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'The Simpsons' Vs. the First Amendment

Dan Abrams blogs,  "Is this new study that has high school teachers around the country shaking their heads in disbelief really that disturbing?  Only 28 percent of people polled could name more than one freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment."

Is this new study that has high school teachers around the country shaking their heads in disbelief really that disturbing?  Only 28 percent of people polled could name more than one freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment, while almost twice that number, 52 percent, could identify more than one character from the animated TV show “The Simpsons”, according to a McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum poll. 

The number is even more disparate when it comes to naming all five Simpson characters versus all five rights granted in the First Amendment.  Twenty-two percent could name Bart, Homer, Marge, Lisa, and Maggie while only one-tenth of one percent recalled freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and the right to partition the government for redress of grievances.  Sure, it sounds bad and it is bad, particularly the 17 percent who believe the right to drive a car is protected by the First Amendment.  The car was invented 100 years after the First Amendment was ratified, but like all polls, it depends on how you look at it and I tend to look on the bright side.  More people-72 percent-could identify one right, freedom of speech, than were able to name one Simpson-Bart-at just 61 percent. 

And that blew away the number who could identify one judge on “American Idol.”  Paula came in as the most recognizable with a paltry 49 percent.  So some of those civics lessons are sticking at least a little. 

And then there's a flipside to watching “The Simpsons”.  Sure, it's sometimes a politically incorrect animated comedy to some.  But according to a team of Scottish researchers, there are lessons to be learned from Homer, Marge and the gang. 

They believe that watching “The Simpsons” can help teach children science, in particular, how to recycle solar power, DNA, and nuclear energy.  Maybe some of those polled learned about civics and “The Simpsons” in college.  We found 10 colleges and universities that offer classes about “The Simpsons” and society or “The Simpsons” and satire, including the University of California at Berkeley, Rice, and Columbia College. 

And is knowing your rights more important than knowing your family?  Well according to the St. Louis Dispatch, “no show since Ed Sullivan has united more families in front of the TV.”  Look, it's unfortunate that 21 percent of those polled thought the First Amendment grants citizens the right to own and raise a pet.  It does not.  It seems Bart may be more of a constitutional scholar than that.  He correctly pointed out that “the First Amendment does not cover burping.”

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Higher ticket prices or a $1 for peanuts? (Dan Abrams)

Why columnists and some consumer groups need to stop moaning about airlines charging for services we used to get for free. 

I know.  We‘ve come to accept free meals, drinks, and emergency exit row seats as sort of flyer‘s constitutional rights.  Well, it‘s time to accept the fact that flying is a business, not an entitlement, and these days it has not been a very successful one at that.  Four of the six largest U.S. airlines have filed for bankruptcy.  With fuel prices soaring, the money has to come from somewhere.  And I would much rather have to pay for peanuts than have fares go up across the board. 

American Eagle is now charging $1 for sodas or a bag of chips.  For $5, you can be the proud owner of your own pillow and blanket kit.  On American and United, you‘ll now pay $2 per bag for curbside check-in and United is offering three to five inches more leg room in economy class if you‘re willing to pay a $299 annual fee.  Free alcoholic drinks even on United international flights are now a thing of the past. 

OK, so now the airlines are finally running their businesses like everyone else.  You pay for food and better seats.  Why shouldn‘t the person who wants to fly cheap bring his own food and drink and sit in a middle seat, while letting the person with more to spend pay for an aisle, a soda, and a meal?  If I don‘t want to eat a nearly frozen roll with ham and cheese, why should I have to pay for the guy next to me to chow down as part of my ticket price?

What about carry-on baggage?  Look, most of us would love to bring our suitcases on the plane.  After all, who wants to wait at the carousel for up to an hour just hoping your bags weren‘t lost, but there just isn‘t enough room.  A few people hog the overhead bins after sneaking their huge bags onto the plane, so why not just make people pay for overhead space?  Again, that should mean those who check the bags save money. 

Sure, you can argue that the airlines can make cuts elsewhere and they should, but when you go see a show or a ballgame, you pay for better seats.  You pay for snacks.  Airlines have long done it with first class anyway.  And in my book that sure beats raising prices for everyone. 

