, people like Martin Luther King Junior were spied on. And he says, even though the public may not like it, these are guarantees of the First Amendment, so if you go into a mosque or a Baptist church, or a synagogue, agents do, without prior approval, as the guidelines used to call for by superiors within the FBI, aren’t you then trampling on this protection?”
Ashcroft pointed out that the FBI will not be keeping records like they did to intimidate Martin Luther King. Donaldson countered: “Don’t you intimidate people in the mosque, sir, if the agents are there?”
Ashcroft noted that the new rule simply lets FBI agents look at Web sites, just as any 12-year-old can do now. Donaldson argued: “Then you do not believe it would intimidate worshipers at a mosque who believe that FBI agents may be sitting among them?”
Ashcroft: “Well, I don’t believe so. I know there are FBI agents that come to my church. I go to church with FBI agents every week.”
Donaldson fired back: “But you do not suspect they’re investigating you. And wouldn’t a worshiper at a mosque now, under these new guidelines directed primarily at them-”
Ashcroft cut Donaldson off to explain how it used to be that an agent had to have a lead or have launched an investigation before they could observe anyone, but now they can have their “eyes and ears open” all the time.
Only by watching Fox News Sunday would you have any idea that some people don’t think the new rules go far enough to let the FBI prevent terrorism by monitoring potential terrorists, especially people who aren’t even U.S. citizens.
On Fox News Sunday, host Brit Hume played a clip of Sensenbrenner from Saturday’s Novak, Hunt & Shields on CNN: “I get very, very queasy when federal law enforcement is effectively saying going back to the bad old days when the FBI was spying o people like Martin Luther King.”
Hume asked Ashcroft to respond and he did by citing the same part of the new rules as he also did on This Week. Ashcroft added that liberal constitutional experts Lawrence Tribe and Alan Dershowitz have said the new rule “doesn’t offend the Constitution.”
Hume then followed up: “Let me ask you the question from the opposite direction, are you confident that these steps are enough?”
A question that never occurred to Donaldson.
Like ABC’s Sam Donaldson, for NPR’s Barbara Bradley there’s only one legitimate concern about the new FBI rules: They go too far. On PBS’s Washington Week on Friday night she noted how
“civil libertarians” were “really scared” since “they were really worried about the changes that were coming about at the behest of the Justice Department. They’re worried that we are kind of rolling back to the period of the 19-, the Hoover era.”
Bradley also fretted about how allowing FBI agents to go into mosques will have a “very chilling effect” on what people will feel free to talk about inside a mosque.
Let’s hope so since that’s where the non-citizen 9-11 terrorists met to make plans.
But not all reporters take their marching orders from “civil libertarians.” On Inside Washington, after Bradley’s NPR colleague Nina Totenberg expressed the same sentiment, Newsweek’s Evan Thomas complained the new FBI rules “didn’t go far enough” and he predicted: “We’re going to have another terrorist attack and then we are going to go further.”
Host Gwen Ifill set up the segment on the May 31 Washington Week, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth:
“There was quite a response over at the FBI, what the Justice Department says will be wholesale change, including new powers to investigate, spy and loosen the rules on FBI agents. Attorney General John Ashcroft said these new powers give the FBI the same latitude local police have.”
John Ashcroft: “I believe in the principle of community policing. It’s a principle in which local police forces have a visible, active law enforcement presence that’s linked to communities and to neighborhoods.”
Ifill: “So Barb, is that really all there is to this?”
Barbara Bradley, National Public Radio: “No, I think there’s a lot more. It’s interesting. I talk to a lot of civil libertarians in my job, and often they have, you know, interesting things to say, they’re often outraged about things that the Justice Department does. This week I felt as if they were really scared. I mean, they were really worried about the changes that were coming about at the behest of the Justice Department. They’re worried that we are kind of rolling back to the period of the 19-, the Hoover era, basically, when we saw FBI agents collecting information on civil rights leaders or anti-war protesters, Martin Luther King. They’re worried that what they’re doing is lowering the standards by which they conduct surveillance or go onto the Internet or whatever to the point where actually people’s civil liberties actually could be infringed on. This is, this is a fundamental change.”
Ifill: “So when John Ashcroft says community policing, they hear an entirely different thing?”
Bradley: “Oh, absolutely. I mean, community policing, they, it’s not really spying on, going into your Internet account or going into the chat room that you happen to be on, or it’s not going into your mosque, it’s not walking into your church. This seems to be, civil libertarians will tell you that what they’re doing is really an infringement on the First Amendment, especially when it comes to religious freedom. I mean, for example, if you are going to a mosque every week, and you know that the FBI agent, FBI does not have to have probable cause for them to walk into your mosque and listen and observe and hear conversations, if you know that, then you know that probably two or three rows behind you there may be an FBI agent, and that has a very chilling effect.”
NPR’s Nina Totenberg expressed the same view on Inside Washington over the weekend: “Why should they be infiltrating a mosque, for example, which it seems to me this stuff allows agents to do in the field for up to a year without checking with headquarters. It may have gone a little over the edge in terms of controls at headquarters. I think we’ll have to see how it works out.”
But Evan Thomas, Newsweek’s Assistant Managing Editor, contended: “It didn’t go far enough. We’re going to have another terrorist attack and then we are going to go further and we are going to create in this country, like it or not, we don’t like it now, but we’ll ask for it later, we’re going to create an internal security operation like MI5 in England or the French have one and it’s going to look like something we’re just not used to: It’s going to be about spying on our own people in the United States.”
