Ben Stein: Hot To Fox Trot

If this doesn’t curdle your milk, I don’t know what will.


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Conservative economedian Ben Stein has trouble controlling his carnal urges when watching Fox Business News. In an article he wrote for Best Life Magazine he reveals the real appeal of FBN’s programming: Hot Babes. And he doesn’t hold back the lust in his own heart as he chats up the network’s anchors. Here are a few sweaty excerpts:

Ben Stein’s Wet Dream: “The point is that they’re all young, all beautiful, and all here to talk about the economy and business and the falling dollar and fears of inflation and the credit crisis.”

What’s His Hurry: “When I finished with my appearances on Fox, I hightailed it back to my hotel room…”

An Active Imagination: “You imagine them talking about money while they spread out their hair on the pillow next to you.”

America’s Next Top Business Models: “These models are basically telling us it will be all right. We’ll make up the losses tomorrow. It’ll be fine. Now kiss me.”

Coming Up Next, The Money Shot: “…why not watch someone who knows how to show off her legs and her cleavage…”

Show Us Your (Stock) Tips: “…it’s us pig men watching the money shows, in general, and we want to see women.”

Stein is affirming the Fox programming strategy that I call Porn and Patriotism, although he’s somewhat light on the patriotism. This is nothing new for Fox whose news and entertainment products are sprinkled generously with salacious content. Perhaps Stein would approve of FBN adopting the topless Page 3 girls featured in Murdoch’s English newspaper, The Sun. I’m sure that Stein, and the folks at Fox, would prefer that to actually reporting the news without trying to lie, dumb it down, or exploit sex.

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Iraq 5 Years On: An Anniversary Of Shame, Lies, and Death

Five years ago today, America, under the mis-leadership of George W. Bush, invaded Iraq. The purpose, as proclaimed by the President, and dutifully regurgitated by the media, was to dismantle the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. There was just one little problem…

The fact that there never were any WMDs didn’t phase Bush or his bloodthirsty enablers in the administration or the press. A half decade hence has produced 4,000 dead American soldiers, 30,000 wounded, and untold lives ruined by loss and disability, physical and psychological.

And what of the Iraqis? Estimates range from 60,000 to 1.5 million dead – and counting. In exchange for this gruesome sacrifice, the Iraqis got a still dysfunctional government, four hours of electricity a day, plundering of their oil resources, 2 million refugees, civil war, and no observable end to the occupation and the grief.

On the home front, Americans, now almost a trillion dollars poorer, are still subjected to the same sort of lies that got us into this mess. President Bush, absent any evidence, insists that we’re winning. Presidential candidate, John McCain, has no problem staying another hundred years. And the media prevaricators that steered our tragic course continue to guide us into ever-stormier seas.

Despite this apparently pessimistic appraisal, there is reason for hope. The world community has been steadily distancing itself from the U.S. agenda of aggression. The American public is overwhelmingly opposed to the war. And an election in November may yield a thorough uprooting of the party of warmongers. While none of this will undo the horrors of the past five years, it may set us on a more ethical course.

It is long past time for this country to abandon its arrogance and aspirations for empire. The American people do not wear oppression well. Five years is too long to impose such hardships on those who have done us no harm.

This war must end, and it must end NOW!


Republican Spin? That’s What They’re There For

I love it when Fox News honchos confess to their biases. Like when Rupert Murdoch admitted that he tried to shape public opinion on the Iraq war.

Now, Fox News senior vice president, John Moody, has stumbled into honesty. In discussing his hiring of Bush adviser Karl Rove, Moody said:

“Are we getting a Republican spin? Of course. But that’s what he’s there for. There’s no attempt to conceal that.”

Now, if we can only get Moody to admit that with regard to the rest of his network’s hosts. As for Rove, he does appear to be attempting to conceal his spin, describing instead as “insight.”

