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John McCain Misspeaks

Last month John McCain made widely ridiculed remarks about the security of taking a leisurely stroll in Baghdad:

“…there are neighborhoods in Baghdad where you and I could walk through those neighborhoods today.”

But during an interview on 60 Minutes, McCain displayed the mark of leadership for which he has become known by offering this explanation: He misspoke.

McCain courageously confronted his critics with the bold admission that his words meant nothing. But more than that, he revealed that this was not the first time, and he defiantly pledged that it would not be the last. Now, that’s what I call “straight talk.”

When in our nation’s history have we had a leader who could be so reliably confounding; whose mangling of language rendered communication so hopelessly irrelevant? If you’re like me, then you know the answer to that question. And you know that John McCain is the perfect candidate to revitalize the legacy of George W. Bush, America’s most proficient prevaricator.

When McCain tells you that he misspoke, you know that you don’t have to worry yourself with anything he has said. When he tells you that he has done it before, you know that he is a man of experience. When he tells you that he will misspeak in the future, you can rest assured that he is making a promise he intends to keep.

Vote for John McCain in 2008. He says things he might actually mean.

Fox News Implementing A Slow Growth Strategy

Continuing a pattern that goes back more than a year, Fox News is again underperforming its peers. The latest Nielsen data comparing the first quarter of 2007 with the same period of 2006 shows Fox growing at the slowest rate of any of the cable news nets.

This comes at a time when much of the Cable news community was obsessed with the death of Anna Nicole Smith. The concentration of reports on overtly tabloid subjects such as Smith is often justified by the media as providing the audience with what it wants. Wolf Blitzer told an exasperated Jack Cafferty on air that…

“I know a lot of people are complaining about [the Smith coverage]. But a lot of people are also watching.”

Bill O’Reilly, a creation of tabloid media himself, ironically mused…

“I’m looking at her and seeing a media creation.”

That wasn’t enough to prevent him and Fox from airing by far the most coverage of all things Smith. The Project for Excellence in Journalism has the details:

“The Fox News Channel spent about 400 minutes or 32% of its airtime, on this case. This was 50% higher than MSNBC which devoted 21% of its airtime to the story and more than double CNN’s coverage of 14%.”

Fox’s Smith habit even exceeded it’s coverage of that little distraction over in Iraq by 2 to 1. That’s right, for every minute Fox spent covering the war in Iraq, the soldiers, their families, the political skirmishes, etc., Fox spent two minutes probing the Smith affair. But if the public is clamoring for more Anna Nicole, it isn’t reflected in the ratings, since every other network devoted less time to Smith but grew more. One could make the argument that the public is actually thirsting for more relevant content that has a true impact on their lives.

Taking a look at Fox’s top personality reveals the same patterns as for the network as a whole. While still drawing far more viewers than his competition, O’Reilly is also still growing far slower.

But O’Reilly’s troubles extend beyond his competition. Although his gains are far below those of his arch nemesis, Keith Olbermann, they are also lower than his prime time colleagues on Fox, Hannity and Van Susteren. And the pressure seems to be getting to him. In the following clip, he exhibits the unrestrained rage of man who has totally lost control of his senses. Even his buddy Geraldo knows a meltdown when he sees one and tells O’Reilly not to, “obscure a tragedy to make a cheap political point.” But, of course, that’s typical O’Reilly.

Discovering PlanetGreen

Discovery Communications, parent of the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and the Learning Channel, has announced that they will be launching a new cable network dedicated to environmental living. The new channel will be carved from the rebranding of the Discovery Home channel.

Discovery HomeThis is an interesting idea that could capitalize on the popularity of green culture and contribute to a positive advancement of environmental education. Last year, “An Inconvenient Truth” became the 3rd highest grossing documentary of all time and is approaching $50 million dollars in box office. In fact 4 of the top ten documentaries are nature or health themed. That bodes well for the viability of this genre of programming. Discovery is accepting responsibility for a healthy planet with this venture, and they are holding themselves up as a model by announcing an even broader effort, dubbed PlanetGreen, to promote an environmental lifestyle. They even plan to make the company’s headquarters carbon neutral.

