Great Moments In Stupidity

It has been famously reported that Charles H. Duell, a Commissioner of the U.S. patent office in 1899, said:

“Everything that can be invented has been invented.”

What a monumentally stupid thing to say. The only problem is that there is no evidence that he ever said any such thing. Consequently, Daryl Plummer, of Gartner, Inc., has one less competitor in the Monumentally Stupid Sweepstakes. Amongst his top 10 predictions for 2007, is that blogging has reached a peak and will now taper off:

“Most people who would ever dabble with Web journals already have. Those who love it are committed to keeping it up, while others have gotten bored and moved on.”

Right. And everything that can be invented…Oh Nevermind. I just hope Plummer is never hired at the Patent Office.

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IraqSlogger To Michele Malkin: Go To Hell

Or rather, to Iraq. Same thing really, though you wouldn’t know it by the First Lady’s description earlier today.

Former CNN chief Eason Jordan recently launched (in beta) a new web site that he says will aggregate news and opinions on Iraq from a neutral perspective. Unfortunately, his IraqSlogger has already demonstrated the weakness of its knees by bending them to a known partisan ranter, and one that has been particularly unkind to Jordan in the past.

Michele Malkin, the PJ Media Harpie, complained to Jordan that he failed to cover a story that she believes was fabricated by writers at the Associated Press. So Jordan offered to go to Iraq to investigate it himself, and then offered to bring her along at his expense.

Malkin has accepted the offer by graciously stating:

“No way should we just take the word of they [sic] guy who admitted covering up for Saddam Hussein and who resigned from CNN after baselessly slandering the U.S. military.”

She’s going to be a pleasant traveling companion, ya think? By the time the trip is over Jordan may well have told Malkin to go to that other Hell.

However, I really don’t see any downside to this trip. If she returns enlightened by the gruesome reality she is likely to encounter (assuming she steps outside the Green Zone), then maybe she will start writing something that matters. If she comes back unchanged, then she’ll just keep spewing the same garbage that has become her trademark.

What I don’t understand is why Jordan would invite her in the first place. She’s not a journalist and has no experience in war zone investigations. She is just another right-wing op-spinner who will parlay this trip into a series of guest appearances on the O’Reilly Factor. What does Jordan think he’s getting by sponsoring her besides a pain in the neck sitting next him, regaling him with insults on a 14 hour plane ride? Well, that and a heckler that will, upon their return, contradict his factual findings if they in any way contrast with her sham ideology.

This is an inauspicious beginning for IraqSlogger. But maybe I can take advantage of it. Do you think that if I complain to Jordan that he’s been derelict in his coverage of a crisis in Provence that he would offer to fly me to the south of France to investigate?

Hmmm. It’s worth a try.


War Supporters Get Upgraded By The Media

Nevermind the fact that the Bush administration is notching its lowest ratings ever in recent polling, or that the war they promote is likewise at the nadir of its popularity, the media still seems to find ways to prop it up.

A report from the Associated Press is headlined:
Unpopular Iraq war still has supporters:

“GOD-BLESS-OUR-TROOPS” is spelled out in four big signs along a wooded stretch of highway in rural southern Oklahoma.

The AP had to travel to “a wooded stretch of highway” to find this example of support, that also perpetuates the hackneyed falsehood that war dissenters don’t support the troops.

Last week the conservative media scored when Rumsfeld took a victory defeat lap around Iraq in his last few days as Secretary of Defense. The media entourage was something less than fair and balanced:

Rumsfeld took only outspoken conservative talk show host Sean Hannity and his Fox News television crew.

Today we saw the First Lady interviewed by Norah O’Donnell. Her support for the war is bolstered by her view that the press is getting it all wrong:

“I do know that there are a lot of good things that are happening that aren’t covered. And I think that the drum beat in the country from the media, from the only way people know what is happening unless they happened to have a loved one deployed there, is discouraging.”

Did I read that right? Is she saying that families that do have loved ones deployed are not discouraged? And as for all of the good things that aren’t being covered, she should refer to the report by her husband’s own Iraq Study Group that concluded that:

“…there is significant underreporting of the violence in Iraq.”

This surprising burst of optimism is brought to you by America’s Big Media. Why they are leaping to the defense of BushCo’s debacle at this time is unfathomable. Either they really need some regulatory favor to be granted or they are just plain idiots. Or, of course, both.


