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Smoke and activism

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A young lady inquired the other day about the meaning of the expression "smoking mirrors" that she’d heard relatives use. We explained that it’s really "smoke and mirrors" and it refers to the devices magicians use to pull off their tricks. We thought of smoking mirrors this week while listening to Justice Antonin Scalia at the UALR law school. Scalia is such an entertaining speaker — and wonderfully brief, which always helps the entertainment quotient — that one can be misled into believing he’s talking sense, the way a conjurer makes us believe that the elephant has disappeared. In Scalia’s case, he aims to convince us that he disapproves of activist judges, when in fact he is the ringleader of the majority on the most activist Supreme Court ever. Not the Warren Court nor any other dared take a presidential election away from the people. Inasmuch as he acknowledges this elephantine inconsistency, Scalia says that the Supreme Court was forced to intervene in Florida, to wage preemptive activism by stopping the vote count, the way President Bush wages preemptive war, because what was happening in Florida was "clearly wrong." We had no choice but to act — that’s what all the activist judges say. Media bias "Nobody died when Clinton lied" is as simple as some of President Bush’s one-liners, but unlike them, it has the virtue of being accurate. Nobody died when Dan Rather made a dumb mistake either, though you’d think so from the way the right-wing media are yammering. They’ve shown far less interest in a far more serious misjudgment by The New York Times. Rather and CBS apologized for reporting on memos about Bush’s military record that turned out to be apparent forgeries. Within 48 hours of the CBS admission, according to Mediamatters.org, "the story was reported 167 times in U.S. newspaper and wire reports and 57 times on cable news broadcasts." On the other hand, "In the 48 hours after The New York Times published its acknowledgement that it ‘was not as rigorous as it should have been’ in investigating the Bush administration’s claims regarding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, that story was reported 38 times in U.S. newspaper and wire reports and seven times on cable news." No FOX News primetime program reported the Times story during those 48 hours; every FOX News primetime program reported on, if not elaborated on, the CBS story. The media are not quite as diligent in protecting Bush and slandering his opponent as they were four years ago, when they were near-insane with hatred for Al Gore, but they’re not resting on their oars either.

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