You Better Watch Out

Santa Clause is Coming Town
And if you know what’s good for you, you’ll lay low. Operating from a secret, undisclosed location, Claus’ Dark Ops program is without parallel. That might explain Dick Cheney’s frequent visits. There has never been a credible sighting of the mysterious man and it is said that he never ventures out in daylight.

Still, he manages to maintain an impenetrable network of personnel and data. Admiral John Poindexter’s Total Information Awareness initiative pales by comparison. The methods by which Claus accumulated his data are unknown but they are, by all accounts, accurate to the smallest detail. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales must envy this guy. He can enter anyone’s home without first obtaining a warrant and he can peer into the most intimate corners of your personal life. In fact, he sees you when you’re sleeping and likewise knows when you’re awake. Frankly, he’s beginning to creep me out.

What do we really know about him, anyway? Some experts have speculated that he is being treated in his hideaway for diabetes and heart disease. But that speculation may just be based on reports of a persistent weight problem. Reports have also leaked from the compound that Claus suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder evidenced by a reflexive desire to produce lengthy lists and check them over twice or more.

Despite controversy, Claus does have an impressive array of supporters both inside and outside of governments throughout the world. But one look at the sort of people that count themselves as his defenders is another reason for concern. People like Bill O’Reilly who has gone so far as to declare that there is a war on Christmas. Jews, Muslims, and other non-Christians are characterized as secular in this war and accused of wanting to cut and run from Jesus.

Other interests in the Claus empire include commodities like plastic and timber. His firms have virtually cornered the market in pine. He is also a major player in transportation and shipping and has been called the brains behind Onassis. But his net worth can only be guessed at. We do know that he came in first on the Forbes Fictional Fifteen.

Claus’ detractors have learned the hard way what it means to tangle with him. He can be a ruthless competitor and he has demonstrated an ability to endure sleepless nights and daunting schedules that include heavy lifting and world travel. The one sentiment that is most frequently expressed by those who have challenged him is an admonition that has gained mythic proportions. Ask one of his victims and they will invariably warn that…

“You Better Watch Out!”

[The Flash movie linked here is my entry in the Huffington Post Contagious Festival. If you like it, please send it to everyone you know and put links to it on your blogs, MySpace pages, etc.]

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Is It Civil War Yet?

With violence in Iraq escalating daily, the media has been struggling with how to characterize the conflict. The number of Iraqis killed this month is greater than at any other time since the days of the U.S. invasion 3 years ago. It is inescapable that the rotation of reciprical attacks constitutes a pattern that open eyes have no problem recognizing. Sunnis send suicide bombers into a Shiite mosque on one day. The next day a Shiite car bomb decimates a crowded Sunni marketplace.

What would you call this?

Finally, at least one voice in mediasphere is calling it what it is: A civil war:

“NBC said on the “Today” show that the Iraqi government’s inability to stop spiraling violence between rival factions fit its definition of civil war.”

It does not, however, fit the White House’s definition as they continue to deny reality by using euphemisms that speak of “sectarian” strife that is merely “serious”. It is in the interest of the administration to confuse the matter. They know that if the U.S. were seen to be targets in the midst of Iraq’s internal conflict, the public would not tolerate the loss of life, the wasted billions of dollars, and the international revulsion that results from our continued occupation of the crumbling and chaotic nation.

Bush will be meeting with Iraq’s Prime Minister, al-Maliki this week to discuss how to be more effectively deceptive and to continue to promote the fallacy that Iraq is not only not in a civil war, but is improving its security and stability. The Iraq Study Group is also preparing to release their report that early indications say will have no surprises beyond a suggestion that talks be held with Iran and Syria. The president has nixed this idea, but Maliki is already doing it. This further separates the U.S. from any role of influence and makes our presence even more bewildering and tragic. And the PR stunts and photo-ops will escalate along with the slaughter and despair.

The lies foisted on the American people by its leaders have, to date, been regurgitated by a compliant media. When the public is confused, sheltered and lied to, they will be understandably reluctant to draw conclusions. Or else they will become disgusted, disengaged and defensively apathetic. But when events are accurately portrayed in the press, and citizens are treated like adults, they are more willing and able to make better informed judgments.

