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Roger Ailes And The Maze Of Wrong Turns

The Radio and Television News Directors Foundation has announced that its 2007 First Amendment Leadership Award has gone to that paragon of fairness and balance, Roger Ailes, chairman and CEO of FOX News. In other news, vampires are devouring the brains of babies across America.

BREAKING NEWS: Nevada Dems Nix Fox Debate.
They finally came to their senses.

The award is given to “a business or government leader who has made a significant contribution to the protection of the First Amendment and freedom of the press.” So far as I’m able to discern, Ailes earned this recognition because he “made [Fox] the ratings leader among cable news channels.” At least that’s all the press release mentions. In his acceptance speech, Ailes extolled the virtues of the diversity of ideas, a virtue that Fox News honors by always presenting a wide range of opinions – from the right, all the way to the far right:

Roger Ailes“The greatest danger to journalism is a newsroom or a profession where everyone thinks alike. Because then one wrong turn can cause an entire news division to implode. We must respect and encourage diversity of thought and speech in the newsroom.”

Just imagine the atomic implosion that’s awaiting Fox News given their maze of wrong turns.

Ailes went on to demonstrate his commitment to diversity with humor that cut across the ideological landscape. There was a joke dismissing global warming; another demeaning the French; a swat at the Clintons’ marriage; and the always hilarious conflation of Osama and Obama.

But it wasn’t all fun and games. Ailes departed from the levity to address a serious and timely matter – the controversy surrounding Fox News and the Democratic candidates’ debate in Nevada:

“Recently pressure groups are forcing candidates to conclude that the best strategy for journalists is divide and conquer, to only appear on those networks and venues that give them favorable coverage…If you are afraid of journalists, how will you face the real dangers in the world?”

Since Roger has resolved to be serious, so will I. Nobody is proposing that candidates only appear in venues that give them favorable coverage. They just don’t want to be exploited by venues that are openly antagonistic. And none of Fox’ critics are afraid of journalists. They just refuse to bestow legitimacy on the partisan agents of their opponents.

Congratulations Mr. Ailes, on managing to weasel an award from your buddies in the mainstream media that Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Brit Hume, et al, so often disparage. But don’t expect valentines from the targets of your political bile. And don’t be surprised when guests don’t show up at your televised lynchings.

A little background on the RTNDA: This is an organization whose President, Barbara Cochran, claimed that regulating “video news releases” amounts to government intrusion into the affairs of news broadcasters.

YouTube Video of Ailes at the RTNDF awards gala.


Kurtz on Russert: One Plus For The Media

The Libby trial exposed the dark underside of Washington’s press corps and their incestuous relationships with the subjects of their coverage. But Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post has managed to find a sliver of hope for the restoration of the media’s honor:

The one plus for the media in Libby’s conviction involved Tim Russert, NBC’s Washington bureau chief…The jury believed Russert.

I think this requires a conclusionary leap the width of the Grand Canyon. There is no evidence that the jury’s belief in Russert rested on his veracity. It is far more likely that Russert just looked good in comparison to Libby and the weasels that came to his defense. And that’s no small feat considering what we learned about Russert during this trial.

Kathie Martin, Vice-President Dick Cheney’s director of communications, revealed her notes that listed “message control” as a positive reason for having the VP appear on Russert’s Sunday program. She expanded on that in her testimony:

“I suggested we put the vice president on ‘Meet the Press,’ which was a tactic we often used. It’s our best format.”

Russert can hardly be considered a “plus” for the media if the White House considers him a pawn for controlling their message. And since Kurtz characterized him as the “one” plus, by my count the media is back to zero.


Standards for Considering Pardon Petitions

This is just for reference and not a concession that the current residents of the White House have any standards:

“In general, a pardon is granted on the basis of the petitioner’s demonstrated good conduct for a substantial period of time after conviction and service of sentence. The Department’s regulations require a petitioner to wait a period of at least five years after conviction or release from confinement (whichever is later) before filing a pardon application (28 C.F.R. § 1.2). In determining whether a particular petitioner should be recommended for a pardon, the following are the principal factors taken into account.”

  1. Post-conviction conduct, character, and reputation.
  2. Seriousness and relative recentness of the offense.
  3. Acceptance of responsibility, remorse, and atonement.
  4. Need for relief.
  5. Official recommendations and reports.

Of course, the President can decline to take these factors into account and grant a pardon for any reason he chooses. Including to insure the loyalty and continued silence of a former staffer who knows where the bodies are buried.