The White House’s Contempt For The People

In his daily press briefing, Tony Snow inadvertantly revealed the administration’s true feelings about the public they purport to serve.

Question: …it seems that the American people are also speaking very loudly. I’m wondering how much is he going to factor in what they seem to be saying, and is he going to be listening to them?

Answer: The President has listened, but the other thing that will be interesting is what I talked about before. Public opinion is not something chiseled in stone. Quite often it’s shaped by, among other things, political campaigns. And now there’s an opportunity for both parties to work together.

“Public opinion is not something chiseled in stone.” This is brilliant!

In one fell swoop he justifies ignoring the will of the people, trivializes the results of a national election, and clears a path to wiggle out of any tight spot.

You notice that he is not disparaging public opinion, just pointing out that it is mutable – that we are just a bunch of jellyfish with limited nervous systems whose perspectives can be molded by crafty propagandists like himself.

What a pro!


Big Media Is Big On The Internet

An audience survey by comScore Networks reveals that the major league players in establishment media are coming closer to dominating the new media playing field as well.

Fox Interactive Media (1), Time Warner (3), Viacom (7), and Comcast (10), are all in the top 10 of sites as ranked by page views. It has already been noted here at News Corpse that 9 of the top 11 online news destinations are already owned or operated by the folks who bring you the conventional media, and those same voracious corporations are rapidly acquiring the most promising new web sensations.

So if anyone was getting the idea that new media was going to save us all from the old, mainstream variety, regard this as your wake up call.


The Great American Voice Of Pessimism

There are good reasons to be pessimistic about the 110th Congress. The corrupting influence of power is ever-present and it is advancing on the Democrats.

While I couldn’t be more thrilled and relieved that Repubs took the thumpin’ that they did last month, I don’t think that this victory automatically ushers in a new era of progressive politics. I am somewhat pessimistic about the path that Dems will now take. There are many of them that share the same intentions and elitist supporters as Repubs. The Corporatist Political Holy Bankrollers just write down a different name on the payee line. It has been said that…

…democracy is that form of government where every four years the elite let the oppressed choose which of the elite will oppress them for the next four years.

There is a fair degree of cynicism in that quote. But it is not unwarranted. As recently as the last presidential election, we had two members of Yale’s exclusive Skull and Bones society vying for our support.

Since November 7, everyone who knows me has inquired as to just how happy I am about the electoral results. To their surprise, my answer has been relatively muted. I tell them that I am happy the Repubs are gone, now we just have to get the Dems to do the right thing. And that may be just as hard as getting rid of the Repubs.

Already in the early jockeying for position, some Dems are running for the center. The race for majority leader in the House pitted two confirmed conservative Democrats against each other, and the one with the old school cred prevailed. What might that portend for the future agenda of Speaker Pelosi? The First 100 Hours plan is not exactly a progressive manifesto. Raising the minimum wage and promoting stem cell research are laudable, but they also enjoy broad popular appeal and require little leadership to achieve. It would require substantially more leadership to confront the issues that voters thrust to the fore in last months elections. But already Pelosi has stated that impeachment and defunding the occupation of Iraq are “off the table.” Those are certainly difficult issues and maybe we shouldn’t do either one, but taking them off the table is not the act of a courageous leader. It is that act of a political functionary who is afraid to take the heat that comes with vigorous debate of consequential matters.

There are good reasons to be pessimistic about the 110th Congress. The corrupting influence of power is ever-present and it is advancing on the Democrats. I wrote about it last June: Corporate Handicappers Betting On Democrats:

After a decade of Republicans soaking up corporate largesse in the form of donations, vacations and other assorted perks and bribes, Democrats are starting to catch the eye of these deep-pocketed givers … traditional Republican backers like the insurance, pharmaceuticals and tobacco industries, are flipping their allegiances in order to sustain their sway over Congress.

And it isn’t just that lobbyists are now pitching to congressional Dems, the K Street firms that embody the lobbying community are aggressively recruiting Dems to become the next generation of lobbyists. Back in June I worried that…

The bad news is that the corporations that have besotted the Republican party, and to no small degree led to their decline through scandal and corruption, are now wining and dining Democrats. All that the corporations and lobbyists care about is that they have an ever-available stable of fresh whores that they can use up and discard when they’re no longer pretty. Will the Dems just become the next flurry of drunken sluts seduced by money and the power it brings?

