O’Reilly Predicts, Dixie Chicks Nix

There is seemingly no subject on which professional know-it-all, Bill O’Reilly, does not consider himself to be an expert (and no subject on which he actually is). Last March, wearing his music biz (dunce) cap, he predicted that the Dixie Chicks’ soon-to-be-released CD, “Taking The Long Way,” was destined to fail. He said at the time that it would sell “2 million tops.”

Let’s see how he’s doing.

Taking The Long Way:

  • is certified double platinum.
  • finished the year 9th in overall sales.
  • is still on the Billboard 200.
  • is still on the Billboard Country 25.
  • nominated for 5 Grammys.

For those not in the biz, double platinum means sales of 2 million. So they have already reached what O’Reilly thought would be their peak (in just 7 months). They are assurred of blowing past that number considering that they are still on the charts and the Grammys nods will boost sales as well. If they win, all the better. Plus, they will be performing in the Grammy broadcast on February 11.

So this is proof that O’Reilly is a fraudulent moron with a talent for being wrong and embarrassing himself. Not exactly a revelation, but still…..

Update: The Dixie Chicks swept all 5 categories for which they were nominated in the Grammy Awards last night. Already on Amazon.com, the CD is #1 for Country and #2 for overall sales. Natalie Maines from one of the acceptance speeches:

“I think people are using their freedom of speech here tonight with all of these awards,” Maines said in accepting the album of the year nod. “We get the message. There’s a lot of awesome music this year and fantastic performances. I’m very humbled. I think people were using their voice the same way this loudmouth did.”

Suck on it Bill-O.

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Media Ownership, Lies, And The Internet

As the FCC continues to review media ownership rules, Big Media hacks persist in spreading false claims about competition and the benefits of local ownership.

Former FCC commissioner, Reed Hundt, told USA Today that the meaning of ‘media monopoly’ has changed:

‘Media monopoly’ seems now to be about whether you can use the Internet for free or whether there’s any limit on what you can send over the Internet […] The issues of the last 10 years don’t have that much resonance anymore.”

Mr. Hundt is obviously confusing ‘media monopoly’ with ‘municipal access” and ‘network neutrality’ – a pedestrian mistake for someone with so-called credentials. He might be surprised to learn that in the real world ‘media monopoly’ still means a concentration of media companies into the hands of a few powerful conglomerates that exercise undue influence over distribution and content. And those issues still possess great resonance. In 2003, three million Americans rose up to roll back FCC regulations that would have allowed the media monopolists to grow ever larger.

We are facing that same battle today and the same voices from Big Media are telling the same lies to advance their greed. They argue that cable and the Internet neutralize the risk that any one company can dominate public opinion.

“There are more (media) outlets today than there have been at any point in the past,” says media investor Christopher Dixon of GGCP. “Every day that more people are on the Internet, the argument for cross-ownership limitations falls by the wayside.”

First of all, there are not more media outlets than ever – or at least not by any qualitative count. The actual number of radio and TV stations has remained fairly constant. The new players are in cable and the Internet. But most of the major cable networks are owned by the same corporations that have consolidated so many of the broadcast stations. It’s just nonsense to allege that the number of outlets is increasing as the number of owners is decreasing.

Secondly, it makes no sense to suggest that more people on the Internet should affect cross-ownership regs. Monopolies in media distribution are adverse to the public interest no matter how many people use the Internet. And, again, it needs to be pointed out that most of the top Internet news destinations are owned by Big Media. They think that just because I can have a web site, that I pose a competitive threat to Fox News.

I wish that were true.

CAP’s Media Diversity Initiative

One of the main reasons that the FCC is incapable of producing regulations that serve the public interest is that they define public interest as something more like corporate handouts. Rather than evaluating regulations on their ability to advance open and informed dialogue, the cornerstone of democracy, the FCC grades its proposals on whether they stimulate or stifle competition. The former method of review places value on people and communities, while the latter focuses only on financial statements.

The current procedure for evaluation is actually based on something used to measure market concentration, the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index. Now the Center for American Progress, with Fordham University’s Donald McGannon Communication Research Center, has developed a new “Local Media Diversity Metrics Index” that would place the emphasis on a true measure of what is in the public interest. They will be hosting an event tomorrow with Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) to introduce the new methodology. Please consider attending or notifying your representatives because it is probably going to take more than a press conference to get this FCC to adopt the proposal.