The Scooter Libby-Ration Front

The right-wing apologists in the press have launched a virtual Pardon-palooza on behalf of their favorite former hill staffer, Scooter Libby. You only have to read to the second paragraph of Howard Kurtz’ column in the Washington Post to understand the level of criminality in the DC press corps:

“When Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff and other top administration officials wanted to neutralize a critic by disclosing his wife’s role at the CIA, they turned to some of the capital’s most prominent chroniclers, who — under longstanding local custom — promised the leakers anonymity.”

Since when is it the role of reporters to accommodate political assassins by publishing their attacks and promising them anonymity? The journalist’s obligation to protect a source was meant to shield whistleblowers who risked retribution from a powerful government that would prefer to keep its wrongdoing secret. It was not meant to shield dirty tricksters within government who want to harm their political rivals.

Now that a jury has convicted Libby for perjury and obstruction of justice, many in the media are still rising to his defense. The arguments trace a perverse logic that insists that, although there never was a leak, Libby wasn’t the leaker. Kate O’Bierne told Chris Matthews that the difference between Bill Clinton’s perjury and Libby’s, was that Clinton confessed. Libby, therefore, should be pardoned because he was convicted against his will (unlike every other felon).

O’Bierne is not the only loose-screwed advocate of a pardon for Libby. Editorials in the Wall Street Journal, New York Post, and the National Review are also pro-impunity.

In the Wall Street Journal’s tortured logic, Libby is only guilty of being too honest:
“…he has been convicted of telling the truth about Mr. Wilson and Ms. Plame to some reporters but then not owning up to it.”

Note to WSJ: “Not owning up” to the FBI and the grand jury is a felony! The Journal also suggests that there would have been no case if only Libby had said that he didn’t recall his conversations with reporters. In other words, the Journal believes Libby’s problem is that he didn’t tell the right lies. Either way, the Journal just made two arguments advocating perjury.

The New York Post headline screams, “Free Scooter Libby.” But they don’t appear to know from what he should be freed:
“Despite the jury’s guilty verdict yesterday on four of five counts, it’s fair to say that Fitzgerald added nothing to what was well known about the question that ostensibly prompted this probe in the first place: Who leaked CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson’s name…”

Note to NYP: Perhaps the reason that nothing was added to what was known is that the defendant was lying and obstructing justice – for which he was convicted. This trial was not about who leaked Plame’s name, anyway. It was about Libby lying during the investigation.

The National Review finds new places to point the finger:
“A good man has paid a very heavy price for the Left’s fevers, the media’s scandal-mongering, and President Bush’s failure to unify his own administration.”

Note to NR: A good man would not have lied to investigators; would not have covered up political hit jobs; would not have sabotaged the career of a patriotic CIA operative just to discredit her husband, a political foe. And it wasn’t the left or the media that made him do those things, although it might have been President Bush.

It should come as no surprise that these papers and pundits, who now solicit forgiveness for Libby, have long championed his efforts to slime Joe Wilson and his family. Driven by a desire to justify a disastrous and unnecessary war, they now seek to award their loyal servant a get out of jail free card. My guess would be that he gets it. Because if there’s one thing these people are consistent about, it’s hypocrisy. But if justice is ever truly served, they will be bunking with Libby at Leavenworth.


Scooter Libby Guilty – Except On Fox News

Libby Verdict


It sure didn’t take these guys long to construct their disinformation strategy. And you have to admire their chutzpah. Even while the Fox News Pundo-fascist talking blockheads make pseudo-lawyerly arguments demeaning the jury, the prosecutor, and the verdict, their manging editor, Droop Dawg Brit Hume floats above the real message that Fox wants desperately to pound into their zombified audience.

There really isn’t much more to say about this. It is just another example of the lying, propaganda machine that is trying to pass itself off as a news network.But I really hope this can get some attention because it is not an isolated incident. Remember, this is the network whose chairman admitted that he uses his media empire to shape public opinion.

And this is also the network that will be hosting the Democratic primary debate in Nevada. Can you just imagine what messages they will be sending then?

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Being Ann Coulter

I suppose the girl can’t help it. She just has an involuntary impulse to behave like a retarded, narcissistic, goose-stepping, hate machine. Well, Ann Coulter has just set off another idiot-bomb:

“It turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word ‘faggot,’ so I’m kind of at an impasse — I can’t really talk about [John] Edwards.”

