Better Angels

"...all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature." ---Abraham Lincoln, First Innaugural Address

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Bush Meets the Media

...the Christian media, that is. Baptist Press reports that W. met with Christian journalists at the White House in a "wide ranging" conversation. He spoke about his stance on Isreal, gay marriage and abortion.
“Father Richard [Neuhaus] helped me craft what is still the integral part of my position on abortion, which is: Every child welcomed to life and protected by law,” he said. “That is the goal of this administration.”

For those of you keeping score at home, Neuhaus is editor of the journal "First Things," President of the Institute of Religion and Public Life, board member of the Ahmanson-funded Institute on Religion and Democracy, the Foundation for Community and Faith-Centered Enterprise and the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Along with George Weigel and Michael Novak, Neuhaus serves on the Faculty of the Tertio Millennio Seminar, run by the EPPC.

This week's World Magazine, the Christian newsweekly published by Marvin Olasky (and sponsor of the infamous "World Journalism Institute") has an Olasky-penned cover story on the interview, featuring such notable quotes as this:
President Bush also wants to influence Iraqi culture: Iraqis "haven't developed the habits of free people yet," but he believes they will, because "freedom is the Almighty's gift to every person in the world."
and this:
"We will stand side by side with Israel if anyone tries to annihilate her."

Olasky has a long history with Bush. It was he, after all, who coined the phrase "compassionate conservative" and inspired Bush to create the office of Faith-Based Programs. He also has a long history with Howard Ahmanson and Christian Reconstructionists. Olasky belongs Redeemer Prsebyterian Church in Austin, TX. Redeemer is a member of the Presbyterian Church in America, a "reformed" church. Reformed churches are Calvinist in nature, believers in Biblical inerrancy and proponents of the idea of "limited grace" meaning that only the elect are pre-destined to be saved by God's grace, and the rest, try as they might, can't do a damn thing about it. One of the leaders of the Reformed movement was R.J. Rushdooney, whose Chalcedon Foundation enjoyed Ahmanson's generosity and membership for many years.

Ahmanson also funded the "Christian Worldview" book series, which Olasky edited and contributed to as an author. Olasky describes Ahmanson as a "dear friend."

Nice to know these are the people Bush listens to, eh?

Friday, May 28, 2004

W. tries to figure out who to hand Iraq over to on June 30th. Posted by Hello

Thursday, May 27, 2004

My Hero

Kenneth Thomas of the Wharton School at UPenn used the FOIA to determine that Fed Chief Greenspan is spending waaayyy more time at the Bush White House than is perhaps normal.

*sigh* I just love research...

Saturday, May 22, 2004

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition! Posted by Hello

Friday, May 21, 2004

Six Degrees of Obfuscation

Calvin College, a small Christian college in Michigan, offers an ongoing series of "Seminars in Christian Scholarship" established in 1996 with grants from the Pew Charitable Trusts. In 1999, Pew gave another million to Calvin to continue the seminars over 4 years.

Jean Bethke Elshtain, co-chair of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, is listed as an Advisor to the Seminars.

Calvin's Provost is Joel Carpenter, former Director of the Pew Trust's Religion Program. (precursor to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life) Carpenter is also former Director and current Advisor to the Institute for the Study of Amercian Evangelicals, also a recipient of Pew funds.

Last summer, the Fieldstead Company, run by Howard Ahmanson and his wife, Calvin Alumnus Roberta Green Ahmanson, sponsored one of the seminars: "Written on the Heart: The Tradition of Natural Law."

This seminar was directed by J. Budziszewski, a fellow at the Ahmanson funded Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture. (Ahmanson is also on the board of directors.) Budziszewski is also a director at the Ahmanson funded Institute on Religion and Democracy along with folks like Mrs. Ahmanson, Michael Novak from the Pew funded AEI, EPPC's George Weigel and First Things editor and BBH interviewee Father Richard John Neuhaus.

With connections like that, Budziszewski is certainly the man you'd want putting together a seminar. Why just look who came to sit and chat with last summer's seminar participants for 3 hours...none other than Fat Tony.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Something Rotten in the State of NPR

After analyzing Barbara Bradley Hagerty's hopelessly biased reporting (reported in yesterday's post), I started to wonder why NPR would continiue to support her. I figured the answer had to be related to money, so I started looking at NPR's underwriters.

