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Saturday, January 10, 2004

Marriage on the Rocks

Conservative Activist Chuck Muth elaborates.

Seems like the FRC's Massachusetts Affiliate Admits Misrepresenting Zogby Poll Results on Gay Marriage

Ronald A. Crews, a spokesman for the Coalition for Marriage, acknowledged that his group did not release the full survey results and apologized for downplaying the omitted questions as irrelevant.

"I want to apologize," Crews, a former Georgia state lawmaker, told a Globe reporter yesterday. "I misspoke. I mispoke primarily out of ignorance, but that does not excuse misspeaking. There were other questions, and we are in a press release today going to release those other questions."

An article posted on (and picked up as an Associated Press article in other outlets) said that the MFI is looking at trying to sue Zogby for releasing the results.

The Zogby poll was taken for the Crews group, and the Massachusetts Family Institute did not release the full poll. Zogby released the information when it became concerned MFI was not portraying the full picture.

Pollster John Zogby said it is standard practice for advocacy groups to issue entire polls for public examination. "All of the questions are important," said Zogby.

In a press release issued Friday, Crews said that polls are "proprietary, important and relevant to those who commissioned the poll" and that the portions released were those most relevant to the issue before the Legislature.

He also criticized Zogby for making the full poll results public. Crews said his group is in legal discussions with Zogby International about what he called the "unauthorized disclosure" of information in the poll.

As Andrew Sullivan says:

MORE DECEPTION: From those wanting to ban gay marriages, civil unions, and domestic partnerships. The so-called "Coalition for Marriage" had to concede yesterday that it had grotesquely misrepresented the results of a Zogby poll it commissioned. Massachusetts is pretty evenly split on a state constitutional amendment, and a tiny majority thinks the legislature should do nothing to prevent gay marriage. The anti-gay coalition skewed the results to make the opposite point. But of course they had to. They are confronting the religious right's nightmare. When gay marriage gets an actual popular majority, as it soon will in Massachusetts, they won't be able to hide behind their argument about "judicial activism" and will have to be candid that their real, anti-gay goal.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Anti-Gay Family Research Council Polling

The Family Research Council is flaunting some interesting poll numbers on the issue of Gay Marriage.

The FRC Press release states: 69% of respondents wanted to vote on an amendment to keep Massachusetts a traditional marriage state and 52% vs. 42% agreed that only marriage between one man and one woman should be legal and binding in America.

EY: Note that the 69% wanted a chance to vote on the amendment, not that they supported the amendment. Was the question asked about whether people would vote in favor of such an amendment - and the results weren't favorable?

Note that by putting the two results in one sentence, it helps set up the belief that people support an amendment to the constitution - which the poll results don't seem to support. The results on the gay marriage question do contradict the Boston Globe poll on the subject just after the decision came down.

The FRC also doesn't report any results on the question of civil unions. It's hard to believe they didn't ask the question, so the results must not have come out the way they wished. They do mention this:

73 percent of respondents felt that if homosexual couples want to provide for each other, they can continue do so through private arrangements already allowed under the law.

But this is a bit vague - was this really a question about Civil Unions? The FRC fails to provide the polling questions.

FRC: More than two-thirds, or 69%, of respondents believed it is better for children to be raised in a household with a married mother and father.

EY: Again - as compared to what?

FRC: When asked if they would be more or less likely to vote for a candidate who supports homosexual marriage, more than twice the number of voters [33%] would be less rather than more likely [16%] to vote for a pro-homosexual marriage candidate. Forty-eight percent of voters said it made no difference.

EY: Again, they don't mention the numbers for this when the issue becomes Civil Unions.

A recent Boston Globe poll of 400 people, the first survey of Massachusetts residents since the court's historic ruling, indicated that 50 percent agreed with
the justices' decision, and 38 percent opposed it. Eleven percent expressed no opinion.

A majority, 53 percent, also opposed a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would ban same-sex marriages by defining marriage as an institution between a man and a woman. Thirty-six percent supported the amendment.

It seems like the FRC only chose to report the results that fit with their anti-gay agenda.

FBI Now Can Get Your Financial Records Without a Court Order

From a post to MN Politics Discuss.

The Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004 grants the FBI unprecedented power to obtain records from financial institutions without requiring permission from a judge.

Under the law, the FBI does not need to seek a court order to access such records, nor does it need to prove just cause.

This provision was once part of the Patriot Act II, which was an attempt to expand upon the USA Patriot Act of 2001. However, public outcry against its provisions based on privacy concerns, halted its movement.
Now, the Republican leadership has resorted to tucking parts of Patriot II into "must pass" legislation at the 11th hour.

But Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minnesota), who opposed the legislation, told the House, "It is clear the Republican leadership and the administration would rather expand on the USA Patriot Act through deception and secrecy than debate such provisions in an open forum."

Read it and weep. The FBI can now access your financial records without a judicial supoena and just cause.