Google And The 2008 Presidential Campaign

A study conducted by Internet marketing research firm Rimm-Kaufman Group, found that there was not a particularly significant use of paid search ads during the 2006 election cycle. The study is less than pure, in my view, because it includes any ad with political content, including some third party advertisers selling buttons on CafePress who are unaffiliated with any campaign. Still, some of their conclusions are notable. For instance, red ads outnumbered blue ads two-to-one. And blue ads were three times more likely to be negative than red ads. Other reports reveal that Republicans are more likely to buy search terms, while Democrats are more likely to advertise on blogs.

That set me off to wonder what the presidential candidates were up to now. So I did searches of all the known candidates and compiled the results below.

Republicans seem to be first out of the starting gate in the paid search arena.

Mitt Romney returns ads for both himself and John MCain. Curiously, McCain’s ad is labeled “Mitt romney” but points to ExploreMcCain.com
John McCain returns an ad for Romney on Google, but an ad for himself on Yahoo.
Rudy Giuliani returns an ad for Romney on Google, but an ad for himself on Yahoo.
Duncan Hunter, Tom Tancredo, and Sam Brownback, all return ads only for Romney.
Gingrich, Pataki, Gilmore, Thompson, Paul returned no ads at all.

Democrats are more thinly represented in the search ad-stakes.

Bill Richardson returned an ad for himself.
Tom Vilsack returned an ad for himself.
Wesley Clark returned an ad for his podcasts, which might not be campaign related.
Clinton, Obama, Edwards, and Kucinich returned no ads at all.

President 2008 returned ads for Romney and Bill Richardson.
Campaign 2008 returned ads for Giuliani on Google, McCain on Yahoo, and Colbert/Stewart on Yahoo (I don’t think they have announced yet).

Conclusions: Romney is clearly the most aggressive advertiser with his name displaying on searches for himself and five other candidates. I wonder if his neglect of the rest of the field (including Gingrich) is a clue as to his opinion of their competitiveness or likelyhood of entering the race. Romney and McCain are the only candidates to advertise on competitor’s search terms.

The most striking observation is that none of the leading Democrats are advertising at all. Obviously, it is still early, but these ads aren’t expensive and they can generate traffic and help to channel prospective supporters. Republicans are in this game by themselves. This is surprising because previous studies suggest that there is an ideological disparity in media preferences. The Red Media/Blue Media divide shows Democrats leaning toward the Internet as a news source. Since the Internet is perceived to be friendly to progressives, why have they not pursued a greater presence?

I also did searches of five issues – Iraq War, Social Security, Global Warming, Civil Liberties, and Minimum Wage. There were no candidate ads returned in any of them. This seems like an opportunity slipping away.

I’ll update this survey on an irregular schedule as the campaign proceeds.

John Kerry’s Pariah Bomb

Take cover. Get ready for the blast that’s about to sweep through the media. A former presidential candidate said something that can be easily taken out of context and blown up into an absurd controversy by lazy and unethical media whores. Therefore, it will be.

At an economic forum in Davos, Switzerland, John Kerry was asked a question about the U.S. government’s relations with Iran prior to the election of Ahmadinejad. Kerry had the audacity to answer the question honestly and correctly recognizing the reality of Americas place in today’s world diplomacy. Unfortunately, he failed to couch the answer in phraseology that would prevent the misuse of his thoughts. Here is what he said:

“When we walk away from global warming, Kyoto, when we are irresponsibly slow in moving toward AIDS in Africa, when we don’t advance and live up to our own rhetoric and standards, we set a terrible message of duplicity and hypocrisy. So we have a crisis of confidence in the Middle East – in the world, really. I’ve never seen our country as isolated, as much as a sort of international pariah for a number of reasons as it is today.”

Lookout! Incoming! It has already started. This morning Fox News’ Brain Wilson (recently promoted to VP and Washington bureau chief) asked Democratic “strategist”, Bob Beckel, if John Kerry should be calling the U. S. an international pariah. The headline on Foxnews.com is: “Kerry Blasts Foreign Policy, Says U.S. Has Become ‘International Pariah.'”

Never mind the fact that that is neither what Kerry said, nor the obvious intent of his comments. And forget that both surveys of international leaders and populations affirm the accuracy of Kerry’s statement. Fox (the only cable news channel that does not bring you the usual left wing bias), will find this just too juicy a morsel to exploit and too easy to misrepresent.

So be prepared for the Fox-led onslaught condemning these unpatriotic remarks that embolden the terrorists. And all public persons need to be aware of their QQ: Quotation Quotient. That means that you must now vet everything you are contemplating saying in public through a filter to ascertain its QQ. Never say anything that can be edited down to a misrepresentative soundbite.