Because NPR gets limited funding from Congress, it relies heavily on its corporate and chritable sources to pick up the tab. According to the 2002 annual report, NPR receives over 50 million dollars from grants and contributions each year. Over the years, these sponsors have become more and more intrusive, so that every half hour you get treated to a series of little commercials.

One of NPRs most steadfast supporters is the Pew Charitable Trusts. It's nearly impossible to come up with accurate totals of Pew's overall donations to NPR, as the annual report places them in the range between $500,000.00 and $999,999.00 but I did find this. In 2002, Pew gave NPR $500,000.00 for coverage of Religion and Public Life.

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, which handles Pew's spiritual side, also refers to this sponsorship of NPR, but with a twist. Under the heading "Pew Religion and Media Projects" is a blub about -
NPR's Religion Unit
Investigates the deeply held values and beliefs that provide the underpinnings of many policy debates and breaking news events.

Relgion Unit? The only other place in all the web where this term occurs in the files of the mysterious Greenville Foundation which appears to have given NPR $36,400.00 over the course of 4 years for:
"Support of NPR's Religion Unit to enable expanded coverage of religion and a systematic change in the way the media cover religion and faith, and to raise awareness of the importance of religion in American life."

Who runs this foundation? Damned if I know. They've closed up shop and disappeared.

But back to the folks at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. The Forum is directed by Luis E. Lugo, formerly of Calvin College, a Christian college, author of this book, published by the Ethics and Public Policy Center and co-authored by many of our favorite EPPC luminaries and speaker at the upcoming "Evangelicals and American Foreign Policy" meeting at the Council on Foreign relations.

Speaking of the EPPC...haven't we met Pew Forum co-chair E.J. Dionne there? Why yes, we have. (note the participant list!) And in a stunning display of synergy, we see that Pew gave over a million dollars to the EPPC to "examine the role of Evangelicals in American Public Life." (and to think I'm doing the same thing for free.)

Mr. Dionne gets around. In addition to his PFRPL duties, he's a Senior Fellow at the Pew-funded Brookings Institute. He's also a frequent guest on All Things Considered, where he is paired with David Brooks. One is supossed to be liberal, the other, conservative, but I often can't tell the difference between them.

Making Mr. Dionne look like Dennis Kucinich is his co-chair, Jean Bethke Elshtain. She's the chair of the board of the Bradley, Olin and Scaife-funded Institure for American Values, a senior fellow at the Olin-funded John M. Olin Center for Inquiry into the Theory and Practice of Democracy, an EPPC conference participant, a member of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion's editorial board, a one-time member of the National Advisory Council of the Henry Institute of Christianity and Politics at Lugo's former employer, Calvin College, co-director of the American Assembly's program "Religionin American Public Life". Did I mention that she was involved in the Lilly Seminar on Religion and Higher Education? How about administering the Bradley Foundation's Graduate and Post-Graduate Fellowship at the University of Chicago? When does she have time to be on the advisory panel of Civitas, or participate in EPPC programs? How on Earth does she manage to be on the editorial advisory board of Richard John Neuhaus' First Things magazine?

As I researched this report, I came across name after name from BBH's oeuvre. If you scratch the surface of her stories, you run into the same people, the same institutions, the same foundations and the same couple of million dollars, which seems to get passed around from group to group. It is such a mind-bogglingly complex undertaking that I finally just had to stop myself.

The main issue here, as I see it, is that BBH's religion beat is funded by the Pew Forum, which is only a heartbeat away from the very orgainzations and institutions that she goes to for commentary. Even our omsbuddy Jeffery Dvorkin has a problem with this cozy relationship between funders and the news they fund. After Kuwait became an NPR underwriter in the 90's, he wrote:
"Journalists at NPR -- unlike managers -- are never in contact with corporate or foundation sponsors. But just as important as the reality of influence is the appearance of influence. Kuwait remains in the news. NPR reports from time to time from Iraq. Because of the public trust that exists between NPR and its listeners, every effort should be made to ensure that trust is never doubted. NPR in my opinion made an error in judgment, in this case by accepting underwriting from Kuwait."

Note that first sentence. Journalists are NEVER in contact with sponsors? What if they travel in the same circles, have friends in common or participate in some of the same events? What about the fact that BBH regularly goes to David Anderson of the American Anglican Council for commentary on the Episcopal church? The AAC, after all, is funded by Howard Ahmanson, also a major NPR contributor and Anderson is Ahmanson's pastor. Where is the "firewall?"

