Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Wurlitzer Prize for Wingnuttery for the week ending March 1, 2008

We've watched in horror as the MSM has ignored, glossed over and spun Bush administration and GOP wrongdoing with barely a twitch in the public consciousness. So we should probably be happy that one media entity's attempt this week to suppress a major story on Bushco/Republican corruption was desperate to the point of blatancy. But we haven't quite reached the point at which in-your-face message control fails to stun…then to attract our ridicule.

Thus, this week's Wurlitzer Prize for Wingnuttery goes to WHNT, the northern Alabama TV station that, with the subtlety of Tim Goeglein shoplifting essays and the restraint of a hungry Maureen Dowd looking over an adjective buffet, blacked out only the segment of the Feb. 24 60 Minutes dealing with the trial and conviction of Democrat Don Siegelman.

Siegelman, of course, is a former Alabama governor who proved to be a peskily popular thorn in the GOP's side. He was convicted on corruption charges in 2006, and is currently doing time in a Louisiana federal pen. The 60 Minutes segment was a damning summary of the fishy facts of the case, which include, but aren't limited to, the following:

  • A Republican lawyer, Jill Simpson, has sworn that GOP political consultant Bill Canary claims Karl Rove built the case against Siegelman for political reasons. Simpson has also claimed that Republican Bob Riley, who defeated Siegelman for the Alabama governorship in 2002, had named the judge who would be assigned to the case and indicated that he would "hang" Siegelman.
  • Canary's wife, Leura, is U.S. attorney for the middle district of Alabama, and recused herself from the case only after protest from Siegelman's attorneys.
  • Prosecutors relied on evidence they knew—or should have known—was false, and failed to turn over exculpatory evidence to the defense counsel.
  • Jurors in the case have been accused of exchanging emails that put their impartiality into question.
  • More than 100 (!) charges against Siegelman have been thrown out by three different judges.
  • Fifty-two former attorneys general from 40 of 50 states have called for a Congressional probe of the case. A Republican, former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods, has been the case's most vocal critic.
  • The U.S. Department of Justice has yet to respond to House Judiciary Committee requests for information in the case. The deadline was July 27, 2007.
When the unusually circumscribed blackout was noticed, WHNT, apparently believing that people in Alabama have no means of communicating with people in New York, first tried to pass it off as a network glitch. Uh uh, said Scott Horton of Harper's, who called up CBS to ask what the dealio was. Horton says he was told by CBS, "There were no transmission difficulties. The problems were peculiar to Channel 19 [WHNT], which had the signal and had functioning transmitters." WHNT has amended its explanation to claim that the station receiver "failed at the worst possible time." Indeed.

WHNT is owned by Oak Hill Capital Partners, which represents the interests of the Bass family, major Republican donors.

Take three; they're small: Dishonorable mentions this week go to Mr. Timothy Russert and Mr. Richard Cohen. Punkinhead excelled in lame attempts at gotcha-ism in the Feb. 26 Democratic candidates' debate, persisting in attempting to tie Barack Obama to Louis Farrakhan's anti-Semitic statements well after the senator had unequivocally denounced those remarks. Russert subsequently compounded his crime by congratulating himself for some minutes in post-debate MSNBC coverage, with Keith Olbermann enabling the illusion that Russert is the news. Punkinhead's self-humiliation has been thoroughly documented across the blogosphere this week, but his asshattery was too significant for us to leave him completely out of our own little recognition ceremony.

Cohen's Feb. 25 WaPo column contained this truly bizarre armchair analysis: "So it could be that Clinton would lose the Democratic nomination even if she were a gifted politician. But she has no such gift. Her smile is strained. She is contained. She seems unknowable, and there is that melancholy Billie Holiday air about her--all those songs about a suffering woman." The succinct consensus of Wurlitzer judges is "WTF?"