AP: Top News Stories of 2006

Editors and news directors in The Associated Press have voted for what they consider to be the top stories of 2006. Time magazine may be a little disappointed that none of the top finishers validated it’s selection of YOU as Person of the Year. I myself am disappointed that violations of the Constitution, in the form of warrantless wiretapping and snooping on financial transactions, didn’t make the cut. Those were big stories that go to the heart of American liberties. Here’s the whole list:

  1. Iraq
  2. U.S. Election
  3. Nuclear Standoffs
  4. Illegal Immigration
  5. Scandals in Congress
  6. Saddam Convicted
  7. Mideast Fighting
  8. Rumsfeld Resigns
  9. Airliner Plot
  10. Disaster in Darfur

At least Darfur squeeked in at the bottom, edging out Global Warming. The only real dud was the journalistically anti-climatic conviction of Saddam Hussein. Is there anyone who thought there would be an acquital?

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YOU Are Time’s Person Of The Year?

In it’s homage to You, TIME informs us that it is no longer…

“the powerful and the famous who shape our collective destiny as a species.”

As a member of a species whose collective destiny is in dire need of reshaping, this news is received with cautious optimism.

Along with the Internet there has come a surge in popularity for collaborative media. The problem with TIME’s analysis is that it’s several years too late. 2006 was a great year for YouTube, but all of the other examples cited, from MySpace to Wikipedia, and a bounty of blogs, were viable and growing long before TIME’s taking notice this year. You could easily go back to the presidential primaries of 2004, when candidates and independent advocates were organizing and fundraising, to observe this new media’s maturing significance. And that significance extends far beyond the trivialities of MySpace, restaurant reviews, and other leisure activities on which TIME seems to focus. There’s nary a mention of citizen media or education.

TIME itself captures the award for cop-out of the year by declining to honor any of the people that made these innovations possible, choosing instead to praise everyone, no matter what their level of participation. So I assume that the producers of the lonelygirl15 videos on YouTube are partying right along with former Rep. Mark Foley (R-Perv), an avid social networker.

Furthermore, by choosing You, TIME rejected other candidates for “the person who most affected the news or our lives, for good or for ill, this year,” Candidates like Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, with his growing influence in the Middle East and nuclear aspirations; Al Gore, whose documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” rocked the eco-house; or even the founders of the year’s true web sensation, YouTube. That’s right – TIME threw over all of that as well as Iraq, Darfur, North Korea, and the Democratic takeover of Congress, for You. You, lounging on your sofa in your underwear with a bag of Fritos in your lap. And You, cowering in your cubicle hoping your boss doesn’t catch you reading this. And You, trying to figure out how to attach this to an email to 400 of your dearest friends. (Hint: Just use this link). You’re all Person of the Year.

Given the rank absurdity of this selection, why then did TIME choose You? Seriously, I know You and, frankly, I’m not impressed.

The explanation starts with the magazine’s inability to perceive its own demise. TIME is an old media, dead tree, anachronism, grasping for relevancy in a world that is passing them by. So they are paying their respects to the new Electronic Godfather on the block with the hope that it will keep their little shop safe. At the same time, they are putting everyone who picks up their magazine at a newstand on the cover. I think they really believe that if you see yourself in the strip of mylar stuck to the surface, that you’ll be unable to resist forking over five bucks for your own copy.

Perhaps the most profound revelation in TIME’s essay about You, is the part where they admit that…

“You can learn more about how Americans live just by looking at the backgrounds of YouTube videos-those rumpled bedrooms and toy-strewn basement rec rooms-than you could from 1,000 hours of network television.”

Those of you who’ve seen 1,000 hours of network television know only too well how true that is (and you may want to leave the apartment once in a while). But I’m not sure whether that’s a tribute to YouTube or an indictment of television. Well, actually I am sure.

Howard Kurtz Defends His Own Kind

In his Media Talkback online forum, Howard Kurtz takes questions from readers. Unfortunately, at least in this instance, he doesn’t actually answer them:

Pennington, N.J.: Why do we keep having people who were wrong on Iraq giving advice on TV? MTP this week had a politician and two Times columnists who have been consistently wrong. Why not have Russ Feingold, Paul Krugman, and Bob Herbert who were and still are right.