If this didn't give you enough to ponder, add to it the fact that the Pew Trusts have recently reorganized themselves from a private foundation into a public trust. This change means that the new "Pew Center" can raise funds and lobby politically. It's a subtle change, but one that does not bode well for NPR's independence and impartiality.

I know that I'll never be able to listen to NPR again without wondering "Why are they telling me this? What reaction do they want me to have? Who is paying them to make me have it?"

The Apostolic Congress at the White House. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Shouldn't She Be NPR's Christianity Reporter?

Barbara Bradley Hagerty became the NPR Religion Correspondent in January of 2003. I took a look at all of her stories via Lexis, and compiled some interesting facts:

2 stories were about Israel and the Jews, but only in the context of Christian Zionism.

2 stories, on 3/14/03 and 9/9/03, addressed Islam. Of course, in the first story, she interviewed James Turner Johnson, a "just war" scholar, writer for "First Things" magazine and participant in the Ethics and Public Policy Center's "Center Conversations."

1 story addressed the possibility of a rise in anti-semitism following the release of "The Passion."

1 story was the introduction to her series on "New Religions" which contained comments from Donald Miller of USC. Miller has had "major grants from the Lilly Endowment, The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Ford Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation, Haynes Foundation, the California Council for the Humanities, and Fieldstead Company." In other words, he's firmly in the hands of some of our best friends.

1 story was on teenagers practicing Wicca, which naturally contained commentary from Christian teens calling it Satanic. One interviewee was Christian radio host Steve Russo, who wrote this little tome.

The 59 other stories were about some form of Christianity.

Balanced? Yeah, right.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's post - it's a doozy, and it should bury the notion of "liberal NPR" forever...

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Compare and Contrast

Well, here's a fun tool for a lazy Saturday:
Plug some text into the writing sample analyzer and find out the approximate grade level.

For example, President Bush's May 15th commencement remarks at Concordia University rate a 5.98 grade level, while John Kerry's 2003 remarks at Franklin Pierce College rate a 10.38.

Here's Bush at the National Day of Prayer: 5.37

And Kerry's April 17th Democratic Radio Address: Radio Address: 7.78

Just think of the possibilities...

Friday, May 14, 2004

Barb's Thought for the Day...

"Does this story feel right? Does it have the ring of truth to it? No matter what everyone else is reporting, does this have the ring of truth? If you wrote this story, could you look everyone in the eye whom you respected?"

Coming Attractions...

I'm working on a big piece about BBH and her stories and the recurring connections to Howard Ahmanson. Bear with me, since it is the weekend and I have all kinds of family responsibilities as well.

I've been stunned at the positive response to my stuff and am doubly inspired to make sure my facts are straight before I continue.

So enjoy the post below, and check back soon for more fun with NPR!

In Which Doubts are Cast Upon the Veracity of Barbara's Tale

Barbara Bradley Hagerty wrote a little essay for Spring 2002 Issue of Success Factors, a magazine put out by Priority Associates...which turns out to be a "mission" of Campus Crusade for Christ. (though you'd never know that from looking at the Priority Homepage.)

In the article, Hagerty writes:
I had the privilege of breaking the story on Cassie Brunell (sic) in the Columbine, Colorado shooting. It was emotionally very intense. I’ve never seen that much grief and to be working 18 hours a day and trying to bring some sense of meaning to what appeared to be such a meaningless tragedy was incredible. It really did challenge my faith. But I saw God’s hand at work there in terms of how a tragedy turned kids to God. It was a very powerful time. I felt like that was why I was at NPR

This is all very nice, except as far as LexisNexis and I can determine, Carla Crowder of the Rocky Mountain News published this story on 4/23/99, the day before Hagerty mentioned it on All Things Considered". (The Lexis file indicates that Crowder's story was filed on 4/22/99.)

And on 4/21, Larry King spoke with Columbine student Mickie Cain, who spoke of her friend "Kathy" who "totally stood up for God."

