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March 10, 2005
...Or Maybe Watching Gastineau Girls




Physically, mentally, financially, and sartorially drained from trying to scrape by on $140,000 a year or so and $2.8 million in free trips to Vegas, New Orleans, and other inhospitable locales, Michael Powell, gaunt and tattered-looking, has relinquished his post as FCC Chairman. Mediaweek reports his parting thoughts: "Government service is not lucrative. It takes a powerful toll on you personally and on your family… But at the end of the day it's still the highest privilege."

Understandably proud of the impact his policies have had on the overall quality of TV and radio, a "teary-eyed" Powell said his immediate plans include "reading a good book."

Posted by Greg Beato at 06:10 PM
March 09, 2005
Men's Glib

Here's fearless thought-provoker Michael Lewis doing a pretty killer Joel Stein, from an LA Times Sunday Opinion piece entitled How To Put Your Wife Out of Business: "The surest way for a man to exhibit his social status — the finest bourgeois bling — is to find the most highly paid woman you can, working in the most high-profile job, and shut her down."

First thought after reading this piece: Is Susan Estrich's wall-repair guy paying Kinsley to run this stuff? Second thought: Tabitha Soren must fuck an awful lot of pool boys.

Posted by Greg Beato at 02:45 PM
Hold On a Sec, My Phone is Cumming...

From Reuters: "Wireless content company Brickhouse Mobile on Tuesday said that under an agreement with New Frontier it would begin offering ring tones for mobile phone users featuring porn stars making groaning and moaning noises from the suggestive to the positively tantalizing."

Under an agreement with God, James Dobson, the Concerned Women for America, and perhaps the FCC will begin boycotting Brickhouse Mobile in about, oh, ten minutes.

Meanwhile, Bill O'Reilly's lawyers are left to ask: "Why didn't they think of this sooner?!"

Posted by Greg Beato at 10:33 AM
March 08, 2005
The High Cost of Censorship

Until you're part of the problem, you can't be part of the solution: "In a small office a few miles from Capitol Hill, a handful of top advisers to Senator John McCain run a quiet campaign. They promote his crusade against special interest money in politics. They send out news releases promoting his initiatives. And they raise money - hundreds of thousands of dollars, tapping some McCain backers for more than $50,000 each....collecting about $1.3 million last year, double what [they] raised in 2003, a sizable sum for a group that exists to curb the influence of money in politics."

Posted by Greg Beato at 08:43 AM
Republican Sex Editor Digs Married Men

Drudge has the scoop on what gets Playgirl editor Michele Zipp when she isn't test-driving handcuffs and blindfolds: "Those on the right are presumed to be all about power and greed – two really sexy traits in the bedroom. They want it, they want it now, and they’ll do anything to get it...A war-loving Republican is a man who would fight, bleed, sacrifice, and die for his country. Could you imagine what that very same man would do for his wife in the bedroom?"

Um, ignore her while phone-raping an underling with a falafel? Start dating someone else in the midst of divorcing her? Refuse to touch her baby-maker with anything except his baby-maker? Beg her to visit romantic S&M dungeons where they can tenderly strengthen their marriage via her wifely service as his public blow job whore?

Hey, actually, I think Zipp is onto something!

Posted by Greg Beato at 08:25 AM
March 07, 2005
Many Happy Returns

So, ultimately, what impact did South Dakota stealth bloggers Jon Lauck and Jason van Beek play on the senate race outcome between contender John Thune and incumbent Tom Daschle? Interestingly, many of the parties seem to agree: not much.

Dick Wadhams, Thune's former campaign manager, "said it was hard to estimate how many South Dakota voters read the blogs. And it was likely that the most regular readers had already made up their minds how they would vote, anyway, he said."

Steve Hildebrand, Daschle's former campaign manager, said, "These blogs are not read by many undecided or persuadable voters. They're read by activists, people who are partisans and I just don't think they're that important to political persuasion."

Randall Beck, editor of the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, said, "The average voter, the average resident is far too busy with life to spend their midnight hours reading blogs."

Divided by ideology and job functions, yet united by a common failure to see the big picture!

One aspect of the South Dakota stealth blog phenomenon that continues to fly under the radar was their value as fund-raising tools.

It may be that not many South Dakota voters read Daschle v. Thune or South Dakota Politics. It may be that the ones who did already had their minds made up.

But John Thune received 78% of his campaign contributions, or more than $9 million, from out-of-state donors. (For the record, Daschle received an even higher percentage and amount -- 92% and nearly $11 million -- from out-of-state donors.)

I don't think that Lauck or Van Beek ever actively solicited contributions. I haven't exhaustively looked at their sites to confirm this; my guess is that they probably refrained from doing so because of their status as paid Thune consultants.