This isn’t Moody’s first truth eruption. In November of 2006, following the Democratic sweep of Congress, an internal Fox News memo from Moody to his troops was leaked. Amongst the many disclosures of bias contained in the memo were these:

“…let’s be on the lookout for any statements from the Iraqi insurgents, who must be thrilled at the prospect of a Dem-controlled congress.”

~~~

“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.”

See? It’s not the end of the world. We still have our lovely war.


NewsMax, Kristol Conspire To Plant False Obama Story

On Sunday, March 16, 2008, the rightist tabloid NewsMax published an article by Ronald Kessler that claimed that Barack Obama had attended a controversial sermon by Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Obama has previously denied that any of the sermons he attended at Wright’s church contained the inflammatory language that has been getting so much attention from the press as of late.

Kessler’s article would be a startling revelation that brings Obama’s veracity into question, except for one thing. Kessler’s article isn’t true. Obama’s campaign provided proof that he was in Miami on the day that Kessler’s source (another NewsMax columnist) said that he was in the pew. But NewsMax’s dirty deed was already done. The story had proliferated into the Conventional Media and was already polluting the news environment.

First and foremost, William Kristol of the New York Times cited Kessler when he regurgitated the false story in his Monday column. The bulk of the editorial was devoted to praising the “next generation” while insulting his own:

“Many of its members seem more serious and impressive than we baby boomers were when our elders were foolishly praising us, 40 years ago, as the best-educated, most idealistic generation ever. Many of the best of this young generation are serving their country – either in the military or otherwise.”

Frankly, I don’t recall many elders lavishing much praise on the youth of 1968, although they were the best-educated, most idealistic generation up to that time, and they did serve their country in numbers far greater than today’s youth. And they died in far greater numbers as well – 58,000 in Vietnam. Kristol doesn’t think that’s impressive, but he has no qualms about using the issue to infect the news cycle with lies about Sen. Obama.

Next comes Fox News, who featured Kessler’s fiction in their own story. Originally titled “Report Places Obama at Controversial July ’07 Wright Sermon,” it was altered to “Schedule Puts Obama in Miami During July ’07 Wright Sermon,” after Kessler’s errors were revealed. Still, Fox soft-peddles the correction by saying that:

“Doubts were cast on the story Monday as records showed the Democratic presidential contender was in Miami that day.”

“Doubts were cast on the story…” is how Fox characterizes the production of documentary evidence that eviscerates the story. The spin is dizzying. And it is continuing as the falsehood is spread through the conservative media. Even though Kessler and Kristol have published corrections of sorts, the virus has been unleashed and is circulating. Kessler’s correction merely conceded that the date was wrong, but he stands by the assertion that Obama was present at some unspecified sermon that occurred on some vague date, and he expects us to swallow the rest of the story’s details as factual.

This is how mythical slander about Obama being a Muslim or swearing the oath of office on the Koran gets adopted by much of the public. It is how the war in Iraq was sold by Vice President Cheney when he appeared on Meet the Press and cited an article in the New York Times that was sourced to a leaker in the Vice President’s own office. It’s a circular wheel of propaganda that needs to be exposed if Americans ever to get honest representations of their government and their world.


The Obama Watch On Fox News Sunday

Two weeks ago, I wrote that Chris Wallace was obsessed with absent Democrats when he featured a viewer email inquiring as to why Barack Obama has not appeared on his fourth-rate Sunday talk show. Now Wallace is escalating the obsession with a stunningly juvenile device he calls “The Obama Watch.”

This blatantly prejudicial, unprofessional, and self-serving inanity demonstrates precisely why Obama, and all Democrats, should avoid Fox News at all costs. The idea that an update on a candidate for president consists solely of the candidate’s disinclination to accept an invitation to appear is uniquely Foxian. And by incorporating the audio device from Fox’s own “24” they even reduce this childish prank to little more than a promotion for their entertainment fare.

As I’ve said before, the Fox News embargo is working or they wouldn’t be constantly addressing it. Every mention is a validation of its effectiveness. Add this to Wallace’s previous attempts to bully Democrats onto his program, like the time he called them “damn fools [for] not coming on Fox News;” or the time he blamed “the left wing of the party – and I’m talking about the ‘net roots'” for “put[ting] Democratic candidates through a kind of loyalty test.” Wallace really knows how to charm the objects of his fetish.

If Wallace is looking for an explanation for why he is being snubbed, perhaps he should consider the fact the he and his network persistently insult the guests he is now pursuing. Fox News is hardly a fair and balanced forum for Democrats. He might also be reminded that his program, Fox News Sunday, finishes consistently last amongst the Sunday news interview programs – behind Meet the Press, This Week, and Face the Nation. Tactics like this are not likely to improve those standings.


John McCain Worries That Al Qaeda Are Democrats