Aaron Laffin

EY: Good for Betty McCollum.

New York Times Poll Gets Used by Anti-Gay Family Research Council

I sent the following letter to the New York Times and the Star Tribune.

At 12:45 PM 1/6/2004 -0500, you wrote:

Date: Tue, 06 Jan 2004 10:22:22 -0600
From: Eva Young
Subject: New York Times Poll Gets Used by Anti-Gay Family Research Council

I read your analysis of the article on your poll on attitudes towards gays.

I think it didn't address several issues - and that is why the article didn't explicitly mention other polls on the subject - such as the ABC News Poll and the Pew Research Poll - which had very different results. Unfortunately the damage your article did is beyond your newspaper, because my hometown newspaper, the Star Tribune picked up on this poorly written story.

I am ccing this to the Star Tribune because, I would like to see the Strib do a better job on these stories, rather than taking the NY Times as sole source.

I'm also appending the FRC's Daily Bleating because it shows how the anti-gay activist group, the Family Research Council is using this article to further their anti-gay cause. The FRC's Daily bleat states:

The New York Times itself, in an article most Americans missed as they left for Christmas vacation, reported a new poll showing that Americans oppose homosexual marriage by an overwhelming margin of 61% to 34%, and they support a federal marriage amendment by a solid margin of 55% to 40% - with the idea backed by a majority of Democrats, independents, as well as Republicans.

The New York Times/CBS News Poll had startlingly different results than other polls on whether people supported the Federal Marriage Amendment. In the NY Times poll, 55% supported that amendment. In a Pew Research poll, 20% supported a constitutional amendment. In the Pew poll, it was also clear that the majority opposed gay marriage, and close to 50% supported civil unions. This is probably due to the way the questions were worded.

As Andrew Sullivan says:

OKRENT PUNTS: The first column by the NYT's new ombudsman was a discouraging, but revealing, read. He largely dismisses the notion that the article in question was biased against the president, and distortive of the poll it was supposed to interpret. But he cannot dismiss the violated quote, in which the Times lopped off the first two critical words - "if necessary" - of president Bush's statement on a proposed constitutional amendment. His explanation is classic NYT-cocoon. The reason for Katherine Seelye's error was that she was copying Elisabeth Bumiller's error from a previous report in the Times! So no need to go to, er, a transcript or anything. And since any account of the story in the media made the "if necessary" phrase a central feature of the analysis, Seelye obviously hadn't bothered to look at any other reporting on the matter either. Hey, we're the NYT! Why do we need to read anyone else? Okrent explains that the altered quote in the original Bumiller story was followed by a critical qualification in which the words "if necessary" were subsequently cited. So why didn't Seelye read the whole piece? Or at least one more sentence? Then Okrent blathers on about the necessity of quote-cutting, because in a newspaper, you always have to truncate a person's full remarks. Fair enough. But here's a simple rule of thumb to avoid what Okrent calls a "simple mistake." Why not leave actual full sentences alone? Especially when uttered by the president. Especially when, as Okrent concedes, the reported string of words have been "stripped of a crucial part of their meaning." (Bonus Times-bashing point: the original NYT correction ascribed the flub to an "editing error." But according to Okrent, it was a reporting error - and Seelye blundered. How depressing that even in a correction, the NYT dissembles to protect its own. The reporter's face always comes before the reader's trust. They really can act like the Vatican, can't they?)

Eva Young

Daniel Okrent responded.

Dear Ms. Young,
Believe me, I take your point very seriously. As someone who has spent his entire career in journalism NOT at The Times, I have an acute awareness of how the paper influences other publications. That's one of the reasons I took this job. While you (and my friend Andrew Sullivan) may disagree with me, I hope you understand that my intent is serious, my methodology careful, and my term long enough that it might allow me to do some good.

Yours sincerely,

Daniel Okrent
Public Editor

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Moveon vs the Republican National Committee

I got the following in my inbox from Moveon:

Date: Tue, 06 Jan 2004 11:33:12 -0800
From: "Eli Pariser, MoveOn Voter Fund"
To: "Eva Young"
Subject: RNC Smear Campaign

Dear MoveOn member,

As the New Year begins, we'd rather be talking about positive things, and there are plenty of good things happening. But has come under attack from the Republican National Committee (RNC), which has launched a campaign of malicious misinformation to divert attention from the creativity and power of the Bush in 30 Seconds contest. We need your help to make sure the media don't fall for it.

RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie launched the attack on "Fox News Sunday," and the RNC followed it with press releases and calls to reporters. The charges centered on two ads posted on the Bush in 30 Seconds website which compared President Bush's tactis with those of Adolf Hitler. Mr. Gillespie repeatedly referred to the ads as 'the MoveOn ad' or 'MoveOn's ad,' implying that we had sponsored or perhaps even commissioned the ad. And he also claimed that we might spend $7 million to run it on TV.

This is a lie. hasn't sponsored such an ad, and we never would -- we regret the appearance of these ads on the Bush In 30 Seconds site. The two ads in question are from more than a thousand posted by members of the public, and they were voted on by MoveOn members through December 31st. Obviously the few hundred of you who viewed these ads agreed that they were not worthy of further broadcast or recognition, because they got low ratings. Yesterday we announced the 15 finalists -- all good, hard-hitting and fair appraisals of the Bush record, in the judgment of the members and others who rated them. The two offending ads can only be found one place now -- on the RNC website!

When we've explained this to journalists, most have understood that this is a game of gotcha politics, not news. But even our statement for the press below, which goes through the entire process in detail, hasn't stopped the right wing from working this angle as hard as they can.

That's why we're asking you to please watch for stories on this as they appear, and let us know. Call the news outlet yourself and give them hell for falling victim to such political baloney. I've attached our statement, which fully explains the situation, below. Then please let us know so we can contact the outlets directly.

You can help us track inaccurate reporting on this story here.

Second, we need you to get the press back on the right track. After you've corrected the negative accounts, write an upbeat letter to your local paper about the exciting and positive aspects of the contest and the finalists. These ads reflect the courage, hope, and deep patriotism of our membership. They're creative, passionate, and totally unlike most of the political ads that are out there. And perhaps most importantly, they were picked in a democratic way. Now that's a story.

The finalists are online here.

By sharing that URL with your friends, family, and colleagues, you can help to make sure that the RNC isn't successful in stealing our finalists' glory.

Not only is the RNC campaign deceptive, it's also totally disingenuous. Yesterday, the New York Post ran a long opinion column focusing exclusively on how much Presidential Candidate Howard Dean resembles Hitler, even calling him "Herr Howie." Of course, the RNC hasn't issued a condemnation of that. When close RNC ally Grover Norquist repeatedly compared taxing the wealthy with the Holocaust in an interview on NPR, the RNC was muted. And in 2002, the RNC and its allies were silent when supporters of President Bush actually aired TV ads morphing the face of Senator Max Cleland, a triple amputee as a result of wounds sustained in Vietnam, into Osama bin Laden. Given such a transparently partisan track record, the RNC's moral outrage doesn't mean a whole lot.

Obviously, and its 1.7 million members are now on the right-wing radar. They are going to do everything they can do to silence us, and we simply won't let it happen. Smear tactics and campaigns of misinformation have no place in American democracy.

--Adam, Carrie, Eli, James, Joan, Noah, Peter, Wes, and Zack
The Team
January 6th, 2003

P.S. Here's the statement we released to the press yesterday, which explains the whole situation.

Interesting skirmish between the two. In my opinion, this type of tactic backfires when exposed. Moveon should have had a better screening process if they were claiming to screen ads before making them available for vote. But it's misleading for the RNC to refer to these as Moveon ads when they are ads submitted by Moveon members. Every organization has it's wackies.

Actually this is good news for Moveon, because they are on the RNC's radar screen.

UPDATE: The Minnesota GOP Newsline pushed this story today.

Splits in the Anti-Gay Coalition

Edward Pawlick of Mass News (an anti-gay online zine) has written another diatribe going after Focus on the Family.

Money Quote:

Yesterday, many households in the state received two mailings from the Focus subsidiary, the Family Research Council. (That group fired its President, Atty. Ken Connor, last year because he was not following the instructions from Focus.)

...Mailing #1 - One of yesterday's mailings went nationwide. It asked people across the entire country to send money so that FRC could do even more to fight gay marriage here in Massachusetts. Have you noticed anything that FRC is doing to help in this state?

...What's worse is that we really don't want them "helping." They're playing right into the hands of our opponents, who are just waiting to pounce on the "crazy religious right" who are "invading" our state.

...The mailing even included a Petition which will be given to Senate President Travaglini with our signatures. Can you imagine how Travaglini will laugh when he gets the Petition signed by Harry Jones in Topeka and Mary Smith in Nashville? After he finishes laughing, he will give it to one of Pinch Sulzberger's reporters at the Globe, who will write a story about the invasion by out-of state crazies. Our job in Massachusetts will be made more difficult.

Meanwhile the Family Research Council Website announces their move to Massachusetts.

FRC Moves Staff to Massachusetts, Joins Coalition

Today we are pleased to announce the formation of The Coalition for Marriage, which will join more than 20 national and state-based pro-family groups in the effort to defend marriage in Massachusetts. As you know, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in favor of same-sex "marriage" a few weeks ago, but with a proposed amendment to the state constitution, all is not lost.

We look forward to working with groups such as Alliance Defense Fund, Massachusetts Family Institute, the Black Ministerial Alliance and Focus on the Family as we pool our resources and influence in order to make sure marriage in Massachusetts - and the rest of America - is not redefined out of existence.

It will be quite a catfight between Perkins and Pawlick. It would be nice to get front row seats.

The FRC has yet to comment on the Sanctity of Marriage, Britney Spears Style.