Every village has an idiot and Cross-Currents has Jeff Ballabon. I've suffered through a dozen of his blogs and have yet to be enlightened about anything. What is this guy doing on a blog with numerous prestigious commentators? Why must the person with the least to say post the most?

With a BA from Yeshiva University and a JD from Yale, Ballabon represents to me everything that is odious about the organization man, a go-along-to-get-along corporate player who combines pomposity, smugness, and mendacity to succeed at hawking a destructive product - television forced on children at school.

Ballabon writes on Cross-Currents.com:

"I may participate in blogging, but "I" am not a "blogger." I am a Jew. I am an American Jew. As a Jew and an American, I am bound religiously, morally, ethically to Halacha, American law, and the dictates of my conscience - my "Sechel Ha'enoshi".

So, unless someone can explain to me why I should feel bound to "blogging ethics" I hereby declare my intention to remove, retroactively, any post of mine which, upon reflection, I find to contain halachically or ethically problematic material...."

PR release. Criticism. Criticism.

A woman writes: "Well, Luke, if there aren't any ethics regarding the bad taste of blogging on about absolutely nothing, there should be."

A man writes:

I've had enough of his self-righteous nonsense too. Worst of all it's all poorly written. This guy hawks sex, violence and junkfood to kids. Which is fine if you're up front about what you're doing. But stop justifying it with talk about your "hyphen-journalism awards."
"He was VP of Court TV (ever wonder why we never saw the Orthodox Rabbi Lanner trial live, only the trial of a Reform Rabbi Neulander?).

From a Google search on "Jeff Ballabon," it appears that his job is "Apologist-In-Residence" for Channel One, which has beamed a newscast into thousands of schools for the past decade. I can think of few things that children need less than TV news piped into their schools.

According to this Primedia press release: "Its award-winning 12-minute news broadcast is seen daily by more than 8 million students and 440,000 educators in more than 12,000 middle and high schools across the country."

Jeff Ballabon makes his living increasing American children's intake of television. Wow. That's honorable. But I'm sure he can justify it halachicly (Jewish Law).

I've done a ton of disreputable things but I hope I never sink so low as to promote television intake by a captive audience of school children.

As Dennis Prager points out, television news gives you an inherently distorted view of the world because it depends on pictures, on action video. School kids would be better off watching reruns of Mary Tyler Moore than Ballabon's Channel One. I bet his own kids don't have to watch Channel One at their yeshiva. Instead, his company forces it on the goyisha kids (and some unlucky Jews) and Ballabon profits.

September 11, 2001
by David Crary The Associated Press

Sixth- and seventh-graders required to watch TV ads at school. The Teletubbies helping to promote giant burger chains. Advertisers seeking data on how children nag their parents to make a purchase.

Those were some of the practices targeted Monday as psychologists and parent activists met for a symposium on exploitive advertising aimed at children -- a counterpoint to a conference of children's advertisers at the same time and in the same Manhattan hotel.

Captive Audience Award: Channel One Network

"For using the public schools and compulsory schooling laws to require more than 8 million children to watch its daily commercials in their classrooms. Channel One TV programs market violent movies, junk food and other commercial fare to this captive audience."

Response: Jeff Ballabon, of Channel One, said its 10-minute daily newscast (accompanied by two minutes of ads) has won journalism awards and received positive reviews from teachers and principals.
Boycott Aimed at Channel One Ads
Los Angeles Times
June 11, 2001
by Edmund Sanders
A coalition of consumer groups and children's activists are planning to launch an advertising boycott today, aimed at New York-based Primedia Inc.'s Channel One Network, which distributes news, entertainment and paid commercials to U.S. classrooms.

The groups say Channel One, which is seen by about 8 million children in 12,000 schools nationwide, exploits students.

"Compelling impressionable children to view commercials during their limited school time is repugnant," states a letter sent by the coalition to Channel One advertisers, including government agencies who have bought air time on
the network.

A spokesperson for Channel One said the network has been consistently honored for providing educational programming created specifically for teenagers. "Channel One has had rave reviews from 98% of teachers who use
it," said Jeff Ballabon of Channel One.
Ballabon's statement can't be anything but a bald-faced lie. There's no way that 98% of teachers are going to submit any reviews, let alone rave-reviews, of anything, let alone a 12-minute newscast.

