The Two Hour YouTube Commercial On CNN

Now that the first ever YouTube debate is completed, can we please promise not to have any more?

If you separate out the candidate’s answers and overlay the questions in text, the debate was no better or worse than any other debate. The participation of YouTube added nothing positive to the format or the content.

Since all of the videos broadcast were pre-selected by CNN, this could hardly be characterized as promoting the voice of the people. There were probably considerations by the CNN judges that included such irrelevancies as humor, entertainment value, charisma, and controversy. That is not an appropriate basis for engaging prospective occupants of the White House.

What’s worse, the gimmickry of this format is notable for whom it excludes. For instance:

  • Any questioner that doesn’t have a video camera or video skills.
  • Anyone who is uncomfortable performing on video or lacks public speaking skills.
  • All of those without Internet access or who don’t know how to upload files.
  • Internet users who are not registered with YouTube and don’t want to be.

This doesn’t seem like a format that encourages participation from a cross-section of America. If it was their purpose to produce a debate that was representative of the population, they failed.

What they succeeded at was promoting YouTube and it’s corporate parent, Google. The program was a two hour American Idol style commercial for a business that has a broad portfolio of vested interests in media and politics. CNN is partnered with Google who’s search engine is featured on their web site. And all of the political players on the stage have potential for benefiting Google’s regulatory agenda.

A far better experiment along these lines would have been a blog powered debate hosted by a broad-based and open site that allowed for more diverse and less moderated (or community moderated) participation. If CNN had such a site, I would not have objected to them using it. But since they don’t, something along the lines of the Huffington Post might be interesting.

Unfortunately, I don’t have much hope that that will occur. It’s a little too far off the radar of old media players like CNN. So we’ll have to endure these spectacles for some time to come. And of course, the Republicans are going to get the YouTube treatment next.

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The Next American Fuhrer

Befitting a nation that prides itself on its entrepreneurial creativity, the United States is preparing the way for a uniquely American innovation in governance: a democratically elected dictator. And neither politicians, nor judges, nor journalists, are rising to oppose the coming tyranny.

This ominous prophecy of political thralldom is not a product of party or partisanship. Personalities are irrelevant. The threat hovers over the office of the presidency as it has been defined by the current occupant.

George Bush, aided by puppet master, Dick Cheney, has blazed a trail of executive power that is unprecedented. Together they have reshaped the presidency into a virtual monarchy. The founding fathers strove mightily to craft an executive that was accountable and vulnerable to the counterbalancing of coequal branches of government. They would certainly not approve of the measures that Bush has employed to demolish their long enduring work.

By consolidating power in the White House, BushCo is advancing an interpretation of American government that is openly hostile to the Constitution. This is more than a theoretical exercise. The principles advocated by all the President’s men and women have already been put into practice and their issue reads like a draft for Articles of Impeachment. As the founding fathers might say…

“Let Facts Be Submitted To A Candid World.”

  • Falsifying evidence of weapons of mass destruction to justify an unlawful war of aggression.
  • Directing the exposure of a covert CIA agent in time of war.
  • Using presidential signing statements to circumvent laws passed by Congress.
  • Illegal wiretapping and surveillance conducted against American citizens.
  • Extraordinary rendition and torture of detainees in violation of the Geneva Conventions.
  • Illegal suspension of the right of habeas corpus.
  • Destruction of executive branch records whose preservation is required by law.
  • Unlawfully terminating U.S. attorneys for political purposes.
  • Employing executive privilege for the purpose of obstructing justice.
  • Suborning perjury by administration officials.
  • Threatening to prosecute journalists under the Espionage Act for reporting government wrongdoing.
  • Dereliction of duty and failure to faithfully execute the office of President and to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.

This administration behaves as if there are no other branches of government, and no public opinion either. They espouse a philosophy that views the President as a “unitary executive.” In this view the President is not subject to Congressional oversight; laws are complied with on a voluntary basis; every act or document produced by the executive branch is regarded as privileged and secret; and the courts function as rubber stamps for the de facto despot.

