The Year of the Rat

Today marks a Lunar New Year, ushering in the Year of the Rat.

Year of the RatThe Chinese Zodiac: The Rat is a creative problem solver; imaginative; a hyperactive worker respected for its resourcefulness; intuitive, with an ability to acquire and hold on to things it values.

Banksy RatBanksy: They exist without permission. They are hated, hunted and persecuted. They live in quiet desperation and amongst the filth. And yet they are capable of bringing entire civilizations to their knees.

If you are dirty, insignificant and unloved then rats are the ultimate role model.

Badly Drawn Boy:

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Hillary Clinton’s Bone-Headed Decision To Debate On Fox News

Fox News is reporting that Hillary Clinton’s campaign has accepted an invitation to participate in a debate on Fox News.

Oh Great! Hasn’t she read Starve The Beast yet?

It’s a little difficult to comprehend why Clinton would commit such a flagrant foul. Sure, she has had a relatively cozy relationship with Rupert Murdoch. Sure, she has accepted contributions from him and appeared at fundraisers that he sponsored on her behalf. Sure, her husband signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996 that opened the door for unprecedented corporate consolidation in the media business, which Fox exploited to its fullest.

Hmmm. Maybe it’s not that difficult to comprehend, after all. But on the other hand, Murdoch’s network is maligning her 24/7. His New York Post endorsed Obama and in the editorial said that she was “opportunistic, scandal-scarred, morally muddled, infinitely self-indulgent, self-centered, and [reeking] of cynicism and opportunism.” The same article slams Obama just as hard, even though he is the endorsee. And Clinton’s response to that is to reward Fox with her presence at their party?

Barack Obama could blow this wide open by declining to accept the Fox debate. This would demonstrate greater courage on his part by not buckling under to the media titan. It would honor the values of Democrats who don’t want Fox treated as if they were a neutral and viable news source. And it would hang Clinton out to dry with her pals at Fox because she couldn’t very well do the debate alone. However, at present there has been no conclusive statement from the Obama camp as to whether he will play along. His spokesman said:

“As of right now, there are no debates on our schedule at all. We’ll figure out our schedule, including any debates, soon.”

The embargo of Fox News must continue, and having supposed allies like Clinton betray us on this is disappointing, to say the least. The effort to sequester the pseudo-news network has been measurably effective. Their ratings are virtually stagnant, while their competitors are soaring. They are noticeably perturbed and are showing their frustrations on the air. And you know that you’ve had an impact when Fox has to report about itself that…

“Liberal activists in and the blogosphere, as well as former candidate John Edwards, scuttled a Democratic debate on Fox earlier this year. Asked by one of those liberal bloggers, Jane Hamsher of FireDogLake, whether accepting the FNC invitation would ‘legitimize’ Fox News, Wolfson pointed out that both Sen Obama and Sen Clinton have appeared multiple times on Fox”

I must admit that I get a bit of a thrill seeing that Fox has to address its own legitimacy in their reporting. Notice how Wolfson uses previous appearances to justify those in the future, That is precisely why EVERY appearance should be refused. And as if to substantiate their spurious status, the previous debate was not scuttled earlier this year. It was scuttled early last year. But who really expects Fox News to get the facts straight?

It’s Super Tuesday and there will be a lot of news flowing in a couple of hours. But this is a bad day for the Clinton campaign regardless of what happens with the election results. She is hurting her party and her cause, and she should reconsider her participation, or should I say collaboration, with Fox News and revoke her acceptance.

Sub-Prime(Time) Meltdown Hits Fox News Where It Hurts

Over the past year there has been a broad array of economic and political indicators that have been trending generally downward. In the U.S. jobs having been declining, as have exports. Construction has pulled back and property values have fallen. Wages are not keeping pace with inflation. At the same time, approval ratings for President Bush have cratered and Republican Party registration is down. GOP primary voters are showing up at the polls in significantly lower numbers than Democratic voters.

Not surprisingly, this social climate crisis is also being reflected in the market performance of the Fox News Channel. For 2007, Fox News squeezed out a meager ratings increase of 4%. While that was enough to beat the somnambulent CNN’s 2% gain, it was far short of the surging 32% rise enjoyed by MSNBC.

