CyberAlert -- 06/19/2001 -- Liberal Night on PBS

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FERC "Finally Stepped In"; Upset by Cheney Task Force But Not by Hillary's; "Victimized by the Free Market"; Liberal Night on PBS

1) Dan Rather celebrated federal intervention in California's electricity market by FERC, which he said "finally stepped in today." But he worried: "Whether this is too little too late remains to be seen."

2) The networks ignored a lawsuit and federal judicial rulings rebuking the Clinton White House for the secret membership of Hillary's health care task force. But on Monday night, the CBS Evening News jumped on Democratic demands to know who attended meetings of Dick Cheney's energy task force. John Roberts asserted: "The White House has come under stinging criticism for its ties to the oil, gas and energy industries."

3) CBS reporter John Blackstone highlighted "suspicions" that California "is being victimized by the free market," but, as even the NBC Nightly News reported, unlike what occurred in neighboring Nevada which has no electricity shortage, retail electricity prices were not allowed to rise in California. Dan Rather relayed how more think California's shortages were "created to boost power company profits" thank believe there's a real energy crisis.

4) NBC's Today gave Alan Dershowitz a platform to push his new book, Supreme Injustice: How the High Court Hijacked Election 2000. Matt Lauer read a long excerpt: "...they shamed themselves and the court on which they serve and they defiled their places in history. Some of them were motivated by partisan advantage. Others were motivated by expectation of personal gain."

5) PBS more liberal than usual tonight. First up, a two-hour Bill Moyers Reports, Earth on the Edge, followed by a P.O.V. on "one boy's tireless effort to overturn the Boy Scouts of America's anti-gay policy." Moyers, the Washington Post promised, will document "man's impact on the environment, from the destruction of forests and wetlands to the annihilation of animal species."

6) "She's cool. She just is," ABC's Diane Sawyer cooed about Chelsea Clinton, though no one beyond those she meets personally have heard her speak since 1997.

Correction: The June 18 CyberAlert quoted Newsweek's Evan Thomas as saying on CNN's Reliable Sources: "Generally the rank and file press is pretty green and they're going to use the Europeans to take the Bush's to task." I then added: "[Yes, he said 'the Bush's.']" Actually, he did not. In listening to it again on tape, though it's hard to make out since he's being talked over at that point, it sounds more like he said "the Bushies," which makes more sense.


Dan Rather opened Monday's CBS Evening News by celebrating how the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), has "finally stepped in today" by deciding to regulate California's electricity market. "Whether this is too little too late remains to be seen," Rather worried.

Rather announced: "Good evening. With much of the power hungry American West showing signs of following California into an energy crisis and the rest of the country wondering who will be next, federal energy regulators finally stepped in today. As CBS first reported to you last week, price restraints were in the offing and tonight they are officially in place on power markets in eleven Western States. Whether this is too little too late remains to be seen."

In the subsequent story on FERC's "market mitigation" plan, in which prices are set to the highest cost energy produced that day, Wyatt Andrews noted that FERC did not go far enough for some: "While the vote today was unanimous, one Democrat, Bill Massey, said there may still be a need for price controls."
Bill Massey, FERC Commissioner: "It is still a broken market. Prices can soar at the drop of a hat."


Liberal Democrats kvetch about the Bush-Cheney energy task force meetings and CBS News jumps. For years, conservatives and a group of physicians complained about how Hillary Clinton's health care task force violated the federal open meetings rules by holding sessions which involved both federal employees and outside experts. But the networks, including CBS, didn't care, not even when a federal judge in late 1997 leveled a $286,000 fine to compensate the physicians group when he decided White House officials were less than honest about the composition of the task force.

Three-and-a-half years later, however, with a Democrats attacking a Republican President CBS News suddenly found who attended task force meetings to be quite newsworthy. Dan Rather intoned on the June 18 CBS Evening News:
"Congressional investigators looking into the Bush energy policy say they are now being denied access to key information, namely who met with and advised the for awhile secret energy task force headed up by Vice President Dick Cheney, the President's designated point man on energy policy. CBS's John Roberts is working that story."

Roberts relayed the Democratic spin, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Democrats are demanding to know who helped shape the President's energy policy and tonight accused the White House of stonewalling."
Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA): "We ought to have the basic information of who participated, what interest groups came in and made their case, so that we can look at the recommendations to see whether they got what they asked for."
Roberts: "The President's energy task force met with more than 260 groups, but the White House disclosed only four meetings -- one high-profile event with labor leaders, three others with environmental and consumer groups. The General Accounting Office, at the request of Congressman Waxman and John Dingell, the ranking member of the Energy Committee, petitioned the White House for a list of all task force meetings held and a complete accounting of all attendees. The office of the Vice President gave up documents related to the mission and funding of the task force but refused to say who they met with, arguing that there was no legal basis for the inquiry."