Is It Civil War Yet? Not if the government and the press hide the facts from the people. Not if Orwellian perversions of truth are permitted to fog the landscape. Not if it’s forbidden to exercise free expression. At least NBC has finally bowed to acknowledge the obvious. Their tardy enlightenment will help to promote a more realistic national discussion. But they are only a single outpost in the media frontier. We’ll have to wait and see if other news organizations chose to contribute to the store of knowledge rather than continue to suppress and mangle it.


The Hippie Phobia Of Jonah Goldberg

For the life of me, I cannot understand how Jonah Goldberg finds anyone to publish his ignorant, unsubstantiated, diatribes. In yesterday’s column for the Los Angeles Times, Goldberg again demonstrates the shallowness of his knowledge and the laziness of his work habits.

The article is titled, A Tradition of Common Sense, and attempts to convey the view that Hippies opposed the concept. But all he succeeds in doing is demonstrating that he has no sense, common or otherwise.

Goldberg first leaps from the limb by stating that Hippies, “turned their backs on “bourgeois” morality, including something called hygiene.”

First of all, hygiene is not a moral concept and here Goldberg is just spewing a cheap and juvenile insult. But more importantly, his disparagement of the morality of Hippies could not be further off the mark. What part of Hippie culture does he consider lacking in morals? Was it their advocacy of peace throughout the world; conviction to love thy neighbor without regard to ethnicity or race; reverence for the earth; belief that there are higher aspirations in life than the accumulation of wealth?

Perhaps what Goldberg means by “bourgeois morality” is the greedy, intolerant, wasteful, and ego-centric lifestyle that is the hallmark of the Republicanism he espouses. Indeed, the Hippies turned their backs on that.

Goldberg continues his nonsense by asserting that, “The recent elections are being interpreted – accurately or not – as a repudiation of religious conservatism.”

By whom? Goldberg doesn’t even bother to insert the hackneyed psuedo-journalistic attribution of “some say…” No, he just posits it as a fact, when the truth is that most analysts agree that religious conservatives were not repudiated, they just decided to vote for Democrats:

“the national exit polls told a dramatic story of changing views in the pews: Democrats recaptured the Catholic vote they had lost two years ago. They sliced the GOP’s advantage among weekly churchgoers to 12 percentage points”

Obviously it’s Goldberg’s moral superiority that has led him to impugn the piety of Democrats. But he goes even further:

“Even those leftists and libertarians who display ritualized contempt for tradition understand that we do some things today because we’ve learned from the mistakes of our forefathers. If everything is open to revision, then slavery is still a viable option.”

Do you suppose Goldberg could be prevailed upon to produce a list of those leftists he believes are guilty of ritualized contempt? And if that weren’t enough repugnant slime wallowing, he somehow finds a way to associate liberals with a reinstatement of slavery. Then, in a feat of Olympic segueing, he turns his lunatic rant to Madonna, whom he calls slattern and an aging pop star. That must be a display of the kind of moral uprighteousness that might also describe Dolly Parton as an old country hag. First he berates Madonna for adopting a child from an impoverished nation. Then he condemns her for choosing life in the song, “Papa Don’t Preach.”

After reading his column, I’m still at loss to see what any of it had to do with traditional common sense. It’s just an overly long exercise in childish name-calling with a pathetic dearth of insight or civility. Now that we have gotten rid of a good portion of Republicans in congress, can we please start working on throwing out trash like Jonah Goldberg?


The Shame Of The L. A. Times

An editorial in today’s Los Angeles Times argues that the O. J. Simpson mock-fession calamity is proof that media companies should be allowed to grow ever larger, unregulated, and unimpeded by the public interest. While this may be the most perversely distorted logic of the century, it is also appallingly insensitive and overtly self-serving.

The editors at the Times are so obsessed with securing for themselves the ability to buy more TV stations and newspapers, and to expand their monopolistic ambitions, that they would exploit the controversy surrounding this double murderer to make their case. Their argument is based on the contention that when independent affiliates exercise discretion with regard to which network programs they will carry, they are engaging in censorship. That may be true in some cases, but the Times can’t recognize which is which:

“…most times when local TV stations pass on network programming it is not for high-minded, public-interest reasons. More typically, they do so out of economic interest (to sell more local ads) or because they want to avoid putting on programs they consider offensive.”

