Category Archives: The Tennessean

Your Liberal Media, Gannett Edition

My local Gannett fishwrap, this morning:

This was The Tennessean’s print edition of this story. Not only do they perpetuate the fringe Teanut myth that President Obama is a Muslim, they also call Mitt Romney’s religion a cult. Equal opportunity offenders, now that’s what I call fair and balanced!

This is why religion has no place in politics.


Filed under 2012 presidential election, Media, Nashville, The Tennessean

The Tennessean Strikes Again

More corporate astroturfing from The Tennessean? I know, y’all are shocked!

Our local fishwrap ran a hit piece on electric vehicles today, using the National Center for Public Policy Research as its source. This group is another one of those right-wing think tanks funded by the usual suspects (Scaife, Olin and Bradley foundations, as well as Philip Morris and ExxonMobil). They have an anti-environmental agenda, and have been on the, um, “leading edge” of climate change denial since the ’90s. They’re pro-fracking, pro-drilling, and anti-endangered species. Their president is Amy Moritz Ridenour, who recently found her way over here to comment on my “There Is No Light Bulb Ban” post. Basically these are people who if they saw a butterfly floating by, they’d stomp on it.

I’d forgotten about Ridenour’s NCPPR connection (funny, since it was just a few days ago. D’oh!), but I remembered they were in the news for laundering Tom DeLay’s travel money. The organization set off big Jack Abramoff bells with me, as well. So I Google’d. Ah yes: Abramoff was a former board member and used this organization to distribute some of his Choctaw donations:

Another scholar whose Abramoff Fellowship has gone largely unquestioned is Amy Ridenour, who was and remains president of the right-wing National Center for Public Policy Research. Ridenour received some unwelcome attention last year when she testified before a Senate committee investigating Abramoff’s activities. The subject was a $1 million grant that Abramoff, a longtime friend of Ridenour’s who served on her board, funneled from his client, the Mississippi Choctaw Indian tribe, through NCPPR. Some of the money ended up in Abramoff’s pocket. Ridenour testified that she was unaware of the latter transaction. But why did she agree to let NCPPR be a front group for these contributions in the first place? And why did she similarly agree to put NCPPR’s imprimatur on a congressional junket that Abramoff led to Great Britain, one that famously included a stop at the St. Andrews golf course in Scotland? (Ridenour has said she didn’t know in advance about this side trip.)

Ah, well. That’s all water under the bridge. But you know, it’s a little odd that The Tennessean never even identified the NCPPR as a conservative group — something I believe the organization itself openly admits. Their website identifies them as a group

supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.

Isn’t that code for, “Hey we’re a conservative group supportive of the Republican Party!” You’d think The Tennessean would have mentioned their source’s partisan leanings. Sadly, no.

And as for Bonner Cohen, the “senior fellow” they quoted? Let’s ask SourceWatch:

Bonner Cohen headed EPA Watch, which received funding from Philip Morris. He purported to edit EPA Watch as an independent newsletter published and distributed by the non-profit American Policy Center, but in fact it was a publication of the APCO & Associates PR Group, originally owned by Philip Morris’s Washington legal firm, Arnold & Porter (ie A&P Co = APCO)

During this time he shared the work with Steve Milloy (“Junkman”), who was running the organization known as The Advancement for Sound Science Coalition (TASSC), which purported to be a grass-roots, sound-science organization, but which was originally a tobacco industry front (run also by APCO) pushing a “sound science” line.

Milloy clearly wrote a number of the articles published in EPA Watch, and Cohen eventually became listed as President of TASSC when it moved from being a vehicle just for defense of the tobacco industry, to having a wider agenda, opposing government attempts to regulate a number of polluting industries for the benefit of public health.

A Philip Morris document states that EPA Watch was an “asset” established to assist Philip Morris achieve a broader impact than just on the issue of second-hand smoke. Another Philip Morris document argues the need to “develop a plan for EPA Watch / Bonner Cohen as expert on EPA matters, i.e. regular syndicated radio features on EPA activities.”

Oh, so in other words, another corporate astroturfer. Yeah, we figured as much.

The only thing that would make this more perfect is if The Tennessean got Bonner Cohen to write a “Tennessee Voices” column.

