MSNBC: The Luckiest Network On Television

MSNBC may be the luckiest network on television. Republicans are threatening to boycott the cable net. That’s kind of like having lepers threaten to not French kiss you.

It all began when David Shuster asked Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) if she could name the last soldier from her district who was killed in Iraq. She could not, so he told her who it was. It was later reported that the soldier Shuster named was not from Blackburn’s district and Shuster apologized for the error on air. Now it turns out that Shuster was right in the first place. But being right was never a major article of concern for the right and they are still hammering Shuster. Even Brit Hume at Fox News participated in the pile on.

Now, according to Politico, Republicans are escalating the battle to new heights:

“We don’t mind skipping MSNBC. No one watches that channel anyway,” says a high-placed Republican consultant.

Word is, a growing number of GOP lawmakers have become mysteriously “unavailable” when asked to appear on MSNBC.

This would be a sublime development. I have long been advocating that Democrats and progressives swear off of Fox News (see Starve The Beast). Rupert Murdoch and his media megaphone is openly hostile to our agenda and our representatives. They will only use these appearances to distort our message and derail our mission. Studies have proven that their audience is unreceptive, and even antagonistic, to us and by appearing we will be rewarded more with ridicule than respect.

It has been difficult to advance this strategy because the siren’s call of the TV camera still lures people to Fox. Now, ironically, it is Republicans who are openly promoting the concept in reverse. If their effort has the residual effect of causing a reciprocal boycott of Fox, it will be well worth it. They won’t miss MSNBC and we won’t miss the further propagation of their propaganda.

Reminder: It has already been reported that Republicans have been more reluctant to appear on many programs regardless of network. Plus, they have refused to participate in televised debates sponsored by Gays, African-Americans, Unions, and even YouTube (on which they eventually agreed to appear).

Update on Shuster: It appears he was strong-armed into the premature apology by his boss.

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My Name Is Scooter

On NBC’s My Name Is Earl, the title character is presently serving a jail sentence for a crime that his ex-wife Joy committed. In last night’s season opener he revealed that his prison ID number is 28301-016. “So what?” you might ask. Well, I think it may not be a coincidence that another famous inmate has the very same number:

Very funny, guys. (h/t to Yazoo Street Scandal)

RushipediA: Phony Soldiers

Chickenhawk Rush Limbaugh thinks that soldiers who are opposed to the war in Iraq are “phony.” Despite the fact that they serve with the same honor, courage, and patriotism as any other soldier, Limbaugh has this to say about them:

CALLER: …what’s really funny is, they never talk to real soldiers. They like to pull these soldiers that come up out of the blue and talk to the media.

LIMBAUGH: The phony soldiers.

CALLER: The phony soldiers. If you talk to a real soldier, they are proud to serve. They want to be over in Iraq. They understand their sacrifice, and they’re willing to sacrifice for their country.

LIMBAUGH: They joined to be in Iraq.

Jon Soltz of is one of those who went to Iraq and now is both a vigorous supporter of the troops and a vocal opponent of the Bush administration’s failed policies in Iraq. He writes at the Huffington Post that Limbaugh never served himself and has no moral standing to judge other soldiers; that a majority of returning soldiers oppose the war, as well as many retired generals. And he has this to say about Rush:

“You weren’t just flat out wrong, you offended a majority of those of us who actually had the courage to go to Iraq and serve, while you sat back in your nice studio, coming up with crap like this.”

In a petulant tantrum aimed at disparaging, the Congress just passed resolutions condemning those who attack the honor of members of the Armed Forces. Will they now condemn Limbaugh for having done just that?

La Cucaracha Comic Hushed In Houston

Lalo Alcarez’ “La Cucaracha” is one of the most insightful, engaging, and downright hilarious comics in the publishing world. He has a somewhat askew take on society, politics and relationships. He is also one of the few successful Latino comic artists in the country who actually incorporates his ethnicity into his daily work.