This behavior is contrary to the values of a free, democratic society. Left unchecked it will lower the bar of governance and serve as a precedent for future administrations. The one sure way to vacate that precedent is to vacate the president – that is, to impeach Bush and/or Cheney. Many people may consider that to be a fanciful pipe dream. Congressional leaders have all but rejected the notion. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that impeachment is “off the table.” Harry Reid, majority leader in the Senate, says that even a censure would be a waste of time.

Do you favor or oppose the US House of Representatives beginning impeachment proceedings against President George W. Bush?
7/5/07 Favor Oppose Undecided
All Adults 45% 46% 9%
Voters 46% 44% 10%
Democrats 69% 22% 9%
Republicans 13% 86% 1%
Independents 50% 30% 20%

The American people, however, have a completely different take on the matter, as reported in a new poll by the American Research Group. When asked if they favor or oppose the US House of Representatives beginning impeachment proceedings against President George W. Bush, 45% are in favor, 46% oppose. Those numbers include wide majorities of Democrats and Independents. The results are even worse for Cheney for whom there is an outright majority in favor of impeachment (54%/40%). In either case, there is clearly a sufficient measure of dissatisfaction to warrant the commencement of committee hearings to ascertain whether credible grounds for impeachment exist. Not to do so would be a dereliction of duty and failure of representative government.

The foregoing notwithstanding, Congress may well neglect their duty, ignore the public will, and decline to initiate hearings. Should that occur, the injury to the Constitution would still be an open and festering wound. While remedies like censure would be better than nothing, there is another path that ought to be explored which, as yet, has not been discussed in broad-based media.
Contine reading

Enlisting Madison Avenue Or Drafting Joseph Goebbels?

The Washington Post has published an article describing the Rand Corporation’s new study: Enlisting Madison Avenue: The Marketing Approach to Earning Popular Support in Theaters of Operation. [PDF]

The conclusions of this study, which was commissioned (for $400,000) by the Pentagon, are both frighteningly obvious and just plain frightening. Their most profound observation appears to be that the U.S. presence in Iraq would have been better received if we had delivered cookies and milk instead of a torrent of bombs. We would have a more harmonious relationship with the locals if we weren’t kicking in their doors or shooting them at checkpoints.

What I’d like to know is where I can receive a commission from the Pentagon, because I could have told them this and I’d have done it for $200,000 (half-off offer for a limited time only).

The frightening part is that Rand analysts seem to think that the only shortcoming of U.S. planners in Iraq is that they failed to properly “brand” their “product.” Perhaps with the right logo and a catchy jingle we would now be perceived as liberators as we were promised by our leaders in Washington. The report also refers to Iraqi civilians as “consumers.” However, I’m not sure that the Iraqi people ever actually chose to shop with us.

The whole thing smacks of an advocacy of the sort propaganda pioneered by Edward Bernays and peddled by Joseph Goebbels (among others). This report manages to both trivialize the real human tragedy that our aggression in Iraq represents, as well as promote a solution that seeks to manipulate the victims rather than to redress and repair the damage done.

For its part, the Washington Post is playing along with the Madison Avenue crowd. Post staff writer, Karen DeYoung, obligingly helps to craft the White House’s message by authoring this bit of editorializing in the body of her supposedly news composition:

“While not abandoning the more aggressive elements of warfare, the report suggested, a more attractive brand for the Iraqi people might have been ‘We will help you.’ That is what President Bush’s new Iraq strategy is striving for as it focuses on establishing a protective U.S. troop presence in Baghdad neighborhoods, training Iraq’s security forces, and encouraging the central and local governments to take the lead in making things better.”

Where did DeYoung get the idea that it was her job to characterize so pleasantly what Bush’s new strategy is striving for? Not only is she overreaching her journalistic boundaries, she is also flat out wrong. Bush’s new Iraq strategy is a surge of military force which is not really new at all – just an escalation of what has failed so miserably in the past.

In addition, DeYoung uncritically quotes Rand’s Todd C. Helmus, and Duane Schattle of the Joint Forces Command, saying things like “This isn’t just about going in and blowing things up;” or warning against operational hubris because, “Procter & Gamble doesn’t even do that.”