Hey, Tennessean: you still suck. But don’t worry, you’re apparently in good company.


Filed under astroturfing, electric car, media manipulation, right wing, The Tennessean

Nashville Scene Calls Out Tennessean On Berman Propaganda

Well this should be fun! Our own Nashville Scene has called out The Tennessean for repeatedly running “op-eds” by corporate sockpuppets working for D.C. PR man Rick Berman. The piece includes a nice shout-out to yours truly, too. {blushes}

I’ve written about The Tennessean’s epic fail before, notably here and here. In May 2010 after they ran a column by Berman employee David Martosko, I wrote:

This is now the third time The Tennessean has fallen for Rick Berman’s propaganda game. Back in February they ran an anti-MADD Tennessee Voices column by “Sarah Longwell,” who fronts several of Rick Berman’s phony organizations, including the restaurant industry-funded American Beverage Institute.


Okay, Tennessean. Will the third time be the charm or is there going to be a fourth incident before your Opinion page editors learn how to hit the Google?

Sadly, there was a fourth time: this column by “J. Justin Wilson” against a plastic bag ban ran back in January. Wilson is identified as “Senior Research Analyst at the Center for Consumer Freedom.” For the record, I haven’t heard of any serious campaign to ban plastic bags in Nashville. Maybe I missed the story.

Let’s meet young Mr. Wilson, shall we? According to the CREW wesbite Berman Exposed, he’s a busy fellow. In addition to his Center for Consumer Freedom duties Wilson is also:

• Senior Research Analyst, Berman and Company
• Managing Director, Center for Union Facts
• Senior Research Fellow, Employment Policies Institute
• Managing Director, Employee Freedom Action Committee
• Senior Research Analyst, Employment Policies Institute

My, what a lot of hats Mr. Wilson wears! In fact, the only Wilson hat that fits is one: sockpuppet for Rick Berman’s corporate clients.

At this point I have to think The Tennessean is a willing participant in a dirty propaganda game. It’s a game which allows major corporations to present themselves as shiny-sparkly good corporate citizens, while at the same time financing an under the table PR war attacking environmentalists, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the Humane Society of the United States, and other “do-good” organizations which embarrass Corporate America.

Thanks for playing along, Tennessean.


Filed under Rick Berman, The Tennessean

Don’t Know Nothing ‘bout History

Here in Nashville we’re in the middle of a messy battle over the future of our state fairgrounds and Nashville Speedway, which is located just south of downtown. One faction, which includes our mayor, wants to redevelop the 117-acre site. It’s crumbling and is barely used save for monthly flea markets and a few special events; the state fair, never a showpiece event, has already been shuttered.

Another faction wants to save the site and in particular, the Nashville Speedway located there. This group, which seems to be primarily racing fans, claims it’s the “finest short track in the world.” Despite the fact that speedway events have been losing money for years, this group has been making a lot of noise and brought in racing celebrities like Sterling Marlin and Darrell Waltrip to plead their case.

I really don’t care one way or the other. I do think the property could be put to better use, and it’s exciting to think about what might be done with a chunk of land that size. Mr. Beale and I attend a handful events at the fairgrounds every year, but those could easily be located elsewhere. I’ll say right now: We aren’t racing fans, and I do think the roar of the motor speedway (which we can hear all the way out at our house, though we live several miles away) is obnoxious. But, I figure that’s what comes with living in a city, and it’s only a few nights out of the year. So if some people are really fired up about saving it, knock yourselves out.

But here’s the thing. Nashville is not a preservationist town. Never has been, never will be. So it really annoys me that our local fishwrap has taken a side on the issue and is now referring to the speedway as “historic.” Give me a break! The racetrack was built in 1958! We’ve been tearing down buildings two, three, even four times older in the name of progress; I don’t ever remember The Tennessean taking a side before. None of these folks making such a fuss about the speedway seemed to mind the loss of Nashville’s history before, either. So calling what is basically a slab of concrete built in 1958 “historic” is just lame.