The truth is that when stations pass on programming it is never for high-minded reasons, it is always out of economic interest (the same motivations as the networks). They only avoid offensive programming because of its potential impact on ad revenue. That is, in fact, the reason for the cancellation of the Simpson program. Fox made a calculated decision that airing the show would cost them too much money as they were unable to get advertisers to sponsor it. There was nothing high-minded about it.

But isn’t that what a free market is all about? That’s precisely the reason that local stations ought to have discretion in what they choose to air. The Times correctly points out that many local stations are not managed locally, but by station groups with distant headquarters. However, instead of advocating more local ownership, the Times suggests regulatory relief to give the networks greater clout. However, the networks will only exacerbate the problem and localism will suffer accordingly.

This is not the first time that the Times has used its own pages to promote the economic interests of its parent, The Tribune Company, but it is the first time it has used such convoluted logic that feeds on the scandalous exploitation of such lurid tabloid fare. This is a repulsive attempt at persuasion via negative association and the Times editors should be ashamed.

The Times’ readers should join the Subscriber Revolt.


Fox News Going For Even More Laughs

It’s inspiring to see that Fox News isn’t content to rest on their Laurels, or their Hardys either. Having already locked up some of the funniest names in news (O’Reilly, Hannity, Coulter, etc.), they are now preparing to test a Saturday night comedy program in the mold of The Daily Show. The Hollywood Reporter quotes the show’s producer describing the program as:

“…a satirical news format that would play more to the Fox News audience than the Michael Moore channel.”

I’m not sure what cable service he subscribes to, but mine doesn’t offer a Michael Moore Channel (damn). I’m also not sure who he thinks make up the Fox News audience. With the oldest skewing demos in cable news, Fox would seem hard-pressed to deliver the sort of viewers that a Daily Show clone would be geared toward.

None of this phases the folks at Fox who think that this program is an attractive opportunity. Indeed it is. It is an opportunity to attract the same viewers that Fox’s Bill O’Reilly belittled as “stoned slackers.” It is an opportunity to harvest some of the Daily Show’s glow, a program Geraldo Rivera praised saying…

“They make a living putting on video of old ladies slipping on ice and people laughing. That’s their life. They exist in a small little place where they count for nothing.”

It’s no wonder that Fox now wants to enter this programming segment with their own brand of fair and balanced humor. I’m certain that they will live up to the spirit of Geraldo’s tribute.

If nothing else, this could be the best way for Fox to fortify it’s reputation. While The Daily Show presents its comedy stylings on a network dedicated to humor, the Fox entry will be the first to offer a fake news program on an actual fake news network. The no-spin cycle is complete.


Prodigal Journalism

The pain, the sorrow, the loss, that could have been avoided had these reporters done their job, is immeasurable.

Better late than never? That’s a relative appraisal. When the Conventional Media lags behind the public, and the truth, the consequences can be serious, even fatal. The late revelations of some prodigal journalists can hardly be characterized as “better” without ignoring the irreparable harm resulting from their tardiness. After the loss of more than 2,800 Americans and perhaps hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, reporters can’t just come forward now, confess their professional deficiencies, and expect absolution. Yet that is exactly what some of them are doing.

It started with mea culpas from both the New York Times and the Washington Post for failing to report on the weaknesses of the Bush administration’s arguments for invading Iraq.

From the Times:
“Editors at several levels who should have been challenging reporters and pressing for more skepticism were perhaps too intent on rushing scoops into the paper…while follow-up articles that called the original ones into question were sometimes buried. In some cases, there was no follow-up at all.”

From the Post:
“We did our job but we didn’t do enough, and I blame myself mightily for not pushing harder,” [Bob] Woodward said in an interview. “We should have warned readers we had information that the basis for this was shakier” than widely believed. “Those are exactly the kind of statements that should be published on the front page.”

Then, last May, the reigning queen of misinformation, Judith Miller of the New York Times, expressed regret for not having written a story that might have led to the prevention of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. That was after five years and two wars, one of which she brazenly promoted with articles built on propaganda and the ramblings of disreputable sources.