One site that did frequently encourage its readers to donate to the Thune campaign, however, was the popular blog Powerlineblog.com. On a regular basis, Hindrocket would link to a Daschle v. Thune post, then encourage his readers to donate to the Thune campaign. I found six instances of this: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

Here's an excerpt from the last one: "Jon Lauck's Daschle v. Thune notes that in the most recent polling, Tom Daschle now leads John Thune by only 48% to 45%....Thune has a very realistic chance to win this race. Go to his site and give him money. He can't outspend Daschle, but if he gets his message out, he can beat him."

Along with such explicit donation requests, the South Dakota blogs simply helped introduce John Thune to a larger audience and promote the idea that Daschle was beatable. As Glenn Reynolds put it, " Professor Jon Lauck's Daschle v. Thune weblog played a big role (along with quite a few other South Dakota political blogs) in nationalizing that campaign..."

Lauck appeared on Laura Ingraham's radio show. Hugh Hewitt talked up the South Dakota blogs regularly. And once the story was nationalized, out-of-state donors responded. Indeed, Reynolds himself hosted ads from the Thune campaign on his Instapundit.com site, and apparently they were effective: "Howdy just a note to let you know that your Adblogs for Thune is working," one of his readers wrote. "I have never made a political donation outside my own little neck of the woods before today. Your site's blogad gave me that "spur of the moment feeling and I clicked the ad and made my modest donation to John Thune."

Posted by Greg Beato at 09:27 PM
Merry Crisis!

Remember all those news stories about how Target was going to cost the Salvation Army $9 million by not allowing bell-ringers in front of its stores? Turns out, the red-breasted kettle-clangers raked in $95.3 million during the 2004 holiday season, or $2.3 million more than they did in 2003. Who will be the Army's strategic fund-raising scapegoat for 2005? Only 261 shopping days to figure it out!

Posted by Greg Beato at 08:16 PM
Nice Assist!

In a post at South Dakota Politics, Jon Lauck says, "Much as they try, Gannon/Guckert's critics, when pressed, simply cannot come up with any example of his purported 'inaccuracies' and 'distortions.'"

Now, I wouldn't call myself a Gannon critic, because ultimately, I think any country where star-spangled escorts have access to the White House press pool is a great country indeed.

But let me point out one instance that certainly seems to be either an inaccuracy or a distortion.

On July 31, 2003, Gannon wrote an article about James Abourezk's lawsuit against the website ProBush.com. Here are some excerpts from that article:

In May, former Sen. James Abourezk (D-SD) filed a $5 million lawsuit against a website operator who included him among a group of "traitors." The website, www.ProBush.com, lampoons liberals from the entertainment industry and politics who have been vocal in their opposition to the war in Iraq or critical of President George W. Bush....While the website disclaimer states that the list is a parody and is not to be taken seriously, Abourezk claims that he has been defamed.

What Gannon didn't include: When Abourezk initially learned about the website in April 2003, and perhaps even when he filed the lawsuit on May 27, 2003, ProBush.com included no parody disclaimer. To see what the website initially said, simply go to ProBush.com itself and check out page 10 of the original complaint. Based on a screenshot of the website included in the complaint, the "traitor page" featured the following text:

Traitor: Violation of allegiance toward one's country or sovereign, especially the betrayal of one's country by waging war against it or by consciously or purposely acting to aid one's enemies. IF YOU DO NOT SUPPORT OUR PRESIDENT'S DECISIONS YOU ARE A TRAITOR TO OUR COUNTRY! Get to know your traitor!

That screenshot is dated April 9, 2003. The complaints exclaims that "it is a true and correct copy of partial pages from probush.com..."

Archive.org has five copies of ProBush.com's "traitor list" page from 2003. On a copy dated April 7, 2003, the page does not have the disclaimer. But as of June 4, 2003, the page changed.

Now, the message that appears there reads:

Traitor: Violation of allegiance toward one's country or sovereign, especially the betrayal of one's country by waging war against it or by consciously or purposely acting to aid one's enemies. IF YOU DO NOT SUPPORT OUR PRESIDENT'S DECISIONS YOU ARE A TRAITOR! Get to know your traitor! *Parody. Not to be taken seriously. These 'traitors' are not legal 'traitors' of the United States.

On the same day that Gannon wrote his Talon News article about the ProBush.com lawsuit, the Free Speech Foundation, where Gannon was the Executive Director, issued a press release announcing that it "would assist [the ProBush.com] website owner hit with a libel lawsuit."

Was Gannon's failure to note the initial lack of a parody disclaimer an attempt to "assist" the creators of ProBush.com, and thus a deliberate distortion of the facts? Or just merely inaccurate? Only the man himself knows for sure.

Posted by Greg Beato at 06:03 PM
March 06, 2005
Nice Work If You Can Get It

"Through October, Mr. Lauck received $27,000 and Mr. Van Beek received $8,000. Some of the work they did included analyzing a poll taken by the Thune campaign..."
-- John Fund, Wall Street Journal

"I'm with Bill, however, I don’t know much about polls."
-- Jon Lauck

Posted by Greg Beato at 07:30 PM