It’s not like it’s something new. She has launched the same juvenile insult at Al Gore and Bill Clinton. The problem here is not that she has once again been caught being a repulsive purveyor of hate. The problem is that her antics still have not resulted in the revocation of her license to appear on any media outlet that she agrees to sully with her noxious presence. Take, for instance, this appearance on Fox, where Coulter defended herself with her pal Sean Hannity:

“Faggot isn’t offensive to gays; it has nothing to do with gays. It’s a schoolyard taunt meaning ‘wuss,’ and unless you’re telling me that John Edwards is gay, it was not applied to a gay person.”

This lying sack of vomit knows better than that. She would not have used the reference to “rehab” had she been unaware of the obvious vulgarity in which she was engaging. She now considers herself the victim and calls the reaction to her verbal diarrhea “speech totalitarianism.” But if you think this is the end of the story, think again. Here is how she responded upon learning that Mitt Romney, John McCain, and Rudy Giuliani, all repudiated her comments:

“…if they’re going to start apologizing for everything I say, they better keep that statement handy cause there’s going to be a lot more in the next year.”

Thanks for the warning, Annie. Now maybe we can prepare by seeing to it that you are exiled to the island of putrid pundits. Sadly, there actually is no such island, but there are other ways to punish Coulter. Some have already had success waving off advertisers. But now I think it might be useful to hit her syndicator, Universal Press. They initially issued a non-response that declaimed responsibility because Coulter’s remarks were not part of a distributed column. But Universal also gave a clue as to what might actually move them to action:

“To date, we have not heard from any of her client newspapers about the verbal remark. Yes, her client list is still about 100.”

There are your orders. Feel free to complain to your local paper if they carry her column. Be sure to ask that they pass your concerns on to Universal Press. Wouldn’t it be nice to revisit this in a few months and find out that her client list had shrunk to 50?


KTLK: Dead And Distant

An announcement from Clear Channel’s Los Angeles Air America affiliate unveils an unimpressive new line-up for the station. I can’t say that I’m particularly upset about most of the cancellations, but the additions are atrocious.

Gone from the schedule are Mark Riley’s “Politically Direct,” Lionel, “Harrison on the Edge,” and “The Young Turks.” The only one I might miss would be the Turks. What’s truly unsettling, though, is the new schedule that KTLK ‘s program director, Don Martin, says is intended to be more “live and local.” If that’s his intention, he’s failed miserably.

The most heralded of the new hosts is Marc Germain, the former “Mr. KABC” (Mr. KFI before that). He is a terminally bland radio presence that has no political identity or history. Yet this flaccid call-letter chameleon is being given four hours of the coveted afternoon drive-time on a station that bills itself as “Progressive Talk.”

Then there is the addition of Bill Press, the former chairman of the California Democratic Party and one of the parade of neutered liberals that appeared on CNN’s “Crossfire” opposite fire-breathing conservatives like Robert Novak and Pat Buchanan. Press represents a distinctly establishment view of Democratic politics that doesn’t even approach progressivism.

Finally we have the notorious Alan Colmes. Notorious primarily for being able to keep his lunch down while seated next to the nauseating Sean Hannity. Colmes is Hannity’s lapdog whose syndicated program is distributed by the Fox Radio Network. How convenient that this Clear Channel broadcaster has a Fox program it can embrace. Expect Colmes to deliver the same mush that passes for liberalism that he spews on his master’s cable TV show.

As to the claim that these changes were meant to steer the station to more “live and local” fare, it should be noted that Press broadcasts out of Washington, DC, and Colmes is based in New York. Only Germain, an apolitical cipher, originates from L. A.

I guess I’ll just have to be grateful for Stephanie Miller and Thom Hartmann, two legitimate and committed voices for the left. But I do wonder if their positions are secure. A conspiracy theorist might speculate that Clear Channel is purposefully sabotaging progressive radio in Los Angeles. Given the evidence before us, it would be hard to argue with that.

Contact KTLK and tell them that Mr. K, Bill Press, and Alan Colmes, do not constitute progressive talk. And feel free to advocate for your favorite progressive host, i.e. Laura Flanders, Mike Malloy, Sam Seder, Amy Goodman, Taylor Marsh, etc.


Fighting For A Free Press?

The escalating hostilities in Afghanistan were evident today when a suicide bomber launched an attack intended for a convoy of American Marines. Initial reports estimate that the blast killed 16 civilians and injured up to 34. Witnesses say that following the attack, the Americans fled, firing indiscriminately at vehicles and pedestrians along a six mile stretch of a busy road. Accounts of these events come primarily from victims of the shootings at a local hospital as well as other eye witnesses on the road. But accounts from local media may not be forthcoming:

“U.S. forces near Sunday’s bombing later deleted photos taken by a freelance photographer working for The Associated Press and video taken by a freelancer working for AP Television News. Neither the photographer nor the cameraman witnessed the suicide attack or the subsequent gunfire. It was not immediately known why the soldiers deleted the photos and videos. The U.S. military didn’t immediately comment on the matter.”