After a clip of Ari Fleischer promising cooperation with the GAO, Roberts continued: "The White House has come under stinging criticism for its ties to the oil, gas and energy industries. Much of the attention has focused on top political adviser Karl Rove, who held up to a quarter of a million dollars in stock in energy giant Enron Corporation even as the task force was forming policy. Rove, who has since sold the stock, has denied any conflict of interest, and today the President backed him up."

Following a soundbite of President Bush expressing confidence in Rove, Roberts concluded: "The GAO isn't about to roll over on the issue and says that it will press the White House later this week to release the document's that it's asked for. White House officials tonight are defiant, saying those meetings were private and will stay that way."

What a difference a new President makes. From the January 1995 MediaWatch, the MRC's since discontinued monthly newsletter:
"On December 21 [1994], U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth asked the District of Columbia U.S. Attorney to examine White House aide Ira Magaziner's testimony on the health care task force for perjury and contempt of court violations. Magaziner headed Clinton's health care task force and helped conceive and author the Health Security Act. In response to a lawsuit trying to stop the committee developing the health care plan from working in secret, Magaziner gave a sworn declaration that only federal government employees were working on the health plan. Judge Lamberth wrote that Magaziner must have known his declaration was false, because employees of his private consulting firm were working on the task force. Network and news magazine coverage of Magaziner's lie? Zero."

From the April 6, 1998 MediaWatch:
"Last December, Judge Royce Lamberth fined the White House $286,000 for health czar Ira Magaziner's lying (at White House lawyers' direction) about the composition of Hillary's health care task force in order to keep meetings closed to the public. Lamberth issued the fine to reimburse the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons for costs in their lawsuit against the Clinton health planners.
"The White House claimed throughout the litigation the task force had no non-governmental employees on it. After Lamberth's fine, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Archer called on Magaziner to resign. Just as they'd ignored the AAPS suit from the beginning, the networks aired nothing on the Lamberth decision or Archer's call for Magaziner to step down."

While the ABC, CBS and NBC network morning and even shows skipped the development, as did CNN, on NBC's Meet the Press over a week later Tim Russert did raise it. For more details about the judge's ruling and the lack of coverage, go to:


CBS confirmed Monday night that its liberal claptrap about how energy companies have been pillaging California has become accepted by the public. Dan Rather relayed how a new CBS News/New York Times poll determined that while 43 percent consider California's energy crisis to be real, 45 percent think it was "created to boost power company profits."

Just last Thursday on the same show, reporter John Blackstone highlighted "suspicions" that California "is being victimized by the free market" and asserted that investigations of power companies are underway, "driven by doubts the free market has been a fair market."

But what "free market"? As even the NBC Nightly News reported on Monday night, unlike what occurred in neighboring Nevada, retail electricity prices were not deregulated last year in California, which might explain why Nevada has plenty of power. NBC's Roger O'Neil explained: "Utilities in both states have to buy power when demand surges -- that's air conditioning season in Nevada. But the difference is surging power costs here have been passed on to customers. Rates have gone up steadily and are 46 percent higher now than nine months ago, but the power companies are solvent."

Dan Rather's full rundown of his new polling which found most want price caps imposed: "For whatever, if anything, it may be worth, a new CBS News/New York Times poll indicates U.S. opinion split on whether California's energy shortage is real or created to boost power company profits: 43 percent of those polled said the shortage is real, 45 percent said it isn't. But a solid majority said the federal government and the Bush administration should step in to help California, which it did somewhat today. And there's overwhelming support nationwide for government-set price caps on what power companies can charge. President Bush opposes price caps. Whether or not there has been manipulation of the California energy markets is the subject of a major independent news investigation we've been working on here at the CBS Evening News. And we'll start special Eye on America reports with the investigative results tomorrow evening."

I'm sure that will be balanced.