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Fans unhappy with 007 recast (Dan Abrams)

A group of overly consumed bond fans have created a website called to launch a formal protest against the selection of the British actor.  And apparently it’s picking up steam.  Their concerns are many.

Firstly, that Craig is blonde.  They say 007 is not.

And Craig cannot drive a stick shift.  Bond’s famous car, the Aston Martin DB5, is of course, a stick.  Those fans are appalled that the car had to be retooled so Craig could drive it.  I am not sure why they did not just teach him how to drive stick.

They also claim Craig is not “manly enough.”  When he was first introduced to the press in a very spy-like speedboat shooting down the River Thames, he was wearing a life jacket, choosing safety over studly.  And since he started shooting the newest bond film, Casino Royale, Craig’s most un-Bond-like trait has been revealed.  He is apparently afraid of guns and announced he is opposed to individuals owning handguns.  How in the world, Bond fans ask, can the United Kingdom’s most effective spy be terrified of guns?

Fair enough.  If he was trying to become a real spy, a real member of England’s infamous MI6 intelligence service, some of those would be valid concerns.  But, and the real diehards may want to cover their ears, he is an actor, it’s not real.

Newsflash!  Heath ledger is not gay or a cowboy and yet he adeptly played a gay cowboy in Brokeback Mountain.  Julia Roberts is not a prostitute, yet she did an excellent job portraying one in the 1990 movie “Pretty Woman.”  Actor Henry Winkler was a short, Yale-trained actor and yet he still got the thumbs up as a motorcycle-riding, finger-snapping, jukebox-starting Milwaukee mechanic swarmed by beautiful women.  Oh, and best I can tell actor Steve Carrell is not really a 40-year-old virgin. 

Are we really going to start judging movies by the actors’ real lives? If Craig is not as convincing on the screen as Pierce Brosnan was, then he is not the right person for the part.  But the test is not whether he drinks shaken martinis at home.  The question is how well does he fake it.  Because after all, that is what good actors do.   

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What is going on up at the U.S. Supreme Court?  You know the austere body with nine justices whose pinions on abortion, executive power, affirmative action or other broad constitutional principles become the law of the land?  Well, last week the court set precedent on crucial legal questions related to tripping on your mail, drinking hallucinogenic tea, and pizza franchises.  Not exactly the topics that divided the country during the confirmation hearings of Samuel Alito and John Roberts. 

Who thought that a woman who said she stepped on her mail, tripped, and hurt her back and wrist would make it past the doors of Jacoby and Meyers, much less into the grand halls of the Supreme Court?  The court ruled Barbara Dolan could sue the post office in what has become an American tradition, of slipping, falling, and then suing.

And thank goodness we now have some closure on that other issue the nation had been debating so vigorously--whether an obscure sect of Brazilian church members can drink hoasca, a hallucinogenic tea found only in the Amazon forest.  The answer, yes. 
The 130 members of the church can now trip at teatime without fear of legal repercussions. 

And then there was the guy who tried to sue Domino's Pizza for violating his civil rights.  No, not because the pizza wasn't delivered to his home, not because he was fired or couldn't get a job, but because after Domino's paid him not to open franchises in Las Vegas, he filed another suit claiming he was the victim of discrimination.  The Court said he shouldn’t have filed the case.  Thank goodness there's now established Supreme Court precedent governing an individual's right to sue the nation's largest pizza chain. 

If that all sounds a bit tabloid, just wait until next week when Ms. Smith heads to Washington, former stripper and “Playboy” model Anna Nicole Smith will be at the court, arguing she's entitled to money from the estate of her 95-year-old husband.  I guess if that's a bust, she can always claim she tripped on his mail. 


Lying on your resume is a really bad idea.  And if you get caught, it will probably get you fired and lead to your being humiliated.  Unless, of course, you have been delivering for your company.

Last week, Radio Shack's Chief Executive Officer David Edmondson admitted he had awarded himself some academic degrees on his resume--theology and psychology degrees from Pacific Coast College in California.  It turns out he only went to the school for two semesters and even worse, it doesn’t offer a degree in psychology...