Not that I want to help Rand to shape their disinformation campaigns, but I can tell them one thing for sure. If they don’t do at least as good a job on the Iraqis as the American media has done in the U.S., they are never going to achieve their nefarious goals.

News Corp’s Editorial Board: A Rogues Gallery

Defenders of journalistic integrity are nervously gnawing at their fingertips now that the Dow Jones board has recommended accepting Rupert Murdoch’s offer to purchase their souls. All that remains now is for the Bancrofts to meet and then reveal their decision. They can still block the sale.

Observers say that it is too close to call. There are a few noble members of the controlling shareholders group that are standing firm against Murdoch. There are also those who are salivating at the thought of the new riches the sale will bring them. For the rest, they would do well to consider the prospects News Corp is floating for the editorial board that is intended to keep a distance between Murdoch and the Journal.

The Rogues Gallery:

Theodore B. Olson: Olsen was Assistant Attorney General under Ronald Reagan, whom he also defended in the Iran/Contra scandal. He went on to become Solicitor General in the administration of Bush, the Elder. Later he represented Bush, the Lesser in the Supreme Court case versus Al Gore.

Jack Fuller: Fuller was president of Tribune Publishing Company, and former editor of the Chicago Tribune. The Tribune Company is an unabashedly conservative enterprise and the Chicago Tribune is newsprint version of Fox News.

Thomas Bray: Bray is the former editorial-page editor of the Detroit News. He has a pre-existing relationship with the Wall Street Journal as a writer for, which the Journal owns. At OJ he shared bylines with ultra-right wingers like Paul Gigot, John Fund, and Peggy Noonan.

Susan Hockfield: Hockfield is president of Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Prior to her post at MIT, she was a provost at Yale where she was at the center of a bitter controversy surrounding the Graduate Employees and Students Organization and its unionization efforts. She was staunchly anti-union.

With this preview of what Murdoch is proposing for the entity that is supposed to prevent him from influencing newsroom operations, we can see clearly that he is not the least bit interested in keeping his word or adhering to the terms of the agreement negotiated to preserve editorial independence. I certainly hope that the wavering Bancrofts and other shareholders are paying attention.

Update (8/1/07): The latest roster for the board now includes Lou Boccardi, former head of the Associated Press, Jennifer Dunn, former Republican House member, and Nicholas Negroponte, founder of MIT’s Media Lab.

If this means that Olsen and Hockfield are gone, I’d call this an improvement. But Dunn, Fuller, and Bray, could still cause trouble.

Is Bill O’Reilly Lying About JetBlue?

In yesterday’s Talking Points Memo, Bill O’Reilly harangued David Barger, the CEO of JetBlue, for being a sponsor of the YearlyKos convention. He had his producer stalk Barger and ask questions that implied that the DailyKos website was a hate-filled enterprise. O’Reilly even compared it to the KKK and the Nazis.

In today’s TPM, O’Reilly announced that Barger sent him a response to his ambush interview that said that the airline’s only connection to YearlyKos was that it provided 10 flight vouchers. He went on to say that JetBlue has requested to be removed as a sponsor.

If true, that would be a cowardly act on the part of JetBlue. Capitulating to bullies like O’Reilly is never a good idea. Not only does it feed their egos, but it suggests agreement with allegations.

Needless to say, O’Reilly’s allegations were absurd. At best they represented a few nutcases that do not speak for the web site, its operators, or its community. On the other hand, O’Reilly himself has said innumerable hateful things like the one at the left. Indiana University published a study that found that:

“O’Reilly called a person or a group a derogatory name once every 6.8 seconds, on average, or nearly nine times every minute during the editorials that open his program each night.”

I documented O’Reilly’s unique abuse of language in an interactive portrait:
Bill O’Reilly: Propaganda Pimp.

However, what really makes this interesting is that Markos of the DailyKos denies that JetBlue has pulled their sponsorship. This, of course, would mean that O’Reilly is lying.