“You know, sometimes in journalism you regret the stories you do, but most of the time you regret the ones that you didn’t do.”

Now Dick Meyer, the Editorial Director of CBSNews.com joins the ranks of the confessors:
This is a story I should have written 12 years ago when the “Contract with America” Republicans captured the House in 1994. I apologize.

Really, it’s just a simple thesis: The men who ran the Republican Party in the House of Representatives for the past 12 years were a group of weirdos. Together, they comprised one of the oddest legislative power cliques in our history.

Thanks for the heads up, Dick. It only cost us a dozen years of distress; of corruption; of impeachment; of deficits; of hypocrisy; of global warming; of poverty; of war.

I’m not sure what the value of these delayed self-flagellations is. I suppose it’s better that they unburden themselves and admit their mistakes rather than be like Bush and Cheney. But their mistakes are so egregious and the consequences so severe. The pain, the sorrow, the loss, that could have been avoided had these reporters done their job, is immeasurable. There might at least be some consolation if we could see that they had learned something along the way. But there is scant evidence of that. Just since the recent mid-term elections, the usual suspects in the press are already demonstrating the shortness of their vision. Norman Solomon writes at TomPaine.com:

“Too often, media coverage of U.S. policy in Iraq seems little more than a remake of how mainstream news outlets portrayed Washington’s options during the war in Vietnam. Routine deference to inside-the-Beltway conventional wisdom has turned many prominent journalists into co-producers of a “Groundhog Day” sequel that insists the U.S. war effort must go on.”

In the movie, “Groundhog Day”, the endless loop in which Phil was trapped was eventually broken as a result of his transformation into a man with a conscience and compassion, a man who finally learned to care about something other than himself. This is a moral that would serve the media well. When they begin to realize that they do not exist to serve the interests of themselves, their careers, and their stockholders; when they realize that they are here to perform a public service; that is when they might begin to earn renewed respect from the people for whom they are supposed to be working.

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Open Season On Bloggers

As the Conventional Media strive to retain a sliver of stature, they are making all the wrong decisions.

As the calendar peels off pages, the world adapts to the renewal of spirit that each season represents. This fall, like many before it, we will pull out our winter clothes, set back our clocks, wind up our elections, and start bashing bloggers.

The New York Times will have a story on Sunday that warns us of the imminent threat that the Bloggers pose to the new Democratic majority in congress. How thoughtful of the Times’ Matt Bai to send up this flare:

“The influence of the netroots, as the growing Web-based Democrats have come to be called, is likely to stifle an inclination toward compromise or creativity, making it difficult for Democrats to transition from an opposition party to a governing one.”

Bai identifies, “a new array of powerful actors: MoveOn.org, liberal philanthropists, crusading bloggers,” as usurping dominance from declining progressive institutions like labor. I don’t know how I failed to see it before. The armies of liberal philanthropists marching down America’s Main Streets are so obvious to me now. And you can’t walk twenty feet without tripping over a crusading blogger. Meanwhile, when was the last time you saw an American worker? If Democrats prove to be incapable of compromise, creativity, or governing, we have been given the green light to blame it on MoveOn.org.

Piling on is the Washingtonian, whose Harry Jaffe says:

“Except in a few races, the outcome of last week’s midterm election was determined in large part by the Mainstream Media. Bloggers and Internet chatters posing as journalists were not in the game.”

The core of Jaffe’s theory proposes that the stories that moved voters were all the product of the conventional press. The examples he cites include Jack Abramoff, Tom DeLay, torture, wiretapping, and the latest hit sensation, Mark Foley. Many of these stories were indeed the result of good work by dedicated journalists, and certainly had an impact on the nation’s attitude toward politics. And Jaffe seems to believe that they would have lasted beyond a single news cycle without the pounding of the net media. The Internet chatters had nothing whatever to do with keeping these stories in the public eye long enough for people to notice and be influenced by them. What’s more, Jaffe passes over dismissively the fact that Sen. Allen’s “macaca” moment and Rep. Foley’s page stalking were net-powered stories from beginning to end.