So, after 12 years at Radio Shack, Edmondson was exposed.  But apparently in parts of corporate America that doesn't get you booted from the corner office.  No, the company's board announced last Tuesday that it stood behind its academically underachieving CEO.  The Board said the matter would be investigated, but in the meantime, Edmundson would stay.

Uh, that is, until three days later, when the company’s earnings results came out.  Radio Shack reported fourth-quarter earnings dropped 62 percent and announced it would be closing 400 to 700 stores.  Hmmm…suddenly that resume thing starts to sting just a little more and, lo and behold, Edmundson resigned on Monday.

Same issue with a different bottom line for Bausch & Lomb CEO Ronald Zarrella four years ago.  He lied about having an MBA from New York University.  Well, after the company found out in 2002, they stood behind him for better or…for better.  He only paid a fine because well, the company was doing fine

Then there is Brownie.  Michael Brown, the former FEMA director, padded his resume, writing that he had served as an assistant city manager with emergency services oversight in Edmund, Oklahoma in the 1970's.  Actually, he was just an intern.  But Brownie only stopped doing a “heckuva” job after he seemed more concerned about finding a dogsitter than he was about the thousands of people trapped in New Orleans without food or water.  That is what really burnt brownie.  Although, it’s worth noting that Brownie did have lots of company among his fellow government employees.  A recent congressional investigation revealed that 463 federal employees had academic degrees from unaccredited schools, some of which hand out bogus Ph-D's and Master’s degrees.  Some were fired, others were not.

Bottom line…it’s often the bottom line that determines just how significant that degree really is.


Spray responsibly: The art of wearing men's cologne  (Dan Abrams)

This one is especially for you men who believe both in animal attraction and that animal attraction can only come from a bottle of cologne.  There‘s a lesson to learn from Enron‘s defense attorney Daniel Petrocelli.  When it comes to cologne, less is more. 

True, it‘s early in the trial and maybe it‘s good for his client, former CEO Jeff Skilling, that Petrocelli has already had a powerful effect on one female juror.  Too bad it wasn‘t his cross-examination.  Apparently Petrocelli‘s scent was so strong on Thursday that a juror complained that she was—quote—“overwhelmed, even gagging from the cologne he was wearing.”

It appears she‘s reflecting the sentiment of women around this country when it comes to certain men who have not learned the art of moderation.  Whether it was the smell of justice in the air or a blend of rare lavender exotic musk and prickly pine bark, it‘s not the sort of attention a defense attorney needs.  When U.S. District Judge Sim Lake called for a break, Petrocelli went to the men‘s room to wash his face. 

Now according to the “L.A. Times” he was sporting a fine men‘s scent called Chocolat and even said—quote—“I get a lot of compliments on that cologne.”  Look, it takes a lot of brutally honest friends to know that certain purchased scents aren‘t worth a penny.  But it seems it‘s not so simple.  A blogger for “The Houston Chronicle” claims the offensive odor came from a overdose of TABAC by L‘Artisan.  The trouble is the company says they‘ve never carried a fragrance with that name.  Maybe he was doused with one of their other fine products like L‘Artisan‘s Timbuktu with its woody floral notes or perhaps he overwhelmed the juror with too many cups of tea for two with its dash of ginger and nutmeg.  He might even have worn L‘Artisan‘s Gates of Hell, though what self-respecting lawyer would wear that during his client‘s criminal trial. 

Either way, one should remember, when it comes to the delicate art of swaying a juror or seducing a date, spray responsibly.  Cologne comes in small bottles for a reason. 


To classify or not to classify (Dan Abrams)

CIA Director Porter Goss's op-ed piece in Friday's New York Times is basically an indictment of anyone who provides any classified information to the press.  On its face, it’s tough to dispute.  Information is generally classified for a reason and there is a great deal of sensitive material that should never be released to anyone.  Those who do so should be prosecuted.