So, will the ascending Dems do the right thing? Will they do the hard things? Will they conduct effective oversight? Will they produce accountability? Will they repeal the abominations of the previous regime, from bankruptcy rules to habeas corpus to environmental regs to tax equity, etc.? Of course, much of this agenda cannot be enacted without the signature of the president, but it can be fought for. Will the Dems step up for the fight?

I don’t know the answer, and I don’t think anyone else here does either. What I do know is that one difference between the Repubs and the Dems is that the Dems can be swayed through constituent pressure. That’s a big difference, but it means the onus is on US to get anything done.

So the change in congress is really just going to make our lives harder. With Repubs in power our lobbying was pointless. Now that it means something, we have to work harder at it. Will we step up for the fight? Will we show leadership? Will we fight just as hard against a Rubberstamp Democratic congress as we did against the Republican variety?

Well, will we?

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2006 Word Of The Year: Truthiness

Merriam-Webster has announced that the winner of their first Word of the Year online survey is Stephen Colbert’s own “truthiness.”

“By an overwhelming 5 to 1 majority vote, our visitors have awarded top honors to a word Colbert first introduced on ‘The Word’ segment of his debut broadcast on Comedy Central back in October 2005.”

Colbert had this to say about having been recognized by this prestigious community of linguists:

“Though I’m no fan of reference books and their fact-based agendas, I am a fan of anyone who chooses to honor me. And what an honor. Truthiness now joins the lexicographical pantheon with words like ‘squash,’ ‘merry,’ ‘crumpet,’ ‘the,’ ‘xylophone,’ ‘circuitous,’ ‘others’ and others.”

Truthiness, as devoted Colbert fans know, is defined as:

“the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true.”

Ironically, that is also how I would describe of viewers of Fox News. So in honor of Colbert being honored for his grammatical invention, I would like to announce one of my own. Here is the first synonym for truthiness: foxic. Foxic shares the same conceptual meaning as truthiness, but it can be used in more academic contexts, along with variations like foxicology and foxicism.


The Iraq Study Group’s Media Blindness

In the 96 pages of the ISG report, there is not a single reference to television, radio, newspapers, or any other media in Iraq or worldwide.

Yesterday the Bush family consigliore, James Baker, and his Leisure World Rockettes, released the product of their nine month review of the sad state of affairs (pdf) in Iraq. Their conclusion?

“The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating.”

Beyond this mind-numbingly obvious revelation, the report of this fiasco has produced some additional significant news. That news is that: there is no news to report about the news. In the 96 pages of the ISG report, there is not a single reference to television, radio, newspapers, or any other media in Iraq or worldwide. This despite the fact that media has played a central role in the execution and marketing of the war. From paying Iraqi newspapers to publish positive stories, to inventing front groups to spread misinformation, to propagandizing on behalf of a dishonest administration, the media has been an accomplice to the monumental failures that much of the ISG report documents.

For this group to ignore the role played by the media, a role media kingpin David Gergen himself describes as “cheerleaders,” leaves a hole in the search for solutions big enough to drive an inadequately armored HumVee through. The report’s omission of the media component even fails to rise to the level of responsibility that many in the media belatedly acknowledged. Mea culpas from the New York Times, the Washington Post, CBS, and others, at least superficially recognized that their dereliction to duty may have made things worse.

The truth is, they made things into a disaster of nightmarish proportions. Through lies, distortions, and collusion with BushCo’s warmongers, the press betrayed the American people, the Iraqis, and a broad array of citizens of the world, who are also suffering from the media’s deceit.

The ISG compounds the problem by not addressing the media’s role and proposing some sort of corrective action. The closest they come to this is to call on the president to communicate honestly with the American and world communities:

“Our leaders must be candid and forthright with the American people in order to win their support.” And…

“In public diplomacy, the President should convey as much detail as possible about the substance of these exchanges [between U.S. and Iraqi leadership] in order to keep the American people, the Iraqi people, and the countries in the region well informed.” And…

“Funding requests for the war in Iraq should be presented clearly to Congress and the American people.”