According to the latest Republican spin, an Al Qaeda attack will help Republicans – except when it helps Democrats. Throughout the past five or six years, there were numerous occasions when Republicans either promoted or invented threats in order to bolster their campaign prospects or blunt good news for Democrats. The theory being that the elevated fear factor would induce voters to cling to the perceived security of hard-line right-wingers like Bush, and now, McCain. Keith Olbermann has documented this tactic in his ongoing series, “The Nexus of Politics and Terror.” [Video below]

However, when asked at a campaign event in Pennsylvania whether Al-Qaeda might step up its attacks to hurt his campaign, John McCain said:

“Yes, I worry about it. And I know they pay attention, because of the intercepts we have of their communications.”

Al Qaeda may be paying attention, but the press certainly is not. No one bothered to ask McCain why he thought such attacks would hurt his campaign. Why is he presuming that a more dangerous Iraq would be detrimental to Republicans; particularly in light of the historical exploitation of fear for which his party is well known. After years of selling Republicans as the party that will protect us from terrorists, all of a sudden Republicans are afraid that more terrorism will accrue to the benefit of Democrats.

Actually, McCain may be delivery a generous compliment. Perhaps he is finally admitting that escalating violence in Iraq would spur the American people to support Democrats because Democrats are trusted more with national security matters. He may have just realized that the public rates Democrats higher than Republicans with regard to managing the war in Iraq. Isn’t it wonderful that McCain now concedes the superiority of Democrats?

It’s too bad, however, that the media lets McCain get away with such blatant fear-mongering. The suggestion that Al Qaeda would increase violence in order to hurt McCain implies that Al Qaeda is rooting for Democrats. But that unconscionable falsehood is only trotted out when Republican strategists think they can use it to tarnish their opponents. Then, after having done so, the same strategists fabricate threats of increased violence to tarnish their opponents from the opposite direction. The logic just doesn’t gel. If Republicans really believe that increased violence by Al Qaeda will help Democrats, how can they also believe that the increased violence will help Republicans? Obviously, they don’t believe any of it. It is political gamesmanship of the most most cynical order. It would be nice if they got called on it by some enterprising and honest reporter.

The Nexus of Politics and Terror:

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Bill O’Reilly Factors In Hypocrisy

The Eliot Spitzer affair has thoroughly dominated cable news coverage. There isn’t a single island of respite from the story. So, of course, Bill O’Reilly is included in the list of programs discussing Spitzer’s infidelity and immorality. It is interesting to note, however, that O’Reilly has yet to disclose his own episode of infidelity and immorality. Undeterred, he continues to report on the matter without advising his audience of this significant detail.

In 2004 O’Reilly was sued by Andrea Mackris, a producer on his show, for sexual harassment. The suit was eventually settled out of court for a sum reported variously to be between $10 and $20 million.

In his coverage of Sptizer, O’Reilly arrogantly psychoanalyzes him as self-destructive, but never draws a connection to his own behavior, or even acknowledges what occurred. It should also be noted that, although both Spitzer and O’Reilly are alleged to have engaged in acts that are unlawful, Spitzer’s encounters were between consenting adults, while O’Reilly’s actions were coerced and unwelcome.

Another Factor ethical failing concerns one of his frequent guests, Dick Morris. Some folks may be wondering where Morris has gone. He has not appeared on the program since the Spitzer story broke. Could it have something to do with the fact that Morris himself was caught up in a prostitution scandal of his own? Not only has Morris been absent from The Factor, he has not written a single item about Spitzer on his web site.

On another note, the newest Fox News contributor, Karl Rove, is also a demonstrating ethical lapses with his recent appearances on The Factor. Despite having contributed to John McCain’s presidential campaign, and assuming a role as an adviser, Rove still appears as an election commentator and neither he, nor O’Reilly, bother to disclose this conflict of interest.

I suppose that the best we can say is that O’Reilly, Morris, and Rove are living up to our expectations of them.


John McCain’s Opposition To Fair And Balanced Media

The past several months have seen the rise of a variety of public discussions centered on the media. The Media Ownership Act of 2007 was introduced in the Senate. The FCC held their dog and pony hearings on consolidation, complete with the mischief of Comcast paying seat-fillers to prevent critics from attending the event. Byron Dorgan authored a resolution to nullify the FCC’s gift to Big Media. And the battle over network neutrality continued as Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T endeavored to violate it.

Despite this activity, media reform has not assumed a particularly visible role in the current election season. None of the remaining candidates have gone out of their way to highlight their positions on media issues. So we should be grateful that Ars Technica has done it for them. Here a few excerpts from the article:

“Democratic presidential rivals Barack Obama (D-IL) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY) have both co-sponsored the [Dorgan] declaration along with seven other Democrats and four Republicans. None of those Republicans include the GOP’s choice for the White House, Senator John McCain.”