Wow. Do ya think?

Update: It appears that JetBlue did in fact bail, but as far as I’m concerned, nothing has changed because, however this settles, these enduring facts remain:

JetBlue are still cowards; O’Reilly is still a liar and he misrepresented DailyKos with his cherry-picked references and comparisons to the KKK and Nazis; O’Reilly is still the biggest hate-monger on television (see Propaganda Pimp above).

The Vanishing Intelligence Trick

When the White House declassified its latest National Intelligence Estimate, it released it into a whirlwind of spin that could have taken out a small mid-western town.

The document itself said of Al Qaeda that:
“Their intent to attack the U.S. is undiminished, and they continue to adapt and improve their capabilities.”

Fran Townsend, the President’s Homeland Security Advisor said:
“We are facing a persistent terrorist enemy led by al Qaeda that remains driven and intent on attacking the homeland.”

And a leaked intelligence analysis proclaims reminiscently that:
“Al Qaeda Better Positioned To Strike The West.”

These statements are all consistent with the strategery of the administration which commonly seeks to pump up the fear ratio when it finds its popularity declining. And its popularity continues to set new lows. At the same time, they must realize that they can’t get away with painting a picture of a revitalized Al Qaeda without the nation wondering what the heck has been going on the past six years. The President doesn’t want to admit that he’s been asleep at the switch so he has to come out and say:

“There is a perception in the coverage that al Qaeda may be as strong today as they were prior to September 11. That’s just simply not the case,”

What you have just seen is the President waving a wand and dismissing everything his own intelligence machine has produced and reducing it to mere perceptions created by faulty coverage. Yet he gets to keep the simmering fear dispensed by the reports he now tosses off. Lucky for him, most of the press corps observing this spectacle are only interested in transcribing it and getting to happy hour in time for the cocktail weenies.

There is at least one correspondent that stayed alert and was not fooled by this stunt. In an exchange with Wolf Blitzer, Michael Ware, CNN’s man in Baghdad, delivered this bit of keen reporting:

“Now in the midst of all of this, despite this material, this evidence, we must be aware of the spin — the smoke and mirrors from the administration, trying to reshape the message on Iraq being specifically about Al Qaeda — America’s lingering, most familiar fear, trying to invoke some Pavlovian response from the American public, to fear them into again supporting the war. That doesn’t quite hold water.”

If that wasn’t enough to send poor Wolf into cardiac arrest, Jack Cafferty added this:

“What if we had spent the last five years with 158,000 soldiers and $500 billion hunting Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and in the border regions next to Pakistan? I wonder if we’d still be hearing all of this stuff about Al Qaeda.”

What if…

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Happy Birthday, News Corpse

To celebrate this happy day
We wish you well in every way
Your bestest days are yet to be
They can’t be worse than the past three

A war is raging without end
Amidst a global warming trend
Millions don’t receive healthcare
But corporations get welfare

Our President lies to all of us
And ditches habeas corpus
Attorneys lose their jobs because
They won’t kiss up like Gonzo does

Pardons go to crony aides
Hope for equal justice fades
Secrecy is on the rise
We can’t believe our lying eyes

While politicians line the trough
To score a bag from Abramoff
They can’t be found to ease the pain
Of victims of a hurricane

Troops denied the things they need
Are then ignored at Walter Reed
And when they do come home they find
Their child has been left behind

The Scandal List goes on and on
And will until these fools are gone
What will it take for us to reach
The strength to try and to IMPEACH

And for these past three years of shame
The media’s as much to blame
That’s why I celebrate News Corpse
And do intend to stay the course

Happy 3rd Birthday To Me.

Statistics, Damned Statistics, And Lies

As another small measure of the dishonesty of Fox News, note this report on the release of a new presidential approval poll. The Rasmussen daily tracking poll was cited this evening by Fox anchor and managing editor Brit Hume. Hume’s characterization of the poll, complete with a graphic to illustrate the point, was that Bush is enjoying a burst of popularity.