Last Thursday, June 14, CBS's Blackstone gave credibility to conspiracy theories, MRC analyst Brian Boyd noticed. Relating how one businessman moved his plant to Los Angeles, which has a reliable city-owned electricity system, Blackstone charged: "But Gary Johnson didn't have to move his factory out of state, he simply moved into the city of Los Angeles, which operates its own public utility. Thanks to the city owned power company, LA has managed to avoid California's blackouts and soaring prices. But that has added to suspicions the rest of the state is being victimized by the free market."
Peter Navarro, University of California, Irvine: "That's a conspiracy theory that would make Oliver Stone blush, but if you look at the facts it rings very true."
Blackstone: "Business professor Peter Navarro has analyzed secret contracts California's governor negotiated with power producers. Contracts that despite current price dips commit the state to paying high prices for years to come."
Navarro: "We analyzed the governor's strategy and came up with a cost of about $9 billion additional that businesses and consumers are going to have to pay."
Blackstone: "But Governor Gray Davis insists the contracts are needed to keep prices under control during peak demand this summer."
Davis: "The days of figuratively raping and pillaging California are over and there will be a day of accounting."
Blackstone: "After months of criticizing power producers California's governor finally seems to be getting someone in Washington to listen. Even an enthusiastic supporter of deregulation, Curt Hebert, the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, is beginning to sound like a consumer advocate."
Hebert: "It's an evolution, we have to continually be vigilant to protect consumers and we are going to do that."
Blackstone concluded: "Investigations are now underway in both Oregon and Washington as well as here in California, driven by doubts the free market has been a fair market."

In a column which appeared in the Washington Post on June 13, the day before Blackstone's anti- free market conspiracies, economics writer Robert Samuelson offered a simpler explanation for California's problems. An excerpt:

Although details are complex, the root cause of California's electricity problem is simple: Demand outran supply. A booming economy coupled with little power-plant construction led to a scarcity of generating capacity, which was compounded by low levels of water to produce hydroelectric power. Wholesale electricity prices rose dramatically, in part because prices for natural gas -- the fuel used in many of California's plants -- were rising dramatically. None of this was Davis's fault, but he has made a bad situation worse.

He's tried to defy the law of supply and demand. The 1996 "deregulation" of California's electricity industry had forced the major utilities to sell many of their generating plants and buy power on the wholesale market, mainly -- though not exclusively -- from companies that had purchased their old plants. Meanwhile, retail electricity rates were frozen. The idea was that competition among power producers would keep wholesale prices low. When demand overwhelmed supply -- destroying this assumption -- Davis resolutely opposed raising retail electricity rates. The consequences were predictable and disastrous.

First, the state's two largest utilities, Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison, became insolvent. No business can survive indefinitely if it is forced to buy its product at $1 and resell it at 75 cents. PG&E has declared bankruptcy. Edison also has billions of dollars of unpaid debt and remains out of bankruptcy only at the forbearance of its creditors....

The point of raising retail rates is not only to cover wholesale power costs but also to dampen demand -- to promote "conservation." People become more energy-conscious....

END Excerpt

To read Samuelson's entire piece, go to:


Though Matt Lauer made clear that Alan Dershowitz is "a Democrat" and asked him to react to the charge that his new book is just about his "politics," the left-wing Harvard law professor got a platform on Monday's Today to extrapolate about his tome on the Supreme Court's presidential election decision, Supreme Injustice: How the High Court Hijacked Election 2000. To draw out Dershowitz's views Lauer even read a long excerpt from the book, including quoting Dershowitz as writing: "And in so voting they shamed themselves and the court on which they serve and they defiled their places in history. Some of them were motivated by partisan advantage." Lauer interceded: "Here's the part that gonna raise eyebrows: 'Others were motivated by expectation of personal gain.'"

MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens took down Lauer's questions on the June 18 Today:

-- "For 36 tumultuous days last year a nation waited to see who the next President of the United States would be. Then on December 12, two days before this photo opportunity the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court in a controversial 5-4 decision stopped the Florida ballot recount requested by then Vice President Al Gore effectively ending his quest to become the 43rd President. Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz is the author of Supreme Injustice: How the High Court Hijacked Election 2000. Alan, good to have you back. You're not going to get an invitation to the Supreme Court picnic after this book gets around. Why did you want to go back in and tackle this subject? So much was written about it."

-- "Let's make sure people understand the facts here. You were a clerk at the Supreme Court for Justice Goldberg back in the sixties. You are a Democrat, let me repeat, you are a Democrat."

-- "Alright, so why shouldn't I believe that this is 200 pages of sour grapes?"

-- "In some ways by talking about how they would have voted, we are almost getting ahead of ourselves, because your main argument in this book is they never should have taken this case."

-- "So it had nothing to do with the law. It had to do with politics. They were basically trying to overrule an election."

-- Lauer: "You make some, some serious charges. Here's a quote from the book, bear with me it's a little bit long. 'Now in one fell swoop, five partisan judges have caused many Americans to question each of the assumptions under girding the special status accorded these nine robed human beings. Their votes reflected not any enduring Constitutional values rooted in the precedence of the ages but rather the partisan quest for immediate political victory. And in so voting they shamed themselves and the court on which they serve and they defiled their places in history. Some of them were motivated by partisan advantage.' Here's the part that gonna raise eyebrows: 'Others were motivated by expectation of personal gain.'"