The Houston Chronicle has just announced that they will be discontinuing La Cucaracha. In the heart of the American southwest, a singular, regionally relevant, voice is being silenced, and a community that is sorely under-represented in the media is again being neglected and disrespected.

Alcarez is a talented artist with a strong following. Earlier this year, when the Los Angeles Times announced that they were ditching La Cucaracha, there was a reader revolt that resulted in the Times reversing their decision the next day and retaining the comic strip. Alcarez is hoping for a similar outcome in Houston.

From his website:

“In a replay of March 2007’s brief firing of La Cucaracha from the pages of the Los Angeles Times…the Houston Chronicle, home of maybe the largest comics pages in the nation, has dumped La Cucaracha and replaced it with a New Zealand based strip about penguins. Now, experts agree that the huge Latino population of Houston, Tejas must have its penguin-themed entertainment, but somehow there is no room for a strip that explores pro-immigrant and Latino-themed issues like La Cucaracha.”

It is simply unconscionable that the Chronicle would drop this strip at this time. We are entering a highly charged election season that already has too few voices that challenge the establishment – especially from the perspective of one of the most significant, and significantly ignored, block of Latino voters. To some degree the Democrats recognized the importance of this community by participating in a Spanish language debate sponsored by Univision. And, of course, they have a viable Latino candidate in Gov. Bill Richardson. Republicans however, refused to appear at a similar debate. Alvarez addressed this issue, and in doing so, demonstrated why it’s so important for his voice to be heard. Who else at the Chronicle is producing editorial cartoons with messages like this one:

You can help to support Alcarez by contacting the Chronicle and asking them to keep La Cucaracha. Public pressure was proven effective at the L.A. Times and it can work at the Chronicle as well. So write or call and express your support for this unique artist and for diversity in the the arts and the media.

Phone: 713-362-3222

Bill O’Reilly: Surprised Black People Are Just Like Other People

nullOn his radio show last week, Bill O’Reilly regaled his audience with a tale of adventure into the Heart of Darkness – Harlem. He was dining with Al Sharpton so O’Reilly thought he should take the Reverend to a place he might be comfortable. They went to Sylvia’s where O’Reilly chowed down on that “soul food.” On returning from the expedition, O’Reilly expressed his amazement that the Harlem natives were so similar to civilized folks:

“I couldn’t get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia’s restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it’s run by blacks, primarily black patronship.”

He couldn’t get over it. It’s almost like they’re human.

“There wasn’t one person in Sylvia’s who was screaming, ‘M-Fer, I want more iced tea.’

Imagine that, they don’t all cuss when ordering refreshing beverages.

“…it was like going into an Italian restaurant in an all-white suburb in the sense of people were sitting there, and they were ordering and having fun. And there wasn’t any kind of craziness at all.”

People were “sitting there” eating food with utensils. It must have been difficult for them to suppress their natural “craziness.”

When asked to respond by CNN’s Rick Sanchez, O’Reilly claimed it was all a “hatchet” job by Media Matters:

“[T]here was no racial intent in what I said. It was a benign program. We didn’t receive one single complaint on any of our radio stations,”

Well, of course – A benign program like that, with no racial intent is certainly not going to draw any complaints from his 99.9% white radio audience.

UPDATE: O’Reilly, defending himself from a report by CNN that interviewed patrons of Sylvia’s Restaurant:

“Now, the black Americans up there, they didn’t listen to The Radio Factor. They didn’t know this was coming from Media Matters. They didn’t know any anything — they don’t know what Media Matters is. They don’t know who Bill O’Reilly is, many of them.”

This contradicts his original statement upon visiting Sylvia’s when he said that, “They all watch The Factor.” But now that they are critical of him, they are just a bunch of stupid, uninformed yokels who don’t watch TV and can’t think for themselves.

Chilling Effects: Betraying Freedom Of The Press

Last week the U.S. Senate voted to condemn the New York Times for running an ad that was critical of the administration and it’s lackey, Gen. David Petraeus. The inevitable consequences of this government imposition of approved thought are already becoming manifest.