~~~

“…on the big-ticket broadcasting/telecom issues, McCain plays to big media and the telcos. Along with 33 Senate Republicans and no Democrats, he’s a co-sponsor of the Broadcaster Freedom Act, which would permanently bar the FCC from reinstating the Fairness Doctrine. As for net neutrality, he calls for minimal government regulation of broadband.” [News Corpse translation: Let Big Media do whatever the hell they want]

~~~

“McCain declined late last year to co-sponsor a Senate bill that would have put the brakes on FCC Chair Martin’s rush to change the Commission’s newspaper/TV cross-ownership rule. Martin got the change enacted after barely two weeks of public comment by a narrow 3 to 2 partisan majority.”

It should also be noted that the lobbyist identified in a recent New York Times article as having had a “relationship” with John McCain, was a telecom lobbyist.

To be sure, the Democrats haven’t had a reliable advocate of media reform since John Edwards was driven out of the race by the media. Barack Obama co-authored an article with Sen. John Kerry that struck the right tone, but he has not given the issue much priority. Hillary Clinton, who counts Rupert Murdoch as a supporter, drifted even further from the pack when she agreed to break ranks and appear on a Fox News-sponsored debate.

There’s still time to get the candidates to refine and promote their positions on media reform, but it will be up to the people to press the matter. That means YOU! You have your assignment.

Update: SaveThe Internet just released a video of members of OK Go testifying (and playing) at a House committee hearing on net neutrality.



Spitzer Is To Clinton As Vitter Is To McCain

New York governor Eliot Spitzer has blown it in a big way. Anti-corruption crusaders ought not to be dallying with call girls. Ordinarily I don’t like to assign much importance to personal and/or family matters. But when a personal act is both illegal and hypocritical, it becomes a hurdle that is very difficult to get over.

That said, the media is demonstrating its customary tunnel-blindness in reporting this story. The news is less than two hours old and I have already heard reporters on CNN, Fox and MSNBC asking about the impact on Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Why would this have any impact on Hillary Clinton’s campaign? It is unrelated to policy matters. It is not something she could have known. There is no connection to her whatsoever other than the fact that Spitzer had endorsed her.

Well, I haven’t heard anyone ask John McCain about whether he has the support of Sen. Larry “Wide Stance” Craig (R-ID). And Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), an admitted patron of Washington’s DC Madam, endorsed McCain just yesterday. Neither Craig nor Vitter have resigned their seats in the Senate.

I also have to wonder if Dick Morris, a frequent guest on Bill O’Reilly’s program, and the subject of his own prostitution scandal, will appear on the Factor tonight to discuss the Spitzer affair. While he obviously would have no moral authority to criticize Spitzer, he could at least speak from experience. Knowing Morris and O’Reilly, they would probably not even bother to disclose it.

Here’s your homework for today: Anyone who reads or hears a reporter ask Clinton about Spitzer should demand that they also ask McCain about Vitter.