Most interesting in all of this is the fact that the myth of Cassie Bernall had been pretty much debunked by the fall of 1999, yet the story is still a source of inspiration for many, and for Hagerty, a sign that God wants her to be at NPR.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

She Knew! (proof Hagerty and Gress had prior contact)

I am having a major adreneline rush after unearthing this document. Yesterday I wrote we'd never be able to prove that BHH and her random parishoners know each other without photos of them cavorting together...well, this looks mighty like cavorting. Not only did BBH participate in an EPPC sponsored conference in Key West, but Gress was there as an "observer." There were only 39 people there for the weekend at the Pier House it possible they never met? Hell, I bet they went to Margaritaville together!

Whatd'ya say now, Babs?

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Who am I? I am Atrios!

The Scooter graciously posted this in the thread below:

Dear sir, (that would be Jeffrey Dvorkin, NPR Omsbudsman)

I've heard that you hate hearing about blogs, especially when they call you out on problems. However, regardless of your feelings about weblogs, I cannot see any possible reason why you would want to sweep a problem like the one discussed at the Better Angels blog under the rug.

(Link to my article snipped)
Quite aside from Mrs. Hagerty's apparent lack of professional and personal ethics, I hate to think that someone who said "I write stories with blanks and let the library staff fill them in," could be allowed to keep her job with a news organization like NPR's. It's been a couple of years since I was a reporter (at a small, twice-a-week paper in the Texas Panhandle), but if I'd ever made a statement like that (and if I'd also violated my employer's ethics rules), I suspect my publisher would've shown me the door without hesitation.

Please do the right thing and let Mrs. Hagerty go.

Thank you,
Scott Slemmons

And Mr. Dvorkin replied back thusly:

Dear Mr. Slemmons,

Forgive me, but how do you know this to be true?

Shouldn't the blogger (like other journalists) check his or her facts before making these claims? Has Atrios called Ms. Bradley Hagerty, or Bruce Drake, VP of News at NPR? Or me?


Jeffrey Dvorkin

4:27 PM

I think we can be pretty clear on one thing: Dvorkin hasn't been here and read what I have to say. Otherwise he'd know that I'm not Atrios! (Though, hey, I'm plenty flattered, especially considering this is my third post ever.)

I'm over the whole Catholic issue. I mean, she's going to maintain that she had no idea who those parishioners were and there's no way to prove that she did unless somebody has access to photos of BBH yukkin' it up with Carrie Gress et al as they cavort arm and arm through Lafayette Park. (TV pitch: It's like Sex and the City only in D.C. and the four main characters are an ethics-impaired journalist, an Orthodox Catholic policy director, a right-wing think-tank member and an Anti-Semitic author! Oh, and there's no sex. But lots of cavorting...lots and lots of cavorting!)

BUT, there is clear evidence that she broke the conflict of interest guidelines. Dvorkin didn't address this in his letter to Scott, and he doesn't address it in his Omsbudsman's letter today.

Let me break it down even more for ya, Jeff:

Hagerty spoke to student journalists at the largesse of Fieldstead & Co.

Fieldstead & Co. has a political agenda.

NPR reporters are not supposed to be paid by organizations with political agendas.

Got it? Good.

Are You Calling Me a Liar?

Reader Anonymous posted in the pervious thread that he received this lovely note from NPR's Omsbudsman:

Dear Mr. X,

I have seen it and if it were true, I'd be outraged as well.
It's not.


Jeffrey Dvorkin

As my 4 year old would say, what's up with that?

How can I be clearer about this? BBH (and no, I have no idea who her hubby is. I can't find any wedding announcements online and I've searched the DC, VA and MD phone books.)spoke to journalism students and was paid by Fieldstead and Co. This is easy to document. The NPR ethics guide says:

7. NPR journalists may only accept fees from educational or nonprofit groups not engaged in significant lobbying or political activity. Determining whether a group engages in significant lobbying or political activity is the responsibility of the journalist seeking permission, and all information must be fully disclosed to the journalist's supervisor.

Fieldstead and Co. and all of the other arms of Ahmanson's empire are certainly engaged in lobbying and political activity. (They are listed on the American Association of Political Consultants' 2003 membership roster, for Pete's sake!) BBH can claim ignorance, but it was her responsibility to find out who these people were before accepting the gig. I mean, she's a journalist, right? How hard is it to do a Google search? Oh, wait, I the Feb 2000 issue of American Libraries, BBH is quoted thusly:

"Reporters should be thinking about big ideas and can get bogged down in detail," she says. "I write stories with blanks and let the library staff fill them in."