The Times itself is slamming its ad sales group for accepting the ad from and offering them a rate reserved for stand-by advertisers. Public Editor Clark Hoyt enumerated the list of grievances from opponents of the ad. They include:

  • More than 4,000 e-mail messages with words like “despicable,” “disgrace” and “treason.”
  • George W. Bush called the ad “disgusting.”
  • Dick Cheney said the charges in the ad were “an outrage.”
  • Thomas Davis III, (R-VA) demanded a House investigation.
  • The American Conservative Union filed a complaint with the FEC against and the Times.
  • FreedomsWatch asked the Times to investigate.

And what did this flurry of hard-core conservative pressure yield? Well, the so-called liberal Times caved in to the rightists and proved the effectiveness of shouting down lawful dissent. Hoyt argued that the Times violated it’s advertising policy which states that they, “do not accept opinion advertisements that are attacks of a personal nature.” But criticizing Petraeus’ intention to go before Congress and parrot the views of the White House is not a personal attack. It is a substantive expression of a viewpoint that is shared by millions of Americans. What’s more, Hoyt didn’t bother to level the same complaint against rebuttal ads by Rudy Giuliani or FreedomsWatch. Hoyt went even further in defining the lengths to which he would go to muzzle free speech saying…

“…I’d have demanded changes to eliminate ‘Betray Us,’ a particularly low blow when aimed at a soldier.”

Had Hoyt been in a position to do so, he would have forced a private advocacy group to alter the message they wished to convey. And as justification, he implies that a general, who is being used as a political prop by the White House, cannot be called to account for abandoning the American people in favor of his boss, the President. Submission accomplished, Mr. Hoyt.

Another example of the fallout from this campaign of suppression is the refusal of the New York Metro to run an ad from the anti-war group, World Can’t Wait. The Metro deemed the ad “too inflammatory” for its criticism of Bush’s thinly veiled threats against Iran. WCW has a right to be disturbed by this rejection and they succinctly explain what’s at stake for our nation’s coveted rights under the First Amendment to the Constitution:

“One of the few avenues to get the truth into the major media – buying advocacy ads – will be in effect closed down if publishers are afraid to sell space. The White House will be the strong-arm arbiter of what is acceptable in terms of political criticism.”

(Visit World Can’t Wait for more info about the ad and how to contact the Metro).

The dominoes are falling. It began with an orchestrated assault on free speech by right-wingers in response to MoveOn’s ad. Then the Senate capitulates and condemns said speech. Then newspapers, feeling the heat, reject ads by independent groups of citizens seeking to engage the public. What’s next? An Official Doctrine of Acceptable Speech?

nullFinally, MoveOn responded to the Times’ assertion that the stand-by rate they were charged was a mistake by volunteering to pay the $77,508 difference. Will MoveOn’s critics, who so vociferously complained about the discount, acknowledge that gesture? Will Rudy Giuliani and FreedomsWatch, two of the most clamorous complainants, who themselves received an equivalent discount, pay back the difference they were afforded? If they do not, they should hear about it, and since the Conventional Media probably won’t do it, it’s up to the blogosphere, again.

Update: Lane Hudson at News For The Left has filed a complaint with the FEC against Giuliani. Good luck Lane.

Also, Giuliani is refusing to pay the difference between the stand-by rate he received and the full rate, as MoveOn did. His spokeswoman said that the ad “was placed at the standby rate with no commitment it would run on a specific date.” But she is contradicting her boss who you can listen to here for yourself.

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Are Tucker Carlson’s Days Numbered?

As I reported last month, Tucker Carlson’s ratings are a sinkhole that is sucking down the whole of MSNBC’s schedule. I wondered when MSNBC’s programmers might come out of their nepotism-induced coma and drop the ax on Tucker. There are days when his numbers are barely half of either his lead-in, his lead-out, or both.

It would stand to reason that the network honchos would want to jettison the biggest loser on their team so that they might actually make some money during that time period. Certainly the programs adjacent to Tucker would be love to see him go as he is hurting their performance as well. Last June, in an apparent effort to staunch the bleeding, one of the two daily hours allotted to Tucker was replaced by a straight newscast. But half of Tucker is still a whole flop.