The site of the speedway has had races for over a hundred years. Well, fine then: slap a historic marker by the side of the road like we’ve done with every other significant piece of Nashville architecture that stood in the way of a fast food restaurant or Walgreen’s. I mean really: where were you people when they tore down Evergreen Place, built in 1785, and replaced it with a Home Depot? What about the Jacksonian, built in 1917, now a Walgreen’s? What about when developers demolished the historic church on South Douglas to make way for condos? Everyone was all like, “oh it’s the free hand of the market and all in the name of progress,” and yada yada. So don’t tell me this circle of concrete is hallowed ground when actual buildings are routinely bulldozed to stoke the engine of progress.

It’s ironic that people who are using a historic preservation argument to save their racetrack seem completely unaware of this city’s truly atrocious historic preservation record. This is how Nashville rolls, people! We are Nashville and we don’t give a crap about our history! We’re a city that tore down our original governor’s mansion back in the ‘70s to make way for a Popeye’s chicken franchise, for crying out loud. When I moved here nearly 30 years ago West End Avenue was lined with graceful mansions. They’re almost all gone now, replaced with strip shopping centers and fast food joints. That’s how Nashville treats its historic structures.

I can appreciate that people want to save something they feel is important but I just have to say: if history is any judge, you’re wasting your time. In fact, you’re better off making some kind of economic argument. Come up with a business plan, and ask Sterling Marlin and Darrell Waltrip to donate some money to upgrade the facility. Talk is cheap, fellas. Put some skin in the game! Show that the Nashville Speedway can be profitable (which may be difficult, considering the problems the Nashville Superspeedway faces).

Take it from someone who has seen the wrecking ball demolish a disheartening array of actual historic structures in this city: money talks in this town. Those of us who care about real historic buildings have been told to suck it up time and time again, so you racetrack fans might want to be prepared to kiss your 52-year-old circle of concrete goodbye.

Just a little tip.


Filed under Nashville, The Tennessean

Rick Berman Fools The Tennessean For 3rd Time

Oh, Tennessean. Your gullibility would be laughable were it not so very appalling. Seriously, what does this say about your reputation that a D.C. lobbyist has managed to fool you not once, not twice, but three times in one six month period? Somewhere on K street a corporate lobbyist is laughing his ass off at you.

On Thursday I posted a blog item about D.C. corporate lobbyist/professional astroturfer Rick Berman and his staff of sock puppets, namely David Martosko.

On Friday, The Tennessean runs a “Tennessee Voices” column by, you guessed it, David Martosko, attacking the HSUS. Yes that would be the same HSUS that just filed an ethics complaint against Martosko’s employer Rick Berman. Timing is everything, isn’t it?

The Tennessean of course identified Martosko as:

…director of research at the Center for Consumer Freedom, a nonprofit watchdog group that deals with activities of tax-exempt activist groups.

Hah! I think I’ve already covered that ground but for those who haven’t been paying attention (ahem, Gannett employees!) that’s a bit of a stretch. It’s a more like an industry front group, funded by Cargill, Tyson Foods, Coca-Cola, Monsanto, and others. From Wikipedia:

IRS records show that in 2007, the CCF paid more than $1.5 million to Berman and Company for “research, communications, and other services.”[25] Both the Center for Consumer Freedom and American Beverage Institute are managed by and share facilities with Berman and Company,[26] a public affairs firm owned by lobbyist Richard Berman and also associated with Center for Union Facts.

This is now the third time The Tennessean has fallen for Rick Berman’s propaganda game. Back in February they ran an anti-MADD Tennessee Voices column by “Sarah Longwell,” who fronts several of Rick Berman’s phony organizations, including the restaurant industry-funded American Beverage Institute.

But wait, there’s more. In December 2009, The Tennessean ran an anti-minimum wage op-ed by “Kristen Lopez Eastlick,” identified as “senior economic analyst at the Employment Policies Institute.” Eastlick is a very busy lady:

Kristen Lopez Eastlick has been listed in many different capacities for nearly all of Berman & Company’s front groups. She has been cited as everything from director of policy analysis to chief administrative officer, and has been linked to the Center for Consumer Freedom, the American Beverage Institute, the Employment Policy Institute, the Center for Economic and Entrepreneurial Literacy, Activist Cash, and the Employee Freedom Action Committee. Eastlick is a frequent editorial writer and Berman spokesperson.