Washington Post, April 9, 2000, by Mark Francis Cohen:
Channel One was something of a public scourge, and it fomented a coast-to-coast uprising. The very notion of hanging a TV set in a classroom and prodding students to watch it -- and the commercials that support it -- inspired a whole lot of bile. Critics saw it as child exploitation and television mania run amok. New York and California banned the network, and almost every major educational group, including the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, denounced it.
Channel One's executives are quite aware of their unmatched position in the marketplace. In ads they have run in publications like Advertising Age, they pitch potential sponsors this way: "We have the undivided attention of millions of teenagers for 12 minutes a day -- that might be a world record."
Before Channel One was conceived, schools were considered sacrosanct. It was unimaginable that educators would stand behind a profitable television company that hawked candy bars and high-priced sneakers to students in the classroom. At that time, corporations and schools did not enter into commercial agreements. Taco Bell wasn't sold in cafeterias. Coca-Cola didn't sponsor school events. Dell wasn't donating "Donated by Dell" computers.
Jeff Ballabon, a public relations executive at Channel One, is in the room, too. "Our model is no different than any news organization!" Ballabon says, visibly annoyed. "We use advertising to pay for the program, and it's an
expensive program to create. If we didn't care about the program, why would we spend all that money?"
Washington Post, December 25, 1999
In her Dec. 12 Outlook article, "A School by Any Other Name Would Be . . . Richer," Elizabeth Chang dismisses Channel One as a marketer that provides TV monitors in exchange for showing advertisements in classrooms. This
description insults the journalists at Channel One and the educators who support us.

Ninety-eight percent of educators who have Channel One in their schools recommend the program to their colleagues. Channel One provides 12,000 schools around the country with a daily 12-minute news broadcast that is
produced specifically for middle and high school students. Ten times as many teens receive their news from Channel One as from all other news sources in the nation.

Our broadcast has won nearly 200 awards for journalistic excellence. How disappointing that your publication would focus only on the delivery mechanism and dismiss Channel One as a marketing scheme.

--Jeff Ballabon

The writer is executive vice president for network affairs at Channel One Network.
Washington Post, July 2, 1997
Jeff Ballabon, senior vice president of Court TV, said the aftermath of the Simpson case has not prevented his cable network from gaining access to many trials. "Initially," he said, "we had trouble getting into high-profile cases like {the murder of singer} Selena and Susan Smith," who was convicted in Union, S.C., of drowning her young sons. "But people realized it really didn't matter. . . . Now we're getting in about the same amount as we were before O.J."

The New York Observer March 28, 2005:

Mr. Ballabon, the son of a Board of Education supervisor and an economics professor from Queens, has always lived in two worlds. A Haredi, or ultra-Orthodox Jew from the scholarly Lithuanian tradition (as opposed to the more visible Hasidic groups, which place less emphasis on education and are typically poorer), he’s a yeshiva boy first. But after studying at a prestigious Baltimore yeshiva and then spending three semesters at Yeshiva University, he decided to take the LSAT, the law-school entrance exam, on which he got a perfect score. And the next thing he knew, he was on the very foreign soil of Yale Law School.

There, friends recalled him as brilliant and not particularly hard-working. One close friend, Mark Costello, recalled shooting pool with him at 3 a.m. before an exam. But Mr. Ballabon also maintained his faith, and Mr. Costello said that he once found his friend exhausted after being unable to turn out the lights in his dorm room on the Sabbath.

Mr. Ballabon lives a traditional family life on Long Island with his wife and five children, and observes religious strictures that seem exotic even to other Jews: He won’t celebrate Halloween, for example, and insists on explaining his card tricks because of rules against magic.

His piety may have won him friends among conservative Christians, but it was his decision to get behind George W. Bush early that brought him to his current level of influence.


Steve I. Weiss writes:

Religious & Political Illiteracy in Profile of Jeff Ballabon

Ben Smith is usually a pretty solid reporter, but his his dispatch on Jeff Ballabon is anything but.

If you’re looking for a New Yorker with deep ties to the Christian right—you know, the folks running America—Mr. Ballabon is your man.

Oh, and so are -- for startes -- the people at National Review, but apparently Smith can't be bothered to know his own borough.

Which is odd, first of all, because he’s not Christian, but an ultra-Orthodox Jew from Long Island. And, second, because he’s spent most of his career as the lobbyist for New York media companies, including Court TV and Primedia.

And why is either of these strange? I don't know, and can't imagine what mistaken assumptions carried Smith to assume so.

There are no reliable nationwide figures on the Orthodox vote, but evidence from some New York area counties is telling. The village of New Square, an Orthodox enclave in Rockland County, went for Al Gore in 2000. Last year, Mr. Bush won the village, 1,530 votes to 16. And, less dramatic but still striking, turnarounds were visible across Rockland County and in Lakewood, N.J., another community with many Orthodox Jews.