Fox 2007

The new year didn’t produce much to brighten Fox’s spirits. Despite the abundance of news, Fox still managed to lag far behind its competitors. Here is a sampling of some of the important events that took place in January:

  • Primary contests in six states
  • Nine nationally televised debates (two of which were on Fox News)
  • Benazir Bhutto’s assassination in the last days of 2007
  • Deadly violence increased in Iraq
  • Bush delivered his last ever State of the Union Address
  • The stock market suffered historic declines (the worst January for the Dow in 7 years, 17 for the S&P 500, and the worst ever for the Nasdaq)
  • Britany was committed.

This sort of activity usually triggers increased viewing for news networks. Indeed, that was the case for CNN which rose 42% for the month, and MSNBC which nabbed a 37% gain. However, Fox pulled up the rear with a paltry 9% uptick. At a time when viewers are tuning in to news with greater frequency, Fox is being left behind while its competitors are reaping rich rewards.

For those seeking an explanation for the disparity between Fox and the rest of the news purveyors, you need look no further than the content and style for which Fox has become famous. The influence of rightists in the government and the media is dissipating. As it does so, the noise level on Fox News is swelling to an earsplitting shriek. They are descending (and condescending) into a desperation fueled by their own crumbling credibility. They are finding it increasingly difficult to lure fair-minded commentators and public figures to appear on their tainted air. The refusal of Democrats to participate in Fox-sponsored debates is having a real impact on both the network’s performance and their perception as the Republican house organ. That effort must continue and broaden to include ANY appearance by Democrats or progressives (Starve The Beast) The result of this cold shoulder is an over-reliance by Fox on plainly biased personalities like their newest contributors, Tony Snow, Rick Santorum, and Karl Rove. I expect we will also be seeing a lot more of Dick Morris, Ann Coulter, and Bill Kristol, as the Foxians resort to just interviewing one another.

The current stable of Fox News hosts are becoming noticeably more shrill. Chris Wallace recently branded Democrats as “damned fools” for their refusal to be abused by Fox demagogues. Bill O’Reilly went positively crackers as he shoved an aide to Senator Obama because the aide was blocking his view. John Gibson didn’t see anything wrong with making offensive and homophobic jokes about Heath Ledger on the same day the actor died.

Fox News is in a sort of journalistic death spiral of its own. The more people tune them out, the higher they turn up the volume on their idiocy amplifier (and they’re already way past eleven). Then even more people tune out. This process will continue until no one is left but the brain-damaged spawn of a Coulter/Limbaugh clone experiment gone horribly awry.

Fox has already destroyed any pretense of credibility that they might have hoped to use to delude the weak members of the herd, and now they are simply becoming a parody of themselves. They still have a surplus of habitual viewers that may take a while to wind down. But the time is coming when their ratings will be struggling to keep up with the Bass Fishing Channel. And their programming will be just as exciting and newsworthy.

Bill O’Reilly Can’t Stop Bashing Homeless Veterans

On tonight’s edition of the O’Reilly Factor, Bill O’Reilly resumed his repulsive assault on homeless veterans. This would be a despicable act under almost any circumstances, but O’Reilly engages in his slander in an attempt to defend his own tattered ego.

The trigger for his onslaught was the delivery of a petition signed by 17,000 people who believe that O’Reilly should apologize for his misstatements and disrespect for homeless veterans. The signatures were gathered by producer Robert Greenwald of Brave New Films. In the plaza in front of the News Corp. headquarters, the group was met by O’Reilly’s producer, Stuttering Jesse Watters. They were not allowed into the building to deliver the petitions.

On his program tonight, O’Reilly led off by mocking Greenwald for a film he made 30 years ago. Admittedly Xanadu was not a box office bonanza at the time of its release, but it has since become something of a cult classic and it didn’t lose money either, earning $22 million and ranking #28 amongst all films released in 1980. That put it between Raging Bull and American Gigolo. Its soundtrack, however, was a bona fide hit reaching #4 on the album charts and spawning 5 top 20 singles. A stage adaptation is presently in its 7th hit month on Broadway where it broke opening day records for the Helen Hayes Theater. Consequently, O’Reilly’s snide sarcasm about Greenwald not being able to find a job is really just another example of his own mean-spirited and dishonest boorishness. And that’s aside from the fact that it is entirely irrelevant to the sad and serious matter at hand.