My mistake was not recognizing that the stories themselves were the candidates, not the people that actually ran for office. Folks like Jim Webb, Jon Tester, Jerry McNerney, Tim Walz, Paul Hodes, and 30+ others, may have won their races with the support of netroots contributors and volunteers, but it was the stories that won the election, not the candidates, their supporters, the voters, and certainly not the bloggers. They weren’t in the game.

The Conventional Media is struggling mightily to keep from sinking into oblivion. News consumers are abandoning TV and print in droves. As they strive to retain a sliver of stature, they are making all the wrong decisions. They surely know that cutting newsroom budgets and staff, and promoting sensationalistic stories will do nothing to repair their image, so they are now assaulting the image of their perceived enemy, the Internet.

But the critiques above, which are typical of post-election analyses, are almost comical in that they are entirely contradictory. Jaffe denounces the bloggers because, in the end, they had no impact and were irrelevant. Bai complains that they had too much impact and wield so much power that they will damage the new majority’s reign. All we need now is for Goldilocks to come along and announce that the bloggers role in elections and political life is “just right.” At least that’s how all the fairy tales I know ended.


Proof That Crime Pays

Anyone seeking to realize the American Dream need look no further than the nearest Federal Court. It is becoming increasingly obvious that the best way to accumulate wealth and respect is through felonies and disgrace. Here are three recent examples.

Time’s Person of the Year Panel
Time Managing Editor, Richard Stengel, assembled a panel to discuss potential nominees for its annual acknowledgment of the person who had the most impact on world affairs for the year. He must have sensed that corrupt politicians might make a showing this year otherwise, how would you account for his including Tom DeLay on the panel? What better advisor could Stengle have recruited than a disgraced ex-congressman who is presently under indictment?

Broadcasting Board of Governors Chairman
Given George Bush’s track record for appointments, this may not come as much of a surprise. He has just renominated Ken Tomlinson to chair the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the agency that oversees Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and other U.S. broadcasting services. Tomlinson is the former chairman of the Corporation For Public Broadcasting who was found to have violated both legal and ethical statutes at the the CPB. Those violations constitute his fitness to continue his service to the Bush administration.

O. J. Simpson Book Gets Juiced By Fox News
Simpson’s forthcoming book, “If I Did It,” reportedly describes how he would have killed his ex-wife assuming it wasn’t in the manner that a jury already concluded that he did it. And Fox News has scheduled a two part interview during the November sweeps to help Simpson promote the book. I’m sure it doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that the book is published by a subsidiary of Fox’s parent company, News Corp.

The common thread uniting these events is that Time Magazine, the Bush White House, and Fox News are all going out of their way to reward criminals for a job well done. Who says crime doesn’t pay?


Fox News: Not The End Of The World

A memo issued by Fox News Vice President, John Moody, is taking a sunny side of the street perspective on the mid-term elections. In doing so he provided further confirmation of his network’s bias and malignant dishonesty. Here are a few excerpts:

“The elections and Rumsfeld’s resignation were a major event but not the end of the world. The war on terror goes on without interruption”
Is this Moody’s attempt at consolation? Don’t worry, neo-cons, you’ll get through this. After all, you still have your war.

“…let’s be on the lookout for any statements from the Iraqi insurgents, who must be thrilled at the prospect of a Dem-controlled congress.”
Despite the unprecedented expansion of terrorism during the Bush years, Moody still thinks the bad guys prefer the Democrats, who, unlike Republicans, have promised to pursue Bin Laden and Al Qaeda without the distraction of unnecessary wars over fake weapons of mass destruction. It is far more likely that the terrorists were thrilled by Fox News and the Bush administration, who apparently contributed $2 million dollars to their cause in exchange for a couple of kidnapped reporters.

“The question of the day, and indeed for the rest of bush’s term, is: “What’s the Dem plan for Iraq?”
That’s funny, I don’t remember them ever asking what the Repub plan for Iraq is. I suppose they were satisfied with “stay the course.”

“In the House, the newly empowered Dems will shed some fraternal blood before settling in.”
Here Moody is referencing the majority leader post that is being sought by both Jack Murtha, (a former hawk) and Steny Hoyer (a political hack). Those are Moody’s impartial characterizations in parentheses. What he doesn’t mention is that the Repubs are going through the same fraternal bloodletting in their own caucus, but he doesn’t seem to want his reporters to cover that.