Howard Kurtz: If you banned pundits or politicians who were wrong about something from further TV appearances, the newscasts and talk shows would have a near-impossible time finding guests.

Note to Howard: The questioner did not ask about or propose banning anyone from TV. This was a reasonble inquiry as to why there is such an abundance of bunglers being presented as experts. Your answer implies that it doesn’t matter if a pundit is a serial screw-up. Is it really too much to ask that TV commentators demonstrate an ability to correctly analyze the issues they are invited to discuss?

Another questioner later asked much the same thing and Kurtz still didn’t comprehend, responding:

Howard Kurtz: A majority of both houses of Congress went along with the president’s war resolution, and a majority of news organizations supported the war and the argument that Saddam had WMD. So you had an awful lot of people who were wrong. Some of the publications have run mea culpas, and some of the politicians — John Kerry and John Edwards leap to mind — have said they were wrong to support the war. But I don’t think anyone has completely been let off the hook. Both politicians and pundits have had to account for the stance they took in 2002 and 2003.

Note to Howard: The fact that there were “an awful lot of people who were wrong” only reinforces the need to identify the few who were right and to bring their superior analysis to the fore. Despite your assertion, I can’t think of a single pundit that has had to account for an erroneous stance, even though there were an awful lot of them. I am also unable to think of a single pundit that has been rewarded for having been correct.

This illustrates one of the fundamental shortcomings of modern journalism, particularly the broadcast variety. The same faces are rotated throughout the TV schedule regardless of what they have to say or their credibility (or lack thereof). Once you’ve been admitted to the fraternity, you’re tenured and can rest assured that there is no professional lapse that will result in your removal. This creates an insular community that defends itself from outsiders and forgives its member’s failings. At the same time, it insures that diversity and dissent are dismissed, especially if it contradicts the established order.

The question is really very simple, Howard. Shouldn’t those who are more frequently correct be invited back more often than the brain-dead, ideologically compromised, elite pundicrats that endlessly litter the television landscape? You know, all of your buddies?

O’Reilly’s No-Spin Green Zone Holiday Tour

From the official web site of the Multi-National Force – Iraq, comes this nausea inducing press release:

Camp Striker dining facility becomes ‘No-Spin Zone’

“In a war that has perhaps been even hotter in debates than it is on the streets of Baghdad, the one constant in the media has been ‘spin.’

“It was fitting, then, that Bill O’Reilly, host of the Fox News talk show “The O’Reilly Factor” – dubbed the ‘No Spin Zone’ – came to visit the Camp Striker, Iraq dining facility Dec. 15.”

As if our long-suffering troops don’t have enough hardships to endure, now they have to eat with Bill O’Reilly. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a mad rush to volunteer for patrol duty that evening. The streets of Baghdad may indeed be a lower risk assignment. At least they would offer some relief from The Fester who is unlikely to ever venture out onto them.

O’Reilly also visited Kuwait where he spoke to soldiers and signed autographs. The caption to this photo (click to enlarge) describes a special treat he bestowed upon his audience:

“Some of the servicemembers asked O’Reilly about his own tour of duty in Kuwait during Desert Storm.”

Retelling these stories might have been a source of pride for Bill, comparable to when he received his Peabody Awards for journalism. It would have been, were it true. But Bill never served in the military and thus, there was no tour of duty during Desert Storm. Just as there were no Peabodys. I have a certain empathy for O’Reilly because I know how hard it is to build a mythology around oneself when all you have is a good imagination and a resume of lies. (I still can’t convince people that I painted Van Gogh’s “Irises”, taught Hemingway to fight, and fathered Angelina Jolie’s baby).

While O’Reilly was regaling the troops with flights of fiction and signing copies of the book he’s currently promoting, Al Franken was entertaining them along with the rest of the USO performers. This is Franken’s seventh USO tour. As Franken is fond of saying:

His wife doesn’t like him going to Iraq so she always says, “Bill O’Reilly doesn’t go to Iraq,” and he says, “Honey, that’s not fair. Bill O’Reilly doesn’t have any talent.”