Okay, Tennessean. Will the third time be the charm or is there going to be a fourth incident before your Opinion page editors learn how to hit the Google?

And they say the internet killed the newspaper business. Yeah, right. Looks like a suicide to me.


Filed under astroturfing, media, Rick Berman, The Tennessean

The Tennessean Got Duped–AGAIN

Someone needs to clue in the editors of our local Gannett fishwrap about a little something called professional sock-puppetry. Because they keep falling for it.

For example, who is this Sarah Longwell person who penned an anti-MADD column for the “Tennessee Voices” section of The Tennessean back in February?

Just another PR professional on the staff of D.C. lobbyist Rick Berman:

Short Bio: Sarah Longwell works in public relations for Berman & Company, listed as the principal media contact for the Center for Consumer Freedom, the Center for Union Facts, and the Indoor Tanning Association. She is also listed as both the managing director and communications director of the American Beverage Institute. Longwell has written many editorial pieces on behalf of these industry-funded front groups and often serves as a media spokesperson. She previously served as the director of communications at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, a nonprofit organization that works to spread the conservative message on college campuses.

Of course, this isn’t the first time a Rick Berman PR employee has sock-puppeted for a client in the pages of The Tennessean by hiding behind a non-existent non-profit. Back on December 23, 2009, Kristen Lopez Eastlick slammed the minimum wage increase in an opinion piece in our daily, which identified her as “senior economic analyst at the Employment Policies Institute” (the column has been pulled, but you can read a copy of it here.)

But there is no such organization as the “Employment Policies Institute.” It’s another phony group established by lobbyist Rick Berman, no more than a website. Eastlick, like Sarah Longwell, is an employee of Rick Berman’s. In addition to being the “senior economic analyst at the Employment Policies Institute” she also holds the titles of

• Chief Administrative Officer, Berman and Company
• Senior Research Analyst, Employment Policies Institute
• Government Affairs Director, Berman and Company
• Government Affairs Director, Center for Consumer Freedom
• Director of State Affairs, American Beverage Institute
• Spokesperson, American Beverage Institute
• Lobbyist, American Beverage Institute
• Chief Administration Officer, American Beverage Institute
• Director of Policy Analysis, Employment Policies Institute
• Spokesperson, Employment Policies Institute
• Economic Analyst, Employment Policies Institute
• Senior Research Analyst, Activist Cash

… in other words, whatever best fits the needs of the moment to better dupe the clueless reporter/opinion page editor/producer, etc. And it’s all on behalf of Berman & Co. clients which include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Philip Morris, Smithfield Foods, Coca-Cola, Wendy’s, Tyson’s Foods, Cargill, and Outback Steakhouse (to name a few).

So, way to go Tennessean. Here’s some advice for you: before you run any “Tennessee Voices” columns from people named Sarah Kapenstein, David Martosko, Trice Whitefield or Tim Miller, you might want to hit the Google.

(h/t, Pylon in comments.)


Filed under Rick Berman, The Tennessean

>Time For A Blogger Ethics Panel?

>So our daily fishwrap gave $15,000 to the Music City Center Coalition.

Umm … I remember when a major daily newspaper donating large sums of money to further a political cause that it was also supposedly covering with impartiality was a no-no.

I also don’t want to hear about how much money The Tennessean is losing, forcing layoffs of experienced people, when they’ve got $15,000 to pass around to its favorite political causes.

Shame on you, Tennessean.


Filed under media, Nashville, The Tennessean

Question Of The Day: What Is Carol Swain The Tennessean Smoking?

Seriously, is this the best person The Tennessean could find to write an op-ed opposing President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize?

Carol Swain’s piece in today’s fishwrap reads like the greatest hits from Michelle Bachmann’s cult of crazy. For example:

Everything that we know about President Obama causes one to marvel at his extraordinary good fortune. The odds against his election were enormous. No other president has been surrounded by a shroud of secrecy that includes sealed birth, educational and travel records. These sealed records have made it difficult for him to garner the military respect needed for a successful commander-in-chief.

You can just hear where Swain is going with this “it’s awfully suspicious isn’t it” tack. Yes, Obama was pretty “lucky” (wink wink) to rise to power, wasn’t he? Strange, isn’t it? And now a Nobel Peace Prize on top of that? (You know, that “prize” awarded by “foreigners”?)