And in closing: “Just because Dems won, the war on terror isn’t over.”
So don’t lose faith, neo-cons. You can continue to celebrate the misery and death in Iraq and falsely tether it to Al Qaeda, all the while tarring your opponents as unpatriotic.

This memo would be repulsive if it were issued by a Republican operative to partisans and activists. But Moody is VP of news at a major network and this is his marching orders to the reporters on his staff. In a truly fair and balanced media world, he would be humiliated, repudiated and forced to resign. At Fox he’ll probably get a promotion.


Why Should We Listen To Them?

There has been, and will be, a torrent of post-election analysis washing over the nation. Politicians and pundits will continue to sort out the complexities of last Tuesday’s results for us nimrods who were smart enough to produce the results but not smart enough to understand them. What I’d like to know is, why should we listen to them?

The track record of the media prognosticators is suspect to say the least. Since almost all of the players were predicting their preferences rather than their objective picks, their accuracy can just as easily be predicted by which side they were on. In other words, those on the left scored higher than those on the right. In still other words, history is written by the winners.

What I don’t see in all of this projectile punditry is any analysis of the media itself. The stenographic pod people that have taken over the body of the press are all too willing to consume whatever they are fed by their subjects. In two of the more startling admissions by public figures I’ve ever heard, we have been alerted that they are simply not to be believed.

The Politician, George W. Bush: “…my answer was, they’re going to stay on. And the reason why is I didn’t want to inject a major decision about this war in the final days of a campaign. And so the only way to answer that question and to get you on to another question was to give you that answer.”

The Pundit, Rush Limbaugh: “I feel liberated, and I’m just going to tell you as plainly as I can why. I no longer am going to have to carry the water for people who I don’t think deserve having their water carried.”

In both of these comments, we are told forthrightly that lying for the purpose of manipulating the outcome of an election is not out of bounds. Now, anyone who follows politics, and has a pulse, should already know this. What drops the jaw is that they feel free to be so nakedly honest about their dishonesty. Neither one of them seemed cowed or reluctant to disclose their deceit. To the contrary, they both appeared to be proud of their tactical cunning. And why shouldn’t they be? The press eats it up and asks for more.

In the same press conference where he admitted lying about the fate of Don Rumsfeld, Bush was later asked about the fate of Dick Cheney. It doesn’t really matter what the answer was. What matters is why should we believe what he says about Cheney after he just admitting having lied about Rumsfeld? Bush expects us to accept his lies and move on as if nothing happened.

Limbaugh has the same problem. After confessing that his cheerleading for Republicans did not represent his actual views, how should we digest any of the opinions he unleashes from here on out? Rush wants us to believe that, although he was lying before, his liberation will free him from doing so in the future.

Both Bush and Limbaugh argue that the enormity of the stakes in this election justified their lies. The implication being that, with the election over, they can now return to that old standby, the truth. The problem with that alibi is that elections are never over. The race for the White House in 2008 started on November 8th. Already, three candidates have announced the formation of exploratory committees. If the stakes for this midterm campaign were so profound as to justify such brazen dishonesty, certainly the stakes for a presidential election would be considered at least as consequential, therefore justifying even more lies or worse. Why not employ fraud, intimidation, violence? After all the stakes are so high.

Unfortunately, the press seems to have accepted these arguments. This is typical of a press corps that is grateful for access and fearful of boat-rocking. The President and his water carrier are symptomatic of a much broader problem that infects so many others in their dirty shoes. There is little in the way of blowback for having lied through their teeth to the media. That will surely provide encouragement for doing more of it. In the coming weeks and months there will be press conferences and interviews with reporters asking questions of admitted liars and then publishing the responses without providing any context.

Now, I don’t want to be accused of complaining without contributing any constructive solutions. So I would like to propose the following:

For the next two years…

  • all published comments by the President be appended with the qualifier, “…said the admitted liar.”
  • the only follow up to any question asked to a politician or partisan pundit should be, “Are you lying today?”

That should resolve the veracity gap. Unless, of course, they don’t answer that question truthfully, but why wouldn’t they?