But what Director Goss fails to appreciate is that throughout history we have learned that some information is classified not because an enemy will use it, not because it’s in the national interest, but because its just embarrassing to the government.  The classification could be politically motivated, or intended to cover up incompetence or even government wrongdoing.  From former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to the Vietnam War to Watergate, government officials have misused their power to protect themselves or their illicit activities.

Director Goss says: “Those who choose to bypass the law and go straight to the press are not noble, honorable or patriotic, nor are they whistleblowers."  So, we would have been better off if we had never learned about criminal activity in the White House under President Nixon?  Or the misleading comments made by a number of presidents of both parties about the Vietnam War?

Goss asks why these whistleblowers don’t just complain within their own agencies or even petition Congress.  Ah, if only it were that simple.

In many cases these people have complained repeatedly, like FBI translator Sibel Edmonds who was fired after exposing incompetence, corruption and even a possible spy in the FBI language division.  She, like others, often only go to the press as a last resort. 

And wouldn’t we all have been better off if Minnesota FBI Special Agent Colleen Rowley had gone to the press in August 2001 after her office was rebuffed in its effort to get a search warrant for Zacarias Moussoaui's home?  A warrant that likely would have exposed how he and others were planning to fly planes into buildings in America? 

Now Goss’s op-ed piece was almost certainly spurred in part by the disclosure of the NSA spying program.  But suggesting that terrorists change their behavior because they've learned that the government isn't checking in with a secret court before wiretapping them is absurd.  Terrorists have long spoken in code because they have known their calls are monitored.  And it’s important to have a national debate on how best to thwart terrorists--not to disclose secrets, but to debate whether the FISA law was violated. .  

The other problem?  Selective leaks.  Yesterday the president announced details of an Al Qaeda plot to attack Los Angeles in 2002. And unnamed security officials who had worked on the case told the Washington Post and others that the plot was never close to being executed.  So they should be prosecuted while the administration is saluted? Even if their account is true?

And what about the information that led up to the war with Iraq? In justifying the war, the president and other administration officials have chosen to disclose previously classified details to the public.

But other administration officials like Richard Clarke--the head of the counterterrorism unit-- dispute those accounts.  So people like him are unpatriotic for clearing the record?

Do we really want all of our information coming from government press releases?  Generally, classified information should be just that--classified.  But there are times when it’s in all of our best interest to know.


Michael Brown's letter to 'The Boss'  (Dan Abrams)

"Unless there is specific direction otherwise from [the boss], including an assurance [the boss] will provide a legal defense to Mr. Brown if he refuses to testify as to these matters, Mr. Brown will testify."

Sure sounds like a veiled threat, almost Tony Sopranoesque.  The captain is going to "flip" on Tony and talk to the feds about the big guy if the boss doesn't provide a lawyer.  

The problem?  This is not a fictional letter to a mob boss.  It's a real letter to the President of the United States from an attorney for former FEMA Director Michael Brown.  He sent it to the president on Monday, just days before Brown's scheduled testimony before a Senate committee investigating the pathetic government response to Hurricane Katrina.

So far, the administration has refused to turn over certain documents to the Senate, claiming it would jeopardize the confidentiality of conversations between the president and his closest advisers.  But Brown isn't a presidential adviser anymore.  He resigned days after Katrina hit, under pressure from the White House.  So now, his lawyer says he's just a private citizen and is no longer obligated to keep what he knows under wraps.

Brown's lawyer reminding the president of that, writing "If [Brown] receives no guidance to the contrary, we'll do as any citizen should do - and that is to answer all questions fully, completely and accurately.”

Um, shouldn't he do that anyway, rather than lawyer up?  This is a congressional inquiry after all.  How about doing the right thing, rather than sending threatening letters to the White House which sound remarkably like a form of blackmail?

Look, I think the president and the White House should turn over all relevant documents and correspondence to the Senate committee looking into the response to Katrina.  Something went horribly wrong on the Gulf Coast and full disclosure about what really happened will improve our nation's ability to prevent it from happening again.  And you would think that after having the national media and the American public's focus on his own disastrous response to Katrina, Michael Brown would welcome the opportunity to tell his story. Instead he seems to want to force the president to tell him to shut up. 