But that might be a lot to expect from an administration even the ISG criticizes for a lack of credibility in reporting:

“…there is significant underreporting of the violence in Iraq. The standard for recording attacks acts as a filter to keep events out of reports and databases. A murder of an Iraqi is not necessarily counted as an attack. If we cannot determine the source of a sectarian attack, that assault does not make it into the database. A roadside bomb or a rocket or mortar attack that doesn’t hurt U.S. personnel doesn’t count. For example, on one day in July 2006 there were 93 attacks or significant acts of violence reported. Yet a careful review of the reports for that single day brought to light 1,100 acts of violence. Good policy is difficult to make when information is systematically collected in a way that minimizes its discrepancy with policy goals.

Obviously, we have a long ways to go. We can’t trust the press to do their jobs responsibly, and we can’t trust our leaders to be honest with us, much less with the press or even themselves. And since the Blue Ribbon Commissions of the world aren’t going to take up these matters, we’ll have to do it on our own. So be alert, be proactive, be aggressive, and let the media know that we, the people, are watching them. Their apologies do not give them absolution. They must repent and reform. And then they must go forth and never sin again.


The FCC’s Ownership Quandry

The Federal Communications Commission is getting it from both sides.

A consortium of broadcasters and publishers wrote to Chairman Kevin Martin, to complain that they still don’t have as much of a stranglehold on the public’s attention as they would like. The letter was signed by all of the broadcast networks as well as radio giant Clear Channel, newspaper conglomerates Gannett and Tribune, and others. Here is a taste of their finely aged whine:

“…television and radio broadcasters are experiencing unprecedented challenges in maintaining their audience shares and the advertising revenues essential to the survival of non-subscription media.”

This complaint is based on the emergence of a vast array of new outlets available to today’s news and entertainment consumer. What they conveniently fail to mention is that they also own most of the new outlets that they accuse of taking their business away. They go on to implore the Commission to amend ownership rules…

“…to ensure that local television and radio broadcasters, as well as daily newspapers, are not unfairly hampered in their ability to serve the public.”

That request would be easier to take seriously if they were presently serving the public. That opinion is shared by a group of senators that sent a letter to Chairman Martin on the same day. Senator Byron Dorgan wrote the letter that was signed by eight other members of the Commerce committee.

“The FCC must first establish that there are sufficient mechanisms in place to ensure that broadcasters are serving their local communities before considering any changes to the ownership rules.”

So what will the FCC do? Will they bend to the will of their corporate overlords? Or will they accept the fact that, come January, the Democrats will be running Congress and chairing the committees that oversee the agency? My guess is they punt. There is an unfinished report on localism that they can use as an excuse to delay making a decision. When we see the conclusions in that report, we’ll know which way they intend to vote on new ownership rules.

For anybody handicapping the outcome, I wouldn’t bet on the FCC weighing in against the business crowd. So that means that we, the people, will have to stay vigilant and make sure they remember for whom they work.


O’Reilly Wants An Apology

Dan Rather recently appeared on Bill Maher’s “Real Time” and revealed the heretofore unthinkable notion that Fox News propagates perspectives from the Bush White House:

“I think it’s fair to say, Bill, in fact I know it is, that FOX News operates in at least a somewhat different way than every other news organization that I know, that they have their “talking points,” in which somebody in the hierarchy, whether this is Roger Ailes who runs the place or not, we know that they get talking points from the White House. And they can say well, we don’t always take those talking points, but I think it’s pretty clear that they had wished the election had gone another way.”

O’Reilly is now reacting typically aghast that anyone could criticize his network or accuse it of bias. But he isn’t merely expressing umbrage. As is the pattern with his psychosis, he is escalating it to the level of jihad and associating it with the well known cloak of hatred that enshrouds all of his enemies:

“As you may know, the far left in America is on a jihad to smear FOX News. They hate us for a variety of reasons…So day after day, the far left loons demean, defame, and attempt to damage the FOX News Channel.”

He goes on to say that neither he, nor anyone he knows, nor anyone at Fox, has ever seen a White House Talking Point. He really didn’t have to look any further than Fox News Vice President, John Moody, to find the elusive memos. And as for wishing the elections had gone another way, again Moody provides the evidence:

“The elections and Rumsfeld’s resignation were a major event but not the end of the world.”

In an attempt to appear even handed, O’Reilly cites his past defense of Rather during the controversy over Bush’s National Guard service, wherein O’Reilly helps Rather out by proclaiming that…

“…there’s no evidence Dan Rather fabricated anything. It was sloppy reporting that did him in.”

That’s a defense? With friends like that, who needs enemas?