I’m not sure where these soldiers got the idea that they had the authority to interfere with local journalists. I’m not sure how they came to believe that it was acceptable to destroy their photos and video. But I am sure that this is not the way to promote freedom. The Afghan people will certainly hear of these events and it will undoubtedly exacerbate the anti-American sentiment in the region. But suppressing the media, and the truth, will only make things worse by inciting further resentment, distrust, and hostility. And it doesn’t make for a very good example of American values either.


Shareholders Are Killing Newspapers

This week’s episode of PBS’ “News War,” includes remarks by the vice-chairman of Ariel Capital Management, the fifth largest investor in the Tribune Company, which owns 23 television stations and 11 newspapers. Charles Bobrinskoy’s comments present a picture-perfect illustration of everything that’s wrong with the newspaper business. Here are some examples of why stock pickers (never a particularly reliable bunch) should not be allowed to shape the future of media:

“People want to read about what’s going on in their own communities, and the Web usually can’t provide that. The Web can tell you what’s going on in Iraq; the Web can tell you what’s going on in Washington, D.C. It can’t tell you what’s going on in Des Moines if you live in Des Moines.”
Somebody ought to tell Bobrinskoy about Iowa Blogs. In fact, Bobrinskoy could use a remedial course in Internet 101. While the newspaper’s intended audience is much more narrowly focused than the worldwide scope of the net, that audience is no less interested in the world outside the city limits than it is in the affairs of city hall. Just because the web has a global reach doesn’t mean it cannot serve a community. Conversely, just because a newspaper has a local audience doesn’t mean it should ignore the rest of the globe. But that is exactly what Bobrinskoy proposes:

“Readers care about the local entertainment industry, which they don’t do a very good job of covering in the L.A. Times. They care about things like fashion, which The New York Times does a very good job of covering; the L.A. Times doesn’t. They should care about issues like immigration.”
Thanks for telling us what we should care about. Bobrinskoy goes on to make some remarkably contradictory comments about what makes a paper successful. He rebukes the L. A. Times for not being to local enough, then complains that, “The paper, in hindsight, probably could have used a little bit more management out of Chicago.” Continuing to bash the Times for its global perspective, Bobrinskoy advocates reductions in news staff and the elimination of foreign bureaus:

“It’s trying to report on why Bush went to war in Iraq instead of what’s going on in Southern California” [… and …] “the L.A. Times could focus on providing news, better news, investigative news on what’s happening in L.A. City Hall and be more focused and provide a better, higher-quality news product. And allow CNN and Fox to cover Istanbul. And then we’d all be better off. The shareholders would make a better return, and my news coverage would be better.”
I’m sure the shareholders would be quite happy if we were to divvy up news coverage so that the Times would get L. A., give Western Europe to CNN, the Middle East to Fox, Asia to Reuters, etc. Every news organization would have a geographic monopoly and consumers would get a single, unchallenged view of world affairs. This plan would, to the delight of shareholders, eliminate competition in both the financial markets as well as the marketplace of ideas. But this plan completely ignores the fact that most original reporting (estimated to be as much as 80%) is currently is done by newspapers, not CNN or, God forbid, Fox. Surprisingly, Bobrinskoy feels the need to go further and insult every reader of the L. A. Times and, in fact, every consumer of local newspapers:

“Do we really need the L.A. Times devoting the resources it has to [international events]” [… and …] “We’re saying there’s a role for probably three national newspapers — The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and USA Today. Each has its own niche; all three are national newspapers. We don’t think there’s any demand for a fourth. The L.A. Times is trying to be that fourth.”
I’m going to let Bill Keller, executive editor of the New York Times answer that:

“…the idea that the L.A. Times is going to say to readers, ‘Buy the L.A. Times, we will tell you what’s going on with the traffic and the schools and the cops and the local stuff, and if you want to know what’s going on in Iraq, go buy The New York Times,’ that doesn’t sound like a terribly sound business approach either. And if I were a Los Angelino, I would be a little insulted by that. Why are the two mutually exclusive?”

They are not mutually exclusive, and I am insulted. We can only hope that the views of investment bankers like Bobrinskoy are rejected for the low-brow, short-term stupidity they represent. His logic is flawed and dangerous and only accelerates the rapid concentration of media voices into small groups of powerful, multinational corporations whose loyalties are bound to owners and shareholders, rather than to consumers and citizens.