Well, it looks like the president will ignore the letter and we'll see Brown on the hill tomorrow squirming yet again under the glare of a senate committee.  In a mob movie, they call it hanging the guy out to dry or ratting him out.  In this case, it’s called telling the truth for the sake of your country.


Homicide came to Cubs Path   (Mike Barnicle)

This time, homicide came to a quiet cul-de-sac in a peaceful suburb, apparently driven by a growing wave of debt built on delusion that collapsed into a despair so deranged that the only escape route Neil Entwistle could allegedly identify was to grab a gun and kill his wife and 9-month-old daughter as both slept in a rented home on Cubs Lane in Hopkinton. The husband’s eyes and appetites were bigger than his abilities as well as his budget.

The District Attorney of Middlesex County, Martha Coakley, stood Thursday at a press conference in full command of the facts, unafraid to dispense information, telling the public that the instinct of detectives and prosecutors is that Entwistle could have had suicide on his mind when the nearly incomprehensible occurred in a neighborhood where barking dogs provide the only real noise. Of course, when that moment of potential self-destruction came – and quickly passed – cowardice overwhelmed the cold cruelty of double murder; Entwistle ran, all the way to the bedroom of the home where he was raised in a London suburb, ran across a whole ocean to the arms of his parents where he perhaps dreamt that his mother and father could salvage his own life from the nightmare he had allegedly spawned.

Now, his wife and child dead, Entwistle is handcuffed to a legal system intent on doing to him what he is thought to have done to his whole family – in-laws, parents, everyone: destroy all the years ahead with a conviction for double murder.

But this story is merely at the starting gate because we live in a cable culture where a simple tale of violence is just not enough for many to believe. We think there must be more. We want more. Demand more.

After all, how could a young man do this to the woman he loved and the infant both adored? How could anyone act so irrationally, with such evilness, over fear of bill collectors, bankruptcy or the embarrassment of admitted failure and joblessness? What else is there? Another woman? A huge insurance policy?

Unfortunately, the truth is often unsatisfying to those who cannot comprehend the human stories behind nearly every miserable homicide. Murders are almost always darkly interesting, sometimes complex, quite basic and usually sad when viewed from the landscape of survivors or next of kin.

They vary by geography, affluence and demographics but all have at least one item in common: that moment when the mind snaps, a trigger is pulled and a life is extinguished in a single second of irrational madness that can never be retrieved or replayed.

Rachel and Lillian Entwistle are gone. So is the concept of shock and disbelief in American life. The papers and TV are filled daily with stories that inoculate us all from the trauma of desperate tales. We read and see that three are killed in a basement in Boston, two more shot off a street-corner on a Saturday night, children die on sidewalks and schoolyards over a coat, a hat, a look, the wrong word. And then we turn the page and tune out because the notorious has become commonplace.

Homicide came to Cubs Path. And this morning, Neil Entwistle sits in a British jail, fighting extradition for crimes he has been charged with committing. His family is dead. So are their dreams; his too in a culture where the motive – no money – should not surprise anyone who has been paying attention.



Low-fat diet study: Back to guilty pleasures? (Dan Abrams)

The new comprehensive report suggests low fat diets do not -- I repeat do not -- reduce the risk of getting cancer or heart disease.

What? So, all of those years of eating no meat, less butter, those bland baked potato chips instead of tasty fried ones, even buying those low fat Oreo cookies…that was all for nothing?  I could have been eating pizza and McDonalds fries?

It was an eight-year long study funded by the National Institutes of Health, involving nearly 49,000 women 50 to 79.  It turns out the women who ate whatever they wanted had the same rates of cancer, heart attack and stroke as those who observed a low fat diet.  And they say the colon cancer and heart disease results apply to men also.  A doctor at the American Cancer Society called it the "Rolls Royce of studies."  It cost $415 million and it's been published in today's Journal of the American Medical Association.

Sure, there are critics out there who say the low fat diet failed to differentiate between quote "good fats" and  "bad fats, "like olive oil versus value meals.  Others said the women in the study weren't as strict as they should have been with their diets.  Whatever.  I feel kind of duped, like I've missed out on some of the guilty pleasures in life while caught up in some low fat fad. 