That’s more than our current political establishment is doing. At a time when our President is openly hostile to environmental concerns, there is a great need to inspire the American people to live harmoniously with the Earth. Americans are curiously schizophrenic when it comes to the environment. While every poll shows an overwhelming support for green policy, they still tool around the suburbs in SUVs. Clearly more education to reinforce their innate tendencies is required. David Zaslav, CEO of Discovery Communications, appears to recognize both the morality and the opportunity of eco-awareness.

“To be able to rebrand an existing channel and launch with over 50 million homes in 2008 is a big statement to where the world is today,” Mr. Zaslav said in an interview. “Five years ago, people would have said ‘who are those lefties talking about green?’ “

Those lefties are the majority of mainstream citizens, and they are ready for new media choices that represent their views. By rebranding an existing channel, Discovery will debut with the 50 million homes already subscribed to the Discovery Home network. That’s a considerable launching pad for the new effort that has yet to be named. If they asked me, I would say to keep the current name, “Home,” with an arrow pointing to a picture of the Earth, which is already incorporated into their logo. This is, after all, our one and only home.

2006 Peabody Awards Presented

The Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia has just announced the winners of the 2006 George Foster Peabody Awards. The winners are recognized for “distinguished achievement and meritorious service by radio and television networks, stations, producing organizations, cable television organizations and individuals.”

This year, there are some notable productions that had a profound impact on American culture, politics, and society. And so, without further ado, here is a list of selected honorees:

Mental Anguish and the Military
Using candid, sometimes startling interviews, NPR investigates how Iraq War veterans coping with post-traumatic stress disorder are treated, socially as well as medically, at one U.S. military base. Produced by National Public Radio

This American Life: Habeas Schmabeas
This report, about the denial of habeas corpus to terrorism suspects, focuses on the stories of two former Guantanamo Bay prisoners and explains why the right is so fundamental in American law. Produced by WBEZ Chicago Public Radio

ABC News Brian Ross Investigates: Conduct Unbecoming
Brian Ross` broadcasts and web postings about Rep. Mark Foley`s sexually explicit emails to young Congressional pages triggered new revelations, speeded Foley`s resignation and may have affected the outcome of the November elections. Produced by ABC World News Tonight, ABC News Nightline, ABC “The Blotter”

Command Mistake
In a local-station investigation that spread to three continents, WISH demonstrated that U.S. Marines are sustaining head injuries that can kill or cost millions to rehab – merely for lack of helmet padding that costs $30. Produced by WISH-TV

For My Country? Latinos in the Military
This probing but even-handed documentary examines the social, cultural and economic realities that lead a demographically disproportionate number of young Latinos to enlist in the military and questions whether they are being targeted by recruiters. Produced by mun2

Baghdad ER
Filmed at the 86th Combat Support Hospital and presented without commentary or narration, this documentary is a horrifying and humbling testament to the dedication of medical personnel confronting the overwhelming brutality of war. Produced by Home Box Office, Downtown Community Television

When The Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts
Spike Lee`s examination of Hurricane Katrina`s devastation and the government`s neglect of New Orleans in the storm`s aftermath is an epic chronicle of destruction and broken promises, a heartrending document and a profound work of art. Produced by HBO Documentary Films in association with 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks

Congratulations to these fine programs for the contribution they’ve made to our understanding of our nation, and ourselves.

A Declaration Of Independence From The Los Angeles Times

Human beings are creatures of habit. We find great comfort in familiar surroundings and established routines. That’s why, despite the abundance of persuasions, it is still difficult to break free from a decades long ritual of breakfast with the Los Angeles Times. Difficult, but not impossible.

The time has now come when the negatives outweigh the positives. There are many who would say that that time came long ago. So many, in fact that the Times has the distinction of having lost a larger percentage of subscribers than any other major American newspaper. And now as I join them, I shall, paraphrasing the Declaration of Independence, “declare the causes which impel [me] to the separation.”