Oh, there’s more:

A great fear is that the prize was given to influence future presidential behavior. That it could serve to curtail military options. Already some people fret about weakening national sovereignty, reductions in domestic freedoms through increased surveillance of citizens, and a thumbing of the nose at traditional American values.

“Some people fret” — like who? The UN black helicopter crowd? Those people? Apparently, yes:

The peace prize has gone to a president who engaged in what some called an international apology tour for past U.S. behavior. Under his watch, U.S. military officers ordered the burning of Bibles in Afghanistan, and he told a Muslim audience in Turkey that the United States is no longer a Christian nation. In words and deeds, some see a rejection of American exceptionalism.

OMG!!!1!!!1!!!ELEVEN!!! It’s a Muslim conspiracy!!!! Where’s the outrage!

Perhaps the U.S. military didn’t think it helped the war effort when some Fundies took it upon themselves to convert the Afghan population to Christianity. Maybe that church should have checked with someone before going to all that trouble. Sorry but you’ll have to proselytize without the help of the U.S. military. (Fact check note: Via Black Gold 68 in comments, this incident happened during the Bush Administration and was merely confirmed after Obama became POTUS.) And no, the U.S. has never been a “Christian nation.” I really don’t want to have that argument again.

And finally:

A cosmopolitan man, who has worn an American flag pin with great unease, has been awarded a Nobel Prize. Where he takes America, God knows.

Oh Carol Swain! Just come out and say it already: you think President Obama is an America-hating secret Muslim installed into the White House as part of some conspiracy by “foreigners” who hate Jesus. He could be the Antichrist!!! OMG!! Don’t dance around it, you lay out your “evidence” pretty well. Just tell us what you think.

I cannot believe this crackpot is a Vanderbilt University professor. What an embarrassment to that institution.

Even worse: I cannot believe The Tennessean assigned Swain the anti-Nobel Peace Prize column. I have heard some actual legitimate arguments questioning the Nobel Committee’s decision (personally I think the entire thing is ridiculously overblown, but that’s just me). But fear-mongering that it’s an attempt by foreigners to control the president and trotting out “he’s a super scary secret Muslim” conspiracies from the campaign are not among them.

Is The Tennessean trying to make conservatives look stupid by giving column inches to the right’s most wacked out voices, people like Carol Swain and Phil Valentine? Or is this really what the conservative movement has become? Crazy conspiracies about Manchurian presidencies and intolerance for the poor?

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Filed under Dr. Carol Swain, Nobel Peace Prize, President Barack Obama, The Tennessean

>The Tennessean: Wankers Of The Day

>What Jesse Taylor said:

Cutting $5 billion in earmarks is vital to our nation.

Cutting three times that amount is a total joke, worthy of absolute derision and scorn.

And they wonder why we’re nervous about homeschooling.

With that in mind, I’m trying to remember the last time The Tennessean ran a banner headline like this splashed across its front page under the subhead “analysis.” The story itself was pulled from deep inside today’s Washington Post.

Really, Tennessean? The front page?

I guess The Tennessean is catering to the teabag crowd, underplaying parts of the story like this:

But Emanuel said the $17 billion package represents but one piece of a much larger deficit-reduction puzzle. He pointed to the Senate’s passage yesterday, by 93 to 0, of a defense procurement reform package (the House may follow soon). That, he said, could shave $100 billion or more from federal spending. There are other pieces that he said add up to an effective strategy to rein in spending.

This is one reason why I stopped subscribing to our daily fishwrap. If I wanted to read the Washington Post, I’d read, you know, the Washington Post. Which I do.

But pulling a story like this from deep inside the Post and splashing it across the front page as if it were some kind of news item is just bullshit.

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Filed under media, The Tennessean

>Still Embarrassed By My Fellow Tennesseans

>Today’s Tennessean asks:

Should Family Members Be On The Campaign Trail?

I found this answer particularly sad:

For me, it’s an inspiration to watch them all. To be able to see Sarah Palin as a governor with five children and one’s a special-needs child. And she’s beautiful and she has great hair!

I shit you not.

Just shoot me now.

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Filed under Sarah Palin, The Tennessean