Think of all those luscious cupcakes and ice cream I could have savored?  What's next?  I’ll learn I could have spent less time exercising and more time catching TV Land reruns? Or that I just embarrassed myself for nothing hiding under the beach umbrella to avoid getting fried by the sun? Or, worse--that red wine actually isn't good for my heart?

I know they still say that this study does not change the need to eat well.  It’s just a study about fats in food.  But, just in case, so I never look back on my life with regret, today I’ll celebrate with my favorite candy bar.



Defending boneheaded celebrities  (Dan Abrams)

Nobody else is willing to do it, so I‘m going to take a crack at defending those absent-minded, altered-minded, and sometimes just boneheaded celebrities who suffer greatly for relatively minor transgressions.  It‘s not the sort of politically correct populist argument you might hear from other cable hosts, but here goes. 

First up--Lindsay Lohan.  Not only does the bulimic, car-accident-prone pop star‘s dad get thrown in the slammer, but now, pages from her personal diary are apparently being shopped around to the press.  Doesn‘t anyone else feel sorry for her?  It seems that after a night of particularly hard partying in New York City, her personal diary was either lost or swiped and then returned with pages missing.  But not before those pages ended up in some gossip columnists’ hands.  Her lawyer is now fighting to keep those pages secret.

I know.  What was she doing drinking at her age?  Look, 19 year olds make mistakes.  And the rest of us who were or are 19, didn‘t or don’t risk having our most personal thoughts about boys and girls, relationships, and spats with friends published in the newspaper.  It’s a big price to pay for a little mistake. 

The same goes for the ever-embattled Paris Hilton who does much to bring scorn upon herself.  But that does not mean we should celebrate the fact that personal items she placed in a storage unit were put on the auction block by a pornographer and may be sold for $20 million.  Someone forgot to pay the bill for her storage facility in Los Angeles. Now, her 18 personal diaries, nude photos, and videos were sold to some sick unidentified buyer. 

Sure, it‘s hard to feel bad for someone when the problem stems from a member of her entourage failing to pay a bill.  But even for Paris, does the public humiliation fit the crime? 

And then there‘s the most recent offense--pop star Britney Spears driving away from the paparazzi with her 4-month-old son, Sean Preston, in her lap, but not in a car seat.  Not only has she done something really dumb, but she‘s broken the law.  Babies don‘t ride in your lap in a moving vehicle, even if you‘re driving a souped-up black Lincoln Navigator. 

But now Britney‘s effort to escape the paparazzi has created a national debate about her fitness as a parent.  One report even claims Britney is being investigated by Child Services.  Please.  For short drives, many of us take shortcuts.  That doesn‘t mean it‘s OK or irrelevant.  It matters.  But the punishment, in addition to a fine, seems to be the entire nation questioning her parenting skills.  That’s a tough price to pay.

OK, with all that said, I appreciate the fact that it‘s hard to pity any of these people.  But like a good lawyer, I‘m giving it a good shot.


February 7, 2006 |

Cartoon controversy is extremism at its worst (Dan Abrams)

In Webster's dictionary one definition of cartoon is quote—“a ludicrously simplistic, unrealistic, or one-dimensional portrayal or version.” 

Unrealistic.  Ludicrous.  So how do fringe elements of one religion turn a cartoon into an international uproar?  A call to arms so great that even the unusually unwavering U.S. media is now unwilling to broadcast the cartoons that generated the news? 

Four months after a Danish newspaper first published cartoons of the Islamic prophet Mohammed, one of which depicted him with a turban shaped like a bomb, violent protests have erupted in Lebanon and Syria, the Danish embassy in Beirut has been burned, and a Lebanese Christian neighborhood destroyed over the weekend.  On Monday, troops in Afghanistan opened fire on demonstrators, killing at least four.  In Somalia, a stampede killed a teenager.  In Iraq, protesters called for the death of anyone who insults Mohammed.  In Iran, the Danish and Austrian embassies were hit with Molotov cocktails by protesters. 