So what will MSNBC do now? I don’t know. But I do know that rumors a year ago that Tucker had been fired elicited this impassioned protest from cable’s fortunate son:

“It’s bullshit. It’s total bullshit. I talked to Abrams last night. I’ve got another year on my contract. That’s my comment: Bullshit.”

If I’m not mistaken, I would conclude that he viewed the rumors of his demise as some sort of “bullshit,” but I could be wrong. However, I’m fairly sure that I’m correct in calculating that a year has transpired since his blustery declaration that he had another year on his contract. The expiration would come next month, to be precise.

I haven’t heard any of the customary splashy announcements celebrating a new term as was done when Keith Olbermann re-upped for four more years last February. And on a purely subjective note, it seems to me that Tucker has been phoning it in since his airtime was slashed in June. So I wouldn’t be surprised if he was quietly ushered out the back door before long. What would be surprising would be if he was kept on.

Boston’s Fake Bomb Hysteria

Once again Boston has shown itself to be a little too tightly wound. What is it that makes these people quiver at the sight of toys and pranks?

The latest episode of skittishness is the arrest of an MIT student who is accused of wearing a “fake bomb” at Logan International Airport. Never mind that the allegedly fake bomb is nothing more than a circuit board with a battery attached. Forget that it was being worn on the outside of a sweatshirt in full view of everyone (not something a terrorist is likely to do). And ignore completely that the student, Star Simpson, is enrolled at MIT where students commonly engage in creative inventions.

The foregoing notwithstanding, Boston’s finest still managed to overreact and assume the worst. This, of course, is not the first time. Back in February, the city ground to a halt because a cable tv network left some litebrite toys around town to publicize the premiere of the Aqua Teen Hunger Force cartoon series. As I said at that time:

“Once again we are reminded of the ever-present danger posed to society by artists. The free exercise of creative expression continues to be amongst the more serious threats to an ordered and manageable population. No wonder responsible governments spend so much of their time and resources suppressing such subversions. Without such efforts we would be forever vulnerable to the horrors of independent thought and action.”

In both incidents, the media became a willing accomplice to this conclusion jumping. Every headline and teaser blasts the words “Fake Bomb” as if there had been an actual determination that this was the intent. A responsible press might have considered describing it as an “electrical device” of unknown purpose. But that wouldn’t grab as many viewers or sell as many papers.

Top Army General Says To Blame The Media

The commander of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division in Iraq has a theory as to why the mission is so badly floundering. Major General Rick Lynch believes that if the media were more upbeat, that would somehow improve the fortunes of the troops in their battle against the Iraqi insurgents. Perhaps if there were more stories of painted schoolhouses there would be fewer IEDs buried on the roadside.

To be fair, Lynch isn’t really addressing the battlefield in Iraq. His focus is on the perceptions of Americans at home and how to persuade them to gird for our extended participation in this quagmire:

“If the American people are informed properly, I believe they will be supportive of the mission. But they’re not getting the right story. As a result, they’re anti the war.”

First of all, they are getting the right story – the right-wing story, that is. They get it every day from an incurious press corps that functions by Xeroxing presidential PR for publication. They get it from the White House and its delegates (including generals like Petraeus and Lynch) who carry the administration’s water. They get it from the Congress who is too weak to stand up for the citizens begging for leadership out of this war.

At the risk of drawing the ire of those who think it’s improper to ever question a military leader, I have to disagree with Lynch’s contention that Americans are against the war because they are uninformed. Somehow, despite the best efforts of chickenhawks in the media, the people have arrived at the conclusion that they were duped and they don’t want to take it anymore.

Lynch claims that the media is ignoring successes in Iraq like declining casualties. Even if we accept this contention, which many experts dispute, then how does he explain this:

“The enemy now is more lethal and more aggressive than I’ve ever seen him be because he knows he’s on the run.”

