MSNBC/Olbermann Continue To Hound The Factor

The train keeps-a-rollin all night long. All week-night long in the cable news ratings, that is.

The latest numbers for the November period show a continuation of a trend that has lasted all year. For ten of the last eleven months, Keith Olbermann’s Countdown has gained viewers while Bill O’Reilly’s Factor sheds them in droves. Countdown improved a whopping 66% compared to O’Reilly’s slump of -17%.

Here are the numbers for network performance in November 2006 as compared November 2005:

Persons 2+ +15% -19% +29%
Persons 25-54 +40% +10 +38%

Persons 2+ +15% -13% +25%
Persons 25-54 +40% +13 +43%

Once again, the only declines were posted by Fox. Even where Fox showed improvement, it ranked as the smallest gains of all the networks. The dismal finish by Fox occurred despite expectations for viewer gains due to the mid-term elections and their aftermath. The other networks were able to meet those expectations with strong growth.

Does this foreshadow a bleak winter winter for Fox? Yes, gawd-dammit, it does. And it’s about time.

The irresponsible, journalistically vacant, unethical, propagandizing that is the hallmark of Fox is obviously wearing thin with the American television audience. And as they sink, their desperation is leading them into ever more pathetic theocon-ambulisms. As they struggle to cling to their crumbling empire they resort to inanities like a pilot for a conservative Daily Show, or the memo that sought to console the newsroom ranks by reassurring them that…

“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”

Feel better? I know I sure do.

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Gergen’s Cheerleaders

David Gergen has worked in the White House for several presidents including Reagan, Bush, and Clinton. He has also worked in the press as a frequently consulted pundit and analyst. As such he has experience obfuscating the truth from both sides of the media looking glass.

Today on CNN’s Reliable Sources, he confessed to what many media critics and knowledgeable citizens already knew: The press failed to do their job in the stampede toward the invasion of Iraq. Even worse than that, they affirmatively promoted it.

“There was a sense, in the lead-up to the war, in which the press, I think, was guilty of cheerleading. We were waving the flags and it was almost unpatriotic to question the possibility of war with Iraq.”

That admission should be justification for terminating Gergen and everyone on his cheerleading squad. In a just world, the families of the fallen ought to be able to sue them for wrongful death. There is simply no professional excuse for the behavior Gergen is describing. It is never the media’s purpose to endorse policy. Their purpose is to investigate and report. Had they done that, there is a pretty good chance that we, and the people of Iraq, would not now be mired in the chaos and tragedy that the media’s negligence spawned. Gergen and his cohorts cannot plead ignorance because even he admits that they knew more than they let on:

“…we were too easy on the claims of weapons of mass destruction and the mushroom clouds being a reason to go to war.”

No kidding! And it wasn’t as if there wasn’t a clamoring for further investigation and deliberation. The American people, and people throughout the world, took to the streets in record setting numbers in a vain attempt to head off the hostile intentions of the Bush administration and their enablers in the press.

It is unconscionable that propagandists like Gergen can wreak havoc on the world, and when they discover the curtain has been pulled aside and they are revealed as frauds, they just go on TV again and discuss how the curtain came to be pulled aside.

There are consequences for failure on the level demonstrated here – sad, desperate, enduring consequences. Unfortunately, not for those responsible. Neither our leaders, nor their media co-conspirators will be held to account. But thousands of American families and tens of thousands more in Iraq will forever bear the scars from cuts delivered by Gergen’s Cheerleaders.

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.]

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.

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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 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

“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.

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:, 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

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?