O’Reilly goes off on another tangent to criticize Steve Capus, President of NBC News, because his office couldn’t (or wouldn’t) respond to a query as to why NBC sent a crew to cover the event. O’Reilly then advised Capus to “pay attention to his job.” However, the job of the president of a news network is not to trace the steps of hundreds of news personnel in the field. Maybe O’Reilly should ask Roger Ailes if he knows where all of his crews are at any given moment. Then O’Reilly asserts that the reason that Capus is “going after” Fox News is because “we’re kicking their butt around the block.” That is, of course, an unmitigated lie. NBC News is currently the #1 news network with the #1 nightly news program and the #1 morning news broadcast. O’Reilly may have meant to limit his hyperbole to cable news networks, but he specifically referenced only NBC, which he has maligned in the past as a failure even though the opposite is true. He never mentioned MSNBC, which is trailing Fox News in the ratings, but is growing much faster. But again, how does this help homeless veterans?

Eventually O’Reilly got around to expressing his true feelings by seeking to ridicule the participating vets because they did not watch his program and didn’t hear his offensive remarks themselves. It must not have occurred to him that homeless vets may not have televisions or cable TV subscriptions. To the contrary, he believes that they all have color TVs and DVD players and air conditioners and cars and more. He said as much on his program last month in a diatribe riddled with falsehoods and faulty analysis. So because these troubled vets were told about O’Reilly’s insensitive and false comments, rather than seeing it for themselves on their nonexistent sofas in their nonexistent homes, O’Reilly now claims to feel sorry for them. Not because they are living on the streets of a country that seems to have forgotten them, but because he thinks that they are being exploited by the people who are, in fact, trying to help them.

O’Reilly has stated several times now that he would provide help for any homeless vet if only he knew where one was. He has since had numerous responses, including one from Keith Olbermann that included a precise location in New Orleans where more than 200 suffering souls could be found. I wouldn’t put much faith in O’Reilly’s empty promises, though. I hope they’re not waiting for him to show up with blankets and sandwiches and vouchers for shelter. I would rather rely on the incompetence of FEMA than the sanctimony of Bill O’Reilly.

Ann Coulter Endorses Hillary Clinton Over John McCain

Ann Coulter despises John McCain so much that she has publicly declared that she would would vote for Hillary Clinton over McCain. In fact she even commits to campaigning for Clinton:

When asked for a response, Clinton said:

For the conspiracy theorists out there, I would propose that this is really just a Machiavellian maneuver to sink Clinton’s candidacy. I can’t think of much worse for her prospects than an endorsement from Coulter.

Fox News Hiring Karl Rove?

In a classic case of role reversal, Fox News is reportedly hiring George Bush’s former brain, Karl Rove. This completes the circular path from Rove’s previous position where he was the one employing Fox News to broadcast the Bush administration’s propaganda.

As a contributer to the network, Rove will be familiar with the process of news gathering and source management. He was previously a contributer to the New York Times’ Judith Miller, to whom he supplied classified data on Valerie Plame. Prior to Rove’s “contribution” Plame was a covert intelligence operative working to uncover Iran’s WMD program. Perhaps Fox could also snag Rove’s former partner Scooter Libby and pair them on their own show?

Rove’s new association with Fox is expanding his media reach on the heels of his recent engagement with Newsweek. He also closed a book deal last month with a reported $1.5 million advance.

Look out, Oprah. A new multimedia tycoon is grasping for your crown.

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The News Corpse Headline Widget Is Here!

I would like to direct your attention to the amazing animated widget at the top of my sidebar to your right. You will notice that it displays a rotating list of headlines from News Corpse and cycles through some slightly altered pictures of some folks you may recognize.

What you are looking at is the all new News Corpse Headline Widget, and it is available for you to post on your own web site.

The widget is easy to install. Just click the “Get & Share” button at the bottom of the widget and select a service from those displayed. Or you can select “Embed” to get the code to paste onto your page (just like YouTube). That’s it!

This widget is offered free of charge to anyone who wishes to use it. If you like this widget, you can get one made custom for your own web site or blog. For that there is normally an exorbitant fee that will likely send you spiraling into bankruptcy and despair. But, if you act now, the exorbitant fee will be slashed to a much more reasonable amount that will allow me to enjoy a nutritious lunch and perhaps a decaf latte.