It seems O’Reilly and Franken missed each other in Kuwait by a day, which may be for the best because there is already too much sectarian disharmony in the region. Perhaps the best way to keep those two from encountering each other would be to end this disgraceful war so that neither will ever have to make these trips again.

Fox Makes Regan Walk The Plank

Judith Regan, the third rail of publishing, has been fired by HarperCollins, the Murdoch-owned division that ran ReganBooks. This seperation is ceratinly the consequence of her having shepherded one of the most despicable projects ever to be conceived in popular media: O. J. Simpson’s, “If I Did It.” Her termination notice was a two line memo from HC’s CEO Jane Friedman:

“Judith Regan’s employment with HarperCollins has been terminated effective immediately. The REGAN publishing program and staff will continue as part of the HarperCollins General Books Group.”

I won’t waste much sympathy on Regan, who has made a fortune releasing vile books by contemptable authors. And, no doubt she will land on her cloven hooves as the tabloid rags of the world bid for her depravity.

But I will register this one condolence for the injustice thrust upon her as she is made a scapegoat for the misdeeds of many others. The accumulated list of guilty parties ought to include HC’s Friedman, as well as the programming execs at Fox Entertainment, their corporate handlers at News Corp, and even Daddy Rupert himself. All of these players were giddily salivating at the prospect of the impure profits pouring in from this profane project. Yet none of them have been called to task for their participation.

News Corp thinks it can wash its hands of this matter by sacrificing Regan. Conveniently, they are not closing up shop at ReganBooks, so they will be able to continue dumping the same kind of garbage into the literary landfill for which Regan was noted. And the pollution of the intellectual environment will continue unabated.

WSJ: Champion Of The Poor

The Wall Street Journal is not generally known for its proletarian leanings. So it may come as some surprise that an editorial on Friday courageously attacks Democrats it says are “carrying water for rich special interests.” What a relief that the Journal is here to keep those wealthy ne’er do wells from exploiting the masses. Wall Street once again comes to the rescue of the working stiff.

The Democrats at the receiving end of this smack down are the two commissioners at the FCC who are holding up the merger of AT&T and Bell South. According to the Journal, this merger would benefit labor and increase competition. That’s obvious because everyone knows that an $80 billion merger of giant corporations is really only being done to help the little people.

The Journal correctly reports that Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein object to the merger because they want to secure the protection of Network Neutrality. Then the Journal gets everything else wrong. First they fail to understand that Network Neutrality requires that big Telecom companies not discriminate in providing services to Internet enterprises. Imagine if you were to call information to get the number for Applebee’s, but the operator said you could only have the number for Denny’s. Without Network Neutrality, Telecoms could do that on the Net by discriminating against, for instance Google, in favor of their own search engine, or charge more if you wanted to reach Google instead. Contrary to the Journal’s assertion, the Telecom’s ability to set market prices for the use of their series of tubes would not be restricted. They would just be required to set them in a non-discriminatory fashion.

One of the Journal’s justifications for opposing Network Neutrality is that it was defeated in the just concluded session of congress. What they neglect to mention is that the majority Republicans of the just concluded session of congress, who opposed Network Neutrality, were also defeated. And if losing a vote in congress meant that the issue was forever decided, then I suppose the Journal will editorialize against any more votes on gay marriage or flag burning.

The Journal goes on to complain that the tie vote at the FCC is putting undue pressure on Commissioner Robert McDowell, who properly recused himself because he previously worked for one of the parties connected to the merger consideration. The Journal implies that he would be subject to “trumped-up” ethics charges were he to vote on the matter. But McDowell voluntarily recused himself and the only pressure he’s received is from the Republican Chairman of the commission, Kevin Martin, who is trying to force him to un-recuse himself and vote. The Journal then makes the spurious allegation that members of congress are laying in wait for McDowell should he cross them. They issue this ominous warning of the danger that lurks:

“The likes of John Dingell and Ed Markey could make life miserable or worse for Mr. McDowell, as they did for so many others back when they ran Congress before 1994.”

Sounds scary, doesn’t it? Thank goodness we have a champion to take the side of the people and against those big, bad corporations. We all owe the Wall Street Journal a debt of gratitude and, if we’re lucky, they won’t foreclose on us.

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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.

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!