The past couple of years have been tumultuous for the Times and its parent, the Tribune Company. Along with rapidly declining circulation, they also have been undergoing close scrutiny by investors who have forced them to seek opportunities to sell the paper or the whole company. There was lukewarm reaction to their emergence on the market, but a few curious parties emerged. They included the Chandler family (the previous and historical owners of the Times); a management consortium (of current Tribune executives); the McCormick Foundation (which is also dominated by current Tribune executives); local L. A. billionaires (Ron Burkle, Eli Broad and David Geffen in separate deals); and Sam Zell (the Chicago billionaire real- estate developer).

In addition, the newsroom has been roiled by slashes in personnel – more than 20% since Tribune acquired the Times in 2000. They have also run through several publishers and editors. The latest executive heads to roll were publisher Jeffrey Johnson and editor Dean Baquet, who were both cut loose because they balked at firing even more news staffers. Before his dismissal, Johnson wisely cautioned that, “Newspapers can’t cut their way into the future.” Unfortunately for Johnson, Chicago responded by cutting him. More recently we’ve been forced to sit through the embarrassing departure of the editorial editor, Andres Martinez, amidst a newsroom soap opera that included a Hollywood producer and his publicist, whom Martinez was linked to romantically.
Contine reading

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A Stroll In Baghdad

Last week John McCain launched a press offensive to declare that things were improving in Iraq. He told Bill Bennet on his radio show, that…

McCain In Iraq“there are neighborhoods in Baghdad where you and I could walk through those neighborhoods today.”

Despite the charm of a romantic outing with John and Bill, hand in hand, strolling the palm-lined avenues of Sadr City, I don’t think that even a high-stakes gambler like Bennet would take that risk. McCain himself was unprepared to do so when, a few days after his rosy remarks, he showed up in Baghdad wearing a Kevlar vest, with an entourage of 100 soldiers, three Blackhawk helicopters, and two Apache gunships. That would make me feel a little safer as well.

McCain repeated his assertions of tranquility on CNN admonishing Wolf Blitzer to “catch up,” and added that even General Petraeus tooled around the city in an unarmored Humvee (which Petraeus’ staff denied when they finished laughing).

CNN’s correspondent in Iraq, Michael Ware, was struck by the absurdity of McCain’s comments. Drawing on his experience of four years in Iraq, Ware pointed out the obvious: that the streets of Baghdad are still dangerous for anyone, especially an American. He added:

“I don’t know what part of Neverland Senator McCain is talking about when he says we can go strolling in Baghdad.”

Well, now he’s done it. Ware’s insistence on reporting accurately has now set off a torrent of hostility from the right wing echo chamber. Their leader, Matt Drudge, led things off by reporting that Ware had “heckled” Sens. McCain and Lindsay Graham in a press conference. Drudge’s unnamed “official” called Ware’s conduct “outrageous,” saying…

“here you have two United States Senators in Bagdad [sic] giving first-hand reports while Ware is laughing and mocking their comments. I’ve never witnessed such disrespect. This guy is an activist not a reporter.”

The only problem with that report is that Ware denies that he heckled anyone and, in fact, didn’t even ask a question at the event. Video obtained by Raw Story confirms that there was no heckling by Ware or anybody else. So if Ware was telling the truth, who is the lying “official” that was cited by Drudge? Or is Drudge the liar? That scenario wouldn’t require much imagination.

It is disturbing enough that McCain is trying to mislead the American people with fantasies of an Iraqi vacation paradise. But he is doing so at a time when, contrary to his assertions of progress, things are actually getting worse. There were more killings in Iraq in March than in February, when the escalation began. And the number of American soldiers killed was the tenth highest since the war started in 2003. But this doesn’t stop McCain and his media enablers from lying and slandering honest reporters.

I’m actually a little surprised at the impatience of the attack dogs on the right. Had they listened a little longer to Ware’s conversation with Blitzer, they would have heard him say this about the relationship between violence in Iraq and politics in Washington:

“Do you think anyone enduring that is paying attention to artificial deadlines that are going to get vetoed by the president? And even if they were to pass through the legislative process, would only serve al Qaeda and Iran, America’s enemies? No. People are focusing on the near game.”

Ware is characterizing the legislative timetables advocated by Democrats as artificial and advantageous