Peter Jennings’ delivered a one-sided polemic
Wednesday night about the evils of the pharmaceutical industry in the guise of a news special. Rich Noyes, the MRC’s Director of Media Analysis, reviewed the one-hour Peter Jennings Reporting: Bitter Medicine: Pills, Profit and the Public Health, and wrote up this analysis for
ABC’s May 29 prime time
Peter Jennings Reporting special on drug company profits championed the two claims routinely made by liberals demanding more government intervention in the health care industry: U.S. drug companies make too much money and waste resources creating redundant medicines that are easily marketable, as opposed to genuinely new drugs that might be less profitable. While a spokesman for the pharmaceutical industry was given some air time, no economists or advocates of a reduced government role in the drug business were allowed to speak.
“Last year, Americans spent more than $150 billion on prescription drugs. The drug companies say they are giving value for money,” Jennings announced at the start of the program, not-so-subtly titled, “Bitter Medicine: Pills, Profit and the Public Health.” But, he challenged, “that is not the full story. We spent a year investigating the industry. Here are the headlines: The drug companies are producing fewer original drugs....Some of the drugs they promote so heavily are not so good as the old ones.... Some companies are taking advantage of the system...Companies may be taking advantage of you.” For added emphasis, as Jennings announced each of his conclusions, the point was further amplified by a supportive talking head.
The special focused on liberal complaints about the cost of drugs and slick marketing campaigns for some popular drugs, not the difficulty of drug research, the losses drug companies face when research doesn’t pan out, or the regulatory hurdles that impede the flow of new medicines into the marketplace. Jennings was condemnatory: “The pharmaceutical industry’s products have saved and improved millions of lives, but overall, are we getting our money’s worth? We do not believe so.”
While no specific reforms or policy changes were discussed in the special, the agenda of ABC’s “Bitter Medicine” dovetailed perfectly with the indictment of the pharmaceutical industry espoused by those demanding greater socialization, i.e., taxpayer support, of drug costs and caps on drug company profits.
Jennings accused drug companies of being too profitable. “Because drug companies are making too much money and prices are so high, many people are asking why....The high cost of drug development is the industry’s justification for the high price of drugs,” Jennings explained. But, he scolded, “for some companies, profits are double, or even triple, research costs.” Even though he focused on the economics of the drug industry, Jennings failed to cite a single economist to support the idea that profits were excessive or to challenge the industry view that maintaining high profits are necessary to maintain a steady stream of investment capital for research.
He allowed Alan Holmer, President of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association (PhRMA) to suggest that money spent on sometimes costly drugs “is a very good thing because these are medicines that are able to keep people out of the hospital, able to avoid surgery, able to stay on the job and be more productive and to be able to live more independent lives.”
But right after Holmer stated his case, Jennings indicated that viewers should doubt him: “It is true, as Mr. Holmer says, that certain drugs can provide real value to patients -- drugs that lower cholesterol, for example. But consumers spent $90 billion more on prescription drugs last year than was spent just six years ago. And, are we $90 billion healthier?”
Jennings also blamed the industry for driving up “consumer spending” on newfangled versions of previously-released medicines in order to boost profits. “Eighty percent of the drugs which the FDA approves are not significantly different from the ones on the market already, and only 20 percent of the drugs are significantly new,” Jennings declared.
Federal patent protection gives the inventors of new drugs a chance to sell them exclusively for the first 20 years as compensation for the investment of time, money and manpower needed to create them in the first place. After 20 years, competitors can copy the formula and sell their own version. Jennings’s argument was that major companies were patenting and marketing only slightly different versions of brand name drugs as a dubious method of preserving profits.
He found a ready critic in Dr. Carol Ben-Maimon, the chairwoman of the Generic Pharmaceutical Association. Jennings treated her as an impartial expert, not a business competitor: “By the time you make the generic, or want to produce the generic [version] of the original product, everyone’s on to the new-and-improved,” Jennings suggested.
“Correct,” she agreed.
“The new-and-improved any better?” Jennings asked.
“Not necessarily,” Dr. Ben-Maimon replied. “In most cased, I would venture to say, no, absolutely not.”
Generic drug companies may make cheaper pills, but they don’t spend any money on the expensive research needed to develop new drugs in the first place. Yet while Jennings bemoaned the “huge profits” a brand-name drug can make while its formula is protected by patent laws, he did not explain that the patent clock starts ticking when a drug is submitted to the FDA for approval, and years can pass before the company can begin to sell the drug and begin to recoup its initial investment.
Jennings concluded the hour-long preaching with a thinly-veiled call for additional government intervention:
“There is one last thing this evening which we believe is important for all of us. The questions about what we are getting for our money cannot and must not be answered only by the drug companies. Virtually everyone we talked to for this broadcast agrees on that. The rules by which this hugely profitable industry operates do not always serve consumers adequately, and nothing is gong to happen -- no matter how angry consumers get -- unless the Congress and the President decide that the time has come. The country can do better.”
END of Noyes’ analysis
For the ABC News Web page on the special:
But before you feel too sorry for the pharmaceutical industry, their solution is to make taxpayers funnel more money to them via some corporate welfare, aka adding prescription coverage to Medicare.
As Judy Sarasohn noted in her May 30 “Special Interests” column in the Washington Post, in a TV ad run on many ABC stations around the time of the ABC News special, PhRMA President Alan Holmer advocated the creation of a new entitlement program paid for by taxpayers to benefit his member companies. In the ad, he pushed: “Now, we’re working on another challenge: Getting these lifesaving medicines into the hands of seniors that need them. I hope you’ll join me in calling on Congress to pass meaningful prescription drug coverage under Medicare.”
Don’t ever assume private corporations are interested in an unfettered marketplace. They are too often engines for the expansion of government taxation and spending when it benefits them.
-- Brent Baker
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