Yeah, those details are a bitch, huh Babs?

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

The Ballad of Barbara Bradley Hagerty

A few months ago, Atrios posted about the World Journalism Institute and outed NPR religion reporter Barbara Bradley Hagerty as a member of this right-wing Christian organization.

People began taking a closer look at Hagerty's work, especially her recent report on John Kerry's Eucharistic Issues. Alert Eschaton readers pointed out that the seemingly "random" parishoners Hagerty spoke to were in fact conservative Catholic movers and shakers Hagerty most likely already knew. As far as I know, not one reader who wrote to NPR's Omsbudsman to complain about this has received a reply.

Something about this story still niggled at me, so I started to do some research of my own. What I found was, to say the least, enlightening:

Barbara Bradley Hagerty graduated from Williams College in 1981 with a degree in Economics. She then interned at the Christian Science Monitor and subsequently worked for the paper and its related media for 11 years. She joined NPR in 1995 as a contract reporter after having become a born-again Christian while writing a story for The LA Times Sunday Magazine. She eventually became a full-time employee, reporting on the Justice Department, the Clinton Impeachment, 9-11 and starting last year, religion, replacing Duncan Moon as religion reporter.

Her religion reporting for NPR has focused mainly on Christianity, including a report on the Christian Science Church, in which she did not disclose that she was herself a former member of the Church. (This little tidbit is revealed in "Citizen Bradley," a Washingtonian article from October 2000 about her multimillionaire brother, Atlantic owner David Bradley. The article isn't online, but is available through LexisNexis.)

In addition to her NPR gig and her deal with the World Journalism Institute, Hagerty has been keeping busy with other writing and speaking engagements. She is on the board of directors for Knowing and Doing, the magazine of the C.S.Lewis Institute, which "endeavors to develop desciples who can articulate, defend and live faith in Christ through personal and public life." (emphasis mine)

More troubling still is her association with Howard Ahmanson's Fieldstead and Co. and Fieldstead Foundation. Ahmanson is a California millionaire who uses his trust fund to finance right-wing Christian, anti-gay, anti-evolution groups and politicians. He was previously associated with Christian Reconstructionism, which advocates a Biblically-based governement for the U.S. (Neither Ahmanson nor his philanthropic endeavors have their own websites. Make of that what you will.)

Hagerty has spoken twice at the Summer Institute of Journalism, a program run by the Council for Christian Colleges and University and funded by the Fieldstead Foundation. Student reactions to her talks are here.

Hagerty's keynote address to the 2003 National Student Media Convention was also sponsored by Fieldstead and Co. In 2003 she also spoke at the Baptist Press Student Journalism Conference, along with Terry Mattingly, a Scripps-Howard reporter who is also a Fieldstead grant recipient.

One final Ahmanson-Hagerty connection: Since June of 2003, Hagerty has reported on the Episcopal Church and gay issues 20 times. (Full disclosure: I am a liberal Episcopalian) She has often quoted members of the American Anglican Council, a conservative group seeking to break away from the Episcopal Church USA and join with more orthodox Anglicans worldwide. This group receives major behind the scenes funding guessed it! Howard Ahmanson. (More here.)

Eschaton reader Dreaming Feet brought the NPR Ethics Guide to my attention, especially this portion:

V. Outside work, freelancing, speaking engagements
7. NPR journalists may only accept fees from educational or nonprofit
groups not engaged in significant lobbying or political activity.
Determining whether a group engages in significant lobbying or political
activity is the responsibility of the journalist seeking permission, and
all information must be fully disclosed to the journalist's supervisor.

8. NPR journalists may not speak to groups where the journalist's
appearance might put in question his or her impartiality. Such instances
include situations where the employee's appearance may appear to endorse
the agenda of a group or organization.

Hagerty's outside work certainly seems to violate both her employers ethics and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's Independence and Integrity II: The Updated Ethics Guide for Public Radio Journalism.

Hagerty likes to say that God is her "employer and audience." She's wrong. God may be her Creator and Savior, but she is employed by the millions of Americans who donate to public radio and finance NPR programming. They deserve better. Contact Jeffery Dvorkin, NPR's Omsbudsman to complain about Hagerty's blatant conflict of interest and violation of professional ethics.

Monday, May 10, 2004

First Post

Watch this space for more on the Barbara Bradley Hagerty story...