Widgets can be used for a wide variety of purposes – from advertising and promotion to information distribution and announcements to artistic projects and displays. Be creative!

For more information, send an email with your questions and/or ideas.

New York Post Bashes/Endorses Obama

NYPost Endorses Obama

The New York Post has given its endorsement for the Democratic presidential nomination to Barack Obama. However, after reading the article you’d have to ask yourself, “With friends like that, who needs enemas?” Some examples of what the Post considers an endorsement:

  • “…an untried candidate, to be sure…”
  • “Obama is not without flaws.”
  • “For all his charisma and his eloquence, the rookie senator sorely lacks seasoning…”
  • “Regarding national security, his worldview is beyond naive…”
  • “His all-things-to-all-people approach to complicated domestic issues also arouses scant confidence”
  • “…he is not Team Clinton…That counts for a very great deal.”
  • “…we don’t agree much with Obama on substantive issues.”

That’s what they say about the candidate they like! Here’s what they say about Hillary and Bill:

  • “…a return to the opportunistic, scandal-scarred, morally muddled years of the almost infinitely self-indulgent Clinton co-presidency.”
  • “…self-centered campaign antics conjure so many bad, sad memories…”
  • “…wore thin a very long time ago.”
  • “A return to Sen. Clinton’s cattle-futures deal, Travelgate, Whitewater, Filegate, the Lincoln Bedroom Fire Sale, Pardongate – and the inevitable replay of the Monica Mess.”
  • “…don’t forget the Clintons’ trademark political cynicism.”
  • “…reeks of cynicism and opportunism.”
  • “…Clinton stands philosophically far to the left of her husband…”

Let’s face it, this endorsement from Rupert Murdoch’s NY mouthpiece was really just an excuse to bash both of the remaining Democrats in the race. It’s conclusion is that Clinton is so awful, that we have to go with her almost equally as bad opponent.

This might sting Clinton a bit because she has been cozying up to Murdoch – attending fundraisers, appearing on Fox News, refraining from criticism, etc. And this is how he repays her. Do you think she’ll learn her lesson?

In the end, the Post’s opinion will probably have negligible effect on this race. It may even have a contrary effect because New Yorkers know exactly where the Post stands. Consequently, an endorsement of Obama may send them running to Clinton. Still, it is pretty pathetic when one of the city’s major newspapers uses the occasion of an endorsement to brazenly insult both candidates. Let’s see how they handle the Republican endorsement.

Update 2/18/09: New York Post publishes racist and violent cartoon.

Who Will Fight The Media Now?

With this morning’s announcement that John Edwards would be suspending his quest for the Democratic nomination for president, the media reform movement has also dropped out of the campaign.

Edwards was the only candidate to have directly addressed the problem of the media in this country. He recognized the danger of unregulated corporations controlling access to the media megaphone that all candidates and initiatives rely on if they harbor any hope of success. His own candidacy was a victim of the exclusionary predilections of Big Media.

Here are some memorable moments from Edwards’ campaign:

“I am not particularly interested in seeing Rupert Murdoch own every newspaper in America.”

“High levels of media consolidation threaten free speech, they tilt the public dialogue towards corporate priorities and away from local concerns, and they make it increasingly difficult for women and people of color to own meaningful stakes in our nation’s media.”

“It’s time for all Democrats, including those running for president, to stand up and speak out against this [News Corp./Dow Jones] merger and other forms of media consolidation.”

“The basis of a strong democracy begins and ends with a strong, unbiased and fair media – all qualities which are pretty hard to [ascribe] to Fox News and News Corp.”

Contrast that with this watered-down criticism by Hillary Clinton. It started off as a rejection of media consolidation, but ended up letting her contributer Rupert Murdoch off the hook:

“I’m not saying anything against any company in particular. I just want to see more competition, especially in the same markets.”

On a positive note, both Clinton and Barack Obama are co-sponsors of the Media Ownership Act of 2007. And they have made statements in support of reform. Last year Clinton told supporters at a campaign rally that…

“There have been a lot of media consolidations in the last several years, and it is quite troubling. The fact is, most people still get their news from television, from radio, even from newspapers. If they’re all owned by a very small group of people – and particularly if they all have a very similar point of view – it really stifles free speech.”