Contine reading

CBS: Let Lara Logan Do Her Job

CBS News is fortunate to have one of the most dedicated and responsible reporters in broadcast journalism. But they apparently don’t appreciate it.

Lara Logan has been posting honest and courageous reports from Baghdad since before the fall of Saddam. Her latest, though, has been shuffled off to CBS’ web site without being broadcast on the network. If you see the piece, you might understand why it was treated this way. In addition to contradicting much of the administration’s delusional assertions of success, the story is accompanied by images of the brutal reality of life on the streets of Baghdad. Now she needs our help to get this on the air.

CBS has taken it upon themselves to decide that America “can’t handle the truth.” But as Ms. Logan herself says in a letter to MediaChannel:

“…this is not too gruesome to air, but rather too important to ignore.”

The letter also called for supporters to let CBS know that they are interested in these stories and that they want them to air. Here’s the email for the CBS Evening News.

For a little more background on Lara Logan, click more.

Contine reading

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Meet The (Message Control) Press

The trial of Scooter Libby, for lying about outing an undercover CIA agent, has always promised to deliver long held secrets of intrigue and deceit from the White House. And with the participation of so many figures from the media (i.e. Judith Miller, Matt Cooper, Bob Novak, Tim Russert, etc.), there has also been the tantalizing prospect of embarrassing divulgences from that arena as well. Now the first of those promises is being kept.

When former Cheney communications director, Cathie Martin, testified yesterday, she outlined the options that the vice-president should consider in response to allegations that the White House was manipulating intelligence to promote its case against Iraq. Her testimony included the following:

Option 1: “MTP-VP”, she wrote, then listed the pros and cons of a vice presidential appearance on the Sunday show. Under “pro,” she wrote: “control message.”

“I suggested we put the vice president on ‘Meet the Press,’ which was a tactic we often used,” Martin testified. “It’s our best format.”

I can’t wait to hear Tim Russert’s response to this revelation that his program was a preferred dumping ground for administration propaganda. Martin detailed practices designed to bury bad news and otherwise distract the press. Then she complained that reporters didn’t accept her word and even stopped calling. That speaks well of certain members of the press, but also reveals how transparent her machinations must have been.

In addition to cracking the door a bit on the VP’s media connivances, it was also disclosed that Cathie Martin is the wife of FCC chairman, Kevin Martin. In an administration rife with cronyism, it seems a little too convenient that the VP’s director of communications is sleeping with the head of the federal agency responsible for regulating the media companies she has been lying to.

The Envelope Please…

The list of nominated documentaries for this year’s Academy Awards is out and, like most news events these days, it is certain to produce reactions from all quarters. Hollywood is a frequent victim of attacks from right wing cultural imperialists, and lefties get their knocks in as well. But Academy voters are rarely mistaken for bleeding edge trend-setters, so anyone attempting to color them as clandestine Bolsheviks need to get their prescriptions refilled.

Ultimately, artists must be free to express themselves and, when they do, they naturally mirror the world around them. That is the most likely explanation for the make-up of this year’s nominees. Let’s take a look…

An Inconvenient Truth, Davis Guggenheim
Al Gore’s supercharged Powerpoint presentation examining the foreboding effects of climate change on the planet and the need for a more urgent public response to it.

Deliver Us From Evil, Amy Berg and Frank Donner
A story of child-molestation and pedophilia among Catholic priests and the Church’s high-level attempts to suppress it.

Jesus Camp, Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady
At a summer camp for Evangelical Christians, children undergo a different sort of abuse as they are taught to speak in tongues and pray for the appointment of pro-life Supreme Court justices.

Iraq In Fragments, James Longley and John Sinno
Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds in Iraq are profiled in this examination of the divisive forces that are tearing the country apart.

My Country, My Country, Laura Poitras and Jocelyn Glatzer
A Sunni doctor in Iraq runs for office as the U.S. government works behind the scenes to bring off the election.

In my estimation, we have here a surprisingly strong slate of socially relevant work by responsible and creative filmmakers. In this respect the Academy’s choices reflect the mood and concerns of the community of filmgoers and the public in general. But the Culture Warriors and Dittoheads will surely see this as proof that the Academy is stacked with secular-progressive terrorist sympathizers who fear that the sky is falling.

When the attacks start flying about the unseemly influence of Hollywood lefties, I hope everyone will remember that the only creatures of Hollywood that have ever actually held the levers of political power have been conservative Republicans like Reagan, Murphy, Thompson, Grandy, Bono, and Schwarzenegger. And I don’t hear any of the righteous wingers complaining about that.