-- "So you're saying she [Sandra Day O'Connor] has curried favor with the Republicans and George W. Bush and will serve to her advantage should she compete for Chief Justice?"

-- "I would imagine because you were a clerk you've got contacts. You've argued, as you said, before the Court. You've got some inside information here. How has this impacted the relationship between the justices on the Court?"

-- "Do people other than legal scholars like you, really care? You know there was so much talk after the election that this would tarnish the reputation of the Court. Do you see any evidence from people on the street that, that's happened?"

-- "And do people who listen to you saying that the justices, these five in particular, acted on politics alone but then are gonna look at you and say, 'but this book has to be a result of your politics?' You answer that."

Lauer wrapped up by noting: "If you'd like to read an excerpt from Supreme Injustice you can log on to our website at"


Liberal night on PBS tonight, as if that needs saying. Most PBS affiliates tonight will air a two-hour Bill Moyers Reports special, Earth on the Edge, followed by the season premiere of P.O.V. with a one-hour look at, as the Washington Post's TV Week put it, "one boy's tireless effort to overturn the Boy Scouts of America's anti-gay policy."

As a "point of view" series, that's what P.O.V. stands for, there's nothing necessarily wrong with a one-sided documentary. But the problem is, PBS has no plans to offer a balancing hour in the series. In fact, from the topic list of the upcoming P.O.V. episodes there's no sign any will approach any subject from a conservative angle.

As for the Moyers show, the Washington Post's TV Week summary of it made clear its agenda: "A team of scientists and environmentalists examines man's impact on the environment, from the destruction of forests and wetlands to the annihilation of animal species."

Now, if we could just "annihilate" PBS.

Here's an excerpt of how the PBS Web site previews tonight's show, set to air at 8pm on Washington, DC's WETA-TV:

CBS News reports on a dust storm in Mongolia that is traveling across China and into the US, The New York Times reports that Florida may face a water deficit of 30% by the year 2020, and the New Orleans paper, the Times Picayune, describes a "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico that is as big as the state of New Jersey.

The proliferation of news stories such as these, along with the call for the first full-scale scientific survey of the Earth's ecosystems, known as the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, inspired journalist Bill Moyers and his team of award-winning producers to take a look at what is happening to our planet and what we can do about it. Bill Moyers Reports: Earth on Edge probes two of the most critical questions of the new century: Will Earth continue to have the capacity to support the human species and civilization? Moreover, what can we do to protect our life-support system-the natural environment?...."We are pushing our planet to the absolute limit of its ability to function," says Dr. Melanie Stiassny, one of the biologists interviewed, whose findings suggest that Earth is approaching critical environmental thresholds that may be irreversible....

END Excerpt from Web site

For more, including links to organic food growers, go to:


"She's cool. She just is," ABC's Diane Sawyer cooed about Chelsea Clinton, though no one beyond those she meets personally have heard her speak since 1997.

MRC analyst Jessica Anderson caught this tribute on the June 18 Good Morning America:

Diane Sawyer: "It's picture of the morning time, Charlie."
Charles Gibson: "Well, a lot of pictures, actually, in this case, Diane. Former First Daughter Chelsea Clinton had a lot to celebrate over the weekend. She graduated from Stanford University yesterday. She was just another student on graduation day -- well, almost. Chelsea Clinton arrived with her beaming parents and joined Stanford University's graduating class of 2001. Much like her classmates, she enjoyed the school's traditional wacky walk, a 20-minute romp as students file into the stadium. Her parents looked on.
"The former First Daughter, Chelsea Clinton, was only 12 when she first came to public attention. Then people followed her through high school, college and family pain. But through it all she showed considerable spirit and a quiet wisdom that seemed beyond her years."
Chelsea, during trip to Africa in 1997: "We have a big problem with violence in our country, in all spectrums. We have a big problem with drugs and we have a big problem with people not thinking they have a future."
Gibson: "Chelsea, so familiar but so unknown, was a standout student at Stanford, awarded a degree in history with highest honors. She wrote her senior thesis on negotiating peace in Northern Ireland. The 150-page work is partly based on interviews with a certain former American President.
"Mr. Clinton told the New York Times, 'I think Hillary and I are graduating, too, to a new phase in our relationship with Chelsea. We're excited about it, grateful that she still wants to spend time with us and I'm sure I'll be learning a lot more as we tag along in her life.' The former President says Chelsea has her mother's character and her father's energy -- quite a combination.
"And so neat to see her so exuberant as she graduated from Stanford yesterday. She's going to be following in her father's footsteps. She is going to enroll in Oxford in the fall, at Oxford in the fall to do work in economics and international relations. We'll be right back."
Sawyer: "She's cool. She just is."

Her mother's character and her father's energy. Quite a combination, indeed. -- Brent Baker

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