It is blatantly contradictory to suggest that the enemy can be both more lethal and yet cause fewer casualties simultaneously. And it is absurd to surmise that because the enemy is more aggressive they are on the verge of defeat. The converse of that would mean that the declining casualties of a less aggressive foe is evidence that the enemy is growing stronger.

Lynch goes on to astutely observe that political and economic progress in Iraq is slow; that the police are often “nonexistent, incapable or corrupt”; that Iraqis want us to leave; and that they are untrustworthy allies that are likely to turn on us. Yet none of this staunches his optimism for a mission that he say is must proceed for at least another five years.

Therein lies the reason for his concentration on the media. The American people are already fed up with having our troops embedded in a civil war that has been raging for hundreds of years. They are tired of diverting scarce resources from domestic priorities like health care, national security, natural disasters, etc. And they fear that our misguided foreign policy has made us an international pariah and is exacerbating the threat of terrorism.

So Lynch needs to recruit the media to convert the population into believers in the mission if he is to sustain this war for another half decade. I hope that is a mission in which he fails. I hope the media can manage to find a voice that reflects reality, honesty, and a sense of duty to their journalistic purpose of responsibly informing citizens.

U.S. Congress Or U.S. Betray Us?

The MoveOn ad affair is still plodding forward with the President’s comments this morning calling the ad “disgusting”, and now the Senate weighing in with a resolution condemning MoveOn for exercising its free speech rights. The bill’s author, Sen. John Cornyn, made explicitly anti-speech language in his statement supporting the bill.

Before anyone has an opportunity to get distracted, this is not about the war in Iraq; it is not about respect for the military; it is not about terrorism; it is certainly not about patriotism. It is about Free Speech and nothing else (well, maybe a little hypocrisy). It is about the United States Senate deciding that it can penalize private citizens and groups for expressing their opinions.

Despite the chilling effect legislation like this has on lawful dissent, the Senate overwhelmingly passed Cornyn’s bill by a vote of 72-25. That majority means that a lot of Democrats caved in to the “shut up and pretend to support the military” crowd. It means that they believe that it’s acceptable for the government to crush dissent.

And while they are trashing our Constitutional liberties, they don’t even feel compelled to maintain a semblance of consistency. As evidence of the hypocrisy of the Senate censors, Sen. Barbara Boxer offered a companion bill that condemned political attacks on any military figure. Boxer’s alternative included patriots like Max Cleland and John Kerry, in addition to General Petraeus. The Boxer bill failed 51-46 (short of the 60 votes needed for passage), with all but three Republicans voting against it.

It’s bad enough that so many Democrats voted to censure MoveOn rather than exhibit some backbone by standing up for the Constitution as well as their constituents, but it’s far worse that Republicans, it seems, are only interested in defending the honor of the military when those criticized are right-wing sycophants. Decorated veterans who serve their country are apparently unworthy of respect if they don’t swallow Republican dogma and obey their masters in the White House.

I really don’t understand how the public can tolerate Republican senators who will vote to condemn attacks on one general, then turn around and vote against condemning such attacks on all military figures. This should serve as a lesson to the Democratic leadership in Congress that Republicans are not the least bit interested in bipartisanship or compromise. Democratic leader Harry Reid needs to absorb this lesson and begin to take a more aggressive stance in asserting the majority role in which he serves. When is he going to get tired of wiping the footprints off his damn forehead? And the rest of the Democratic caucus might want to start to take more seriously their obligation to protect free speech, as opposed to making vacant gestures that feign patriotism. Their record of abandoning Constitutional principles is disgraceful – from Habeas Corpus, to warrantless wiretapping, to relinquishing their jurisdiction on issues of national defense, to impeachment. When will they learn what their role is as members of an equal branch of government?

Update: MoveOn is fighting back with a petition drive that will be delivered to Congress:

“The U.S. Senate just told you to sit down and be quiet. They passed a resolution condemning and it has one purpose: to intimidate all of us who care about responsibly ending this war.”

Sign the petition and join MoveOn. What better time to show support for free speech and a valiant organization that is fighting for it.