Fool Me Once, You Can’t Get Fooled Again

Who knew that the media would take so well to the lesson served up by our Educator-In-Chief:

“There’s an old saying in Tennessee – I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee – that says, fool me once, shame on – shame on you. Fool me – you can’t get fooled again.” GWB, September 17, 2002.

It appears that some factions of the press do not intend to get fooled again. Take for instance, this headline and excerpt from the Los Angeles Times:

Scant evidence found of Iran-Iraq arms link
“Before invading Iraq, the administration warned repeatedly that Saddam Hussein was developing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Those statements proved wrong. The administration’s charges about Iran sound uncomfortably familiar to some.”

Those to whom the charges sound uncomfortably familiar are people with measurable brainwave activity. It’s nice to see that some in the press are in that category. Given the degree to which much of the press swallowed administration lies in the ramp up to the Iraq war, it is encouraging to see some evidence of professional skepticism on the part of the Times. There was plenty of reason to be skeptical the first time around, but that didn’t stop most major news outlets from ignoring the danger signs and publishing the administration’s propaganda.

Having been burned, it seems that, at least in this case, they aren’t going to roll over again. As BushCo manuevers to justify yet another unwarranted attack, this time against Iran, the newly discovered journalistic gumption of the Times produces this observation:

“U. S. officials have declined to provide documantation of seized Iranian ordnance, despite repeated requests. The U. S. military often releases photographs of other weapons finds.”

By reporting that documentation was requested and denied, and contrasting that with previous known behavior, the authors have dutifully informed their readers with sufficient and appropriate data from which informed conclusions can be made. That’s how it’s supposed to work. And it should work that way regardless of who’s in office, whether or not they are popular, or what effect it might have on the reporters or their employers. If enough of the media provides this kind of critical review of government PR, we might just avoid another deadly and pointless war.

These are the times that define the media. Will they fulfill their obligation to the people they serve? Will they honor the journalistic principles that are the foundation of open and free democracies?

We’ll see.

Fox Promo: Not The Usual Left Wing Bias

Well, it’s happened. Fox has finally let the shroud fall revealing themselves for what we all know they are: A rabidly right-wing mouthpiece for Republican dogma. Over the weekend they broadcast this promo on their feculent air:

The actual video can be seen at Hot Air, where they are moaning orgasmically at what they view as their pet network finally standing up for itself. In fact, one particularly comical comment has ritethinker opining:

“…If all you were ever fed was corn, and you were told that corn is only served on the cob, what would be your reaction to say a bowl of cream corn? […] Could it not be possible that the people feeding you corn on the cob were misleading you? […] Along comes this company offering cream corn. […] That doesn’t mean Fox is slanted to the right, it just means you are getting the cream corn you were never offered before.”

Putting aside the ironically apt use of corn as an analogy for what you see at Fox News, ritethinker correctly characterizes Fox as the purveyor of the processed and mashed variety of news as opposed to its natural state, on the cob. Fox viewers, no doubt, take comfort in the pre-masticated gruel they are being served.

What on earth might have inspired Fox to throw the Wingnut Closet door open so wide? Why now?

This is an obvious cry for help. They have been watching their ratings sink precipitously for the past 12 months. Double digit declines, month after month, have got to hurt. And in most cases they are being dragged down by their resident bloviating bully, Bill O’Reilly. Add to that the fact that the objects of their partisan affection in congress are either gone, or demoted. They no longer have the legislative safety net upon which which they have come to rely. To the contrary, what they have now is a congressional majority that has been a punching bag for Fox for the past decade. Oversight hearings anyone?

This is the behavior of desperation. They are terrified of what the future holds. They can’t sit back and do nothing, but they have no clue what they should do. So they lash out hoping to incite their most loyal fans to renew their sycophantic idolation and somehow pull them from the brink of the abyss. To that end they have decided to abandon any hopes of being an impartial, international media outlet. Here is another promo they ran this weekend:

I’m not sure that foreign news bureaus are going to find that to be a particularly professional journalistic posture. Fox is clinging to deadenders in the states to try to stave off the inevitable. Their ratings have been moving in tandem with the American populace. As Bush’s approval goes down, so does Fox viewership. With the public’s negative reaction to Bush’s latest Hail Maliki pass, Fox knows that the people are no longer hypnotized by the fear mongering of this administration, and of Fox itself. Consequently, they know that their prospects are as bleak as Bush’s. So they resort to this pathetic overreaching which only confirms that they have completely run out of ideas. I almost feel sorry for them. Ummm…..scratch that.