That was right before she handed Murdoch the reprieve above. Obama co-authored an editorial with John Kerry that said in part…

“…to engage in the debates that have always made America stronger, it takes a stage and a platform for discussion – and never before have these platforms been more endangered.”

“In recent years, we have witnessed unprecedented consolidation in our traditional media outlets. Large mergers and corporate deals have reduced the number of voices and viewpoints in the media marketplace.”

But neither Clinton nor Obama have been nearly as aggressive as Edwards in this battle. Both have appeared on Fox News despite the dreadful treatment to which they are subjected. [Note to Dems: NEVER appear on Fox News! Starve The Beast!] And neither has made a point of making the media, the FCC, Rupert Murdoch, etc., a significant part of their campaign. Clinton has an arguably greater moral obligation to address these issues given that it was her husband who saddled us with the abhorrent Communications Act of 1996 that opened the floodgates of consolidation.

The remaining candidates in the race had better wise up. The media that has purposefully marginalized and/or disparaged candidacies that are now defunct, is now free to shift its aim to you. Don’t fool yourselves into thinking that you can weather their assault or bat your eyes demurely and hope that they will leave you alone. They will turn on you and, when they do, you will have little recourse but to whither and disappear or submit to their will. Both of those options will likely lead to a loss of the election, not to mention your soul.

As for the rest of us, we must take affirmative steps to see to it that our candidates understand how important this is – to them and to us. Be sure to write them and demand that they make media reform a plank in their platforms. Ask them about it at rallies and debates. It is up to us to remind them that the fate of EVERY issue we hold dear is dependent on the ability to educate and inform the public. For this we need a fair, diverse, and independent media. No matter what issue motivates you, if you don’t spend at least some of your time reforming the media you are allowing an obstacle to remain in your path that will lead to unnecessary hardship and, perhaps, failure.

Colonel To O’Reilly: Stop Saying You Care For Soldiers

Col. David Hunt is a Fox News analyst and the author of the Colonel’s Corner on His most recent column addresses the debate over homeless veterans that has erupted between John Edwards and Bill O’Reily.

From the outset he is clearly upset with the plight of former soldiers who are now suffering from both physical and psychological hardships. He passionately denounces the circumstances that have led to this sorry state of affairs, as well as those who are not sufficiently outraged:

“…if this does not piss you off, finally get you off your butts, run outside naked while screaming mad, make you paint your face and do a protest dance in front of the White House, then my friends, you are dead from the neck up – and you need to forever stop saying you care for soldiers…”

Are you listening Bill O’Reilly?

The bulk of the article summarizes the gravity of the challenges that homeless vets face and the insufficiency of society’s resolve to respond. On the whole, it is a heartfelt plea from an old war horse to end the smarmy and disingenuous demagoguery and hammer out some practical solutions. Unfortunately, Col. Hunt can’t bring himself to direct his aim at the most abundant source of misinformation on the subject. In his column he doesn’t even distinguish between who is the advocate for homeless vets and who is the denier.

“On his radio and TV shows, Bill O’Reilly commented on Sen. John Edwards’ remarks on the plight of homeless veterans […] The commentary of Bill O’Reilly about John Edwards at least had the issue on the front pages and on TV.”

The problem is that what O’Reilly was putting on TV was entirely contrary to the facts. O’Reilly began his malicious mutterings on the issue by flatly asserting that there were no homeless veterans. From there he was forced to concede that the problem was real but he still insisted that it was trivial because it only affected those who were mentally ill or substance abusers, as if that disqualified them from gratitude or compassion. And never mind that those conditions were probably a direct result of their military service in the first place.

I don’t know if Col. Hunt’s timidity is based on O’Reilly being a friend, or if he is just reticent to squabble with a colleague at Fox News, or if he just wants to keep the focus on the issue, but he is making a mistake by letting O’Reilly off the hook. Two and half million people watch the Factor every day and O’Reilly’s lies are likely to impact the resolve of his audience to seek solutions. If Hunt really cares, he should call his pal and insist on appearing on the program to set the record, and O’Reilly, straight.

Email Col. Hunt and tell him not to let O’Reilly’s lies go answered.