Bush Job Approval
Approve Disapprove
July 16 39 58
July 15 39 58
July 14 39 59
July 13 36 62
July 12 34 64
July 11 33 65
July 10 35 63
July 09 39 59

He compared the latest figure (39%) to the number on July 11 (33%), excitedly remarking as to the precipitous jump in Bush’s favor. Had he gone back just two more days he would have seen that Bush’s approval had not actually changed at all as compared to today. The July 11 number was a brief and unexplained anomaly and may have represented an event that took place on that day but had no lasting impact on the President’s overall approval. This, in fact, is one of the pitfalls of tracking polls and professionals know not to place undue significance on the short-term volatility of daily reporting. I guess that’s what tripped up Mr. Hume – the part about being a professional.

It is also worth noting that Rasmussen’s tracking poll varies from benchmark survey results for which 4 of the most recent 5 surveys put Bush under 30% approval.

Moyers On Impeachment

Last Friday, the Bill Moyers Journal on PBS presented a discussion of impeachment that was breathtakingly persuasive.

Here is part 1 of the program. heathr234 has the rest of the program on YouTube. Watch the whole thing. It is conveniently broken up into five parts, so take as much time as you need – but watch it.

This is must-see TV for anyone concerned about the welfare of our Constitutional Democracy. The commentaries on this program transcend party partisanship and ultimately amount to a plea for nothing less than patriotism. Why is there so little of this sort of journalism in practice these days?

Murdoch Hitman Shot Down By New York Times

Family boss Rupert Murdoch recently dispatched his PR Enforcer, Gary Ginsberg, to deliver a message to the New York Times. Murdoch was irked by a series of articles that exposed the way he and News Corp manipulated the media and politicians on behalf of his business interests. Unfortunately for Murdoch, his messenger was ambushed by an astute Clark Hoyt, the Times’ public editor.

Ginsberg wrote to Hoyt objecting to the series and alleging that the Times’ hidden intention was to throw a monkey wrench into Murdoch’s plans to acquire Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal. Ironically, Murdoch and Ginsberg had no such complaints about a similar story published by the Journal itself. Contrast Ginsberg’s assessments of each paper’s efforts:

Ginsberg on the NY Times: “the primary motivation for doing such an extensive investigation … was in the end self-serving and commercial.”

Ginsberg on the Journal: “a very fair, objective piece.”

Why were Ginsberg’s views at such variance when both stories came to essentially the same conclusions? As Hoyt keenly reminds us…

“Murdoch is going to extraordinary lengths to reassure The Journal’s newsroom that he will not interfere with its independence, as a long and well-documented record indicates he has elsewhere.”

In other words, it would have been unwise to criticize the Journal because that would confirm everyone’s worst fears about Murdoch’s egocentric ambitions. However, the truth is that by gaming the system with praise for one paper and scorn for the other when there was so little difference between them, Murdoch is demonstrating his compulsion to manipulate perceptions in his own favor.

Ginsberg had a laundry list of complaints about the Times’ story that Hoyt shot down in rapid succession. It almost seemed to easy. For instance, the Times reported on a firm that lobbied on behalf of News Corp. for tax breaks. Ginsberg objected saying that there was no such firm. Hoyt responded by simply naming the firm (Hogan & Hartson) and the fees they received.

In another example, Ginsberg thought that reporting that News Corp. paid lobbyists to influence regulatory and legislative matters was unfair because other media companies did so as well. Again, Hoyt easily defends the paper by pointing out that the existence of other firms engaging in lobbying activities does nothing diminish such activities by News Corp. Hoyt might have gone even further by observing that the other media company’s lobbying efforts were, for the most part, in concert with News Corp. and were seeking the same redress.

It is encouraging that Hoyt has made such a thorough and aggressive defense of a well-written expose of News Corp. and Murdoch. But it is disturbing that Murdoch’s henchman steps into the fray with a litany of lies and misrepresentations. And the fact that these complaints were directed at the Times should not give solace to the directors and employees of the Wall Street Journal. They are getting a panoramic view of what life under Murdoch would be like. And the best single piece of advice I can extend is to … be afraid!