Now all of us in the media here in the United States are rightly afraid of what impact showing these cartoons could have.  Freedom of the press is a nice principle, but if it‘s going to lead to people being hurt or killed, it can and should cloud one’s journalistic judgment.  I am not surprised that media outlets--including this one--are not broadcasting the cartoons in question.  But free press is not the point here.  Why don‘t we see protests like this when terrorists impugn the prophet Mohammed by killing civilians and then claiming it was done in his name?  Not since a later-retracted piece in “Newsweek” magazine reported about a Koran being flushed down the toilet by American interrogators at Guantanamo has the press been so scapegoated.  There, some blamed “Newsweek” for more than a dozen deaths among protesters. 

Now the Danish and other European editors who printed the cartoons are taking the heat.  And while it seems some bad decisions were made, let‘s be clear--in both cases, the violence stems from extremism.  We‘re talking about caricatures, much like the ones that regularly appear in the Arab press demeaning Jews.

The Anti-Defamation League releases a list every month of anti-semitic cartoons, which appear in the Arab press.  Not to mention how Christ, the Virgin Mary and other symbols sacred to Christians are sometimes mocked.  Look at the animated series “South Park,” for example. 

Cartoons are caricatures.  That doesn‘t mean they‘re funny or appropriate.  But let‘s not lose our focus on what this is about.  It‘s an excuse, a way for a few to take advantage of the deeply held religious views of many others. 



Media is not an 'axis of evil' (Dan Abrams)

I've had it with criminal defense attorneys blaming the media for their clients' woes.  It’s never the evidence, or the facts, or even the prosecutors.  Instead, it’s always the media.  From OJ to Michael Jackson, Timothy McVeigh to Scott Peterson--according to their lawyers, they were all little lambs taken out to slaughter by the media.

Please.  Peterson's ex-attorney Mark Geragos is now taking his show on the road telling a legal organization last week that Peterson is innocent.  And that media coverage prevented him from receiving a fair trial.  The network morning shows, cable news and the tabloids are, according to Geragos, an “axis of evil.”

This coming from the same guy who went on CNN's Larry King before he was retained by Peterson and pronounced:  "…the most damming piece of circumstantial evidence comes out of his own mouth and his own hands, when he hands the police that receipt from the very location where two miles away she was found. I mean, that is just a devastating thing."

Yes, it is.  Unless, of course, you become his attorney. 

Geragos and others are quick to remind people about the beauty of our jury system, how we need to withhold judgment until the jurors hear all the evidence.  Um, that is, unless the jurors rule against him.  Then the jurors get dissed.  They were gullible, too easily influenced, and misled, not by the facts as the judge instructed them, not by the witnesses they saw for weeks or months, but by media coverage they were instructed not to watch.  

It’s not just Geragos, whom I respect.  It’s become the mantra, the go-to talking points for many criminal defense attorneys in high-profile cases--never take the blame, divert attention from the facts, try to find a scapegoat like detective Mark Fuhrman in the OJ Simpson case.  Otherwise just blame the media.

Speaking of Simpson, there I think the media was too fair. Many of the illogical arguments put forth by his defense team were given the same coverage as the real facts.  By making everything two-sided, with both a prosecutor and defense attorney offering analysis, the media coverage helped make Simpson's outlandish arguments seem well…outstanding.  The fact that he continues to complain about the media coverage of his case is laughable. .

And Michael Jackson's top notch attorney Thomas Mesereau has also been on a “blast the media” tour.  Huh? Despite the fact that a grand jury indicted Jackson, the coverage so often focused on the credibility problems with the accuser's family. Yet it seems Mesereau is furious

Jackson did not emerge with a squeaky clean image.  That, of course, would obscure the reality that Jackson's behavior is and was bizarre and, at best, inappropriate. It would also ignore the reality that he settled more than one multi-million dollar lawsuit with the family of a young boy who accused him of abuse.

Look, there are lot of times when the media deserves to take heat for everything from inaccuracies to bias.  But, I don’t want to be lectured on bias by a lawyer who was paid handsomely to take that position.