These are both top-down voting blocs that provide no indication of grassroots Orthodox sentiment, or of solidity with a general "Orthodox vote." They voted for Gore, for goodness' sake; does Smith think there's a real values shift that's led us to this 2004 vote?
Of course, Ballabon contributes some stupidity of his own:

Mr. Ballabon talks a good deal about Israel and has allies in the settler movement. Not long ago, he hosted a fund-raiser for a Hebron settlers’ group, and at another recent gathering he introduced, with a wink, a settler friend as “a minor terrorist.”


Why Won't Jeff Ballabon Shut Up?
In The Name Of Values, Not Politics

Jeff is the paid propagandist for Channel One, a large corporation which makes deals with schools (public and private) to force children to watch television (including commercials) in exchange for giving the school free TV (schools don't need TVs, they need teachers who can teach kids to read and write).

So, fine, that's how he makes his living. It's not honorable, but many of us are forced to make compromises with our integrity to pay the bills.

What bothers me is that Ballabon waves his Orthodox Judaism like a bloody flag, and continually proclaims how he lives his life in accord with Jewish Law, while engaging in work that sullies the souls of children (without admitting that what he is doing is, at best, problematic according to his religion). If he'd admit that he's doing this, then I wouldn't have a problem. I do have a problem that he's becoming an influential voice of the religious and political Right. He doesn't speak for me or for anyone who wants to protect children from the encroachment of television. I loathe Jeff Ballabon (even though I agree with almost all his political and religious views).

This week in the Forward Ballabon prattles about values that are the absolute antithesis of his profession (now, I do that all the time, but, at least, I hope, with a sense of irony, humility and shame):

This moral center is no departure from Republican principles. Small government and economic thrift are not, as Danforth argues, the core principles. All things being equal, they are a means to achieve the core principle: the protection of individual freedom against unnecessary government intrusion.

But all things are not equal. Secularists want to invest government with the power to force citizens to abandon their scruples on an array of the most basic building blocks of individual conscience. Judges willing to ignore the Constitution want to force citizens to redefine families. The left wants to assign power to the government to determine the quality and worth of innocent lives in order to allow their intentional destruction.

Jeff works for a company that makes deals with government schools to force kids to watch television. Ballabon expands the power of government to force kids to watch TV. He destroys individual freedom and increases government intrusion. Through his work, Ballabon invests government with the power to force citizens to abandon their scruples against watching television and to ignore their conscience (television is the antithesis of religion, and if many religious people watch TV that only shows that they do not live up to the demands of their religion).

It is precisely Jeff Ballabon and his company that "assign[s] power to the government to determine the quality and worth of innocent lives in order to allow their intentional destruction."

I highly doubt that Jeff Ballabon sends his kids to a school which has a deal with his employer.

Cross-Currents Co-Founder Snared In Abramoff Scandal

Shmarya writes:

Cross-Currents co-founder Jeff Ballabon has been snared in the ever-widening Jack Abramoff scandal:

…The report said Jeffrey Ballabon, then executive vp of public affairs for Channel One, wrote in January 1999 to Abramoff and to another lobbyist at the firm Preston Gates, where Abramoff worked, asking for support for arguments that Channel One saves tax dollars. Ballabon suggested favorable treatment by Abramoff associate and well-known conservative Grover Norquist, and by month’s end The Washington Times had published a favorable op-ed under Norquist’s byline, the report said.

Days later Abramoff in an e-mail to Ballabon suggested payment to Norquist’s organization, Americans for Tax Reform, according to the Senate report. In April, Abramoff suggested a $3,000 payment to Americans for Tax Reform as the price for a policy brief the group wrote portraying Channel One as a tax-saving service, according to the Senate report.

In May 1999, Abramoff wrote to Ballabon suggesting “5 pieces for $10K,” referring to payment for favorable op-ed and think-tank treatments of Channel One. According to the Senate report, Ballabon responded: “yup—I have not forgotten (was it $10?—I wrote it down—whatever it was, she’ll get it.”)

In a later e-mail exchange, the two discussed payment of $49,000 “to support public programs,” according to the Senate report.

Ballabon left Primedia in 2004, the company said.…

I noticed Ballabon is no longer listed on the CC masthead. When did he leave CC? Why? And why the deafening silence from Rabbi Yakov Menken and the CC bloggers?

More importantly, will Ballabon go down with Abramoff and Lapin? And, is there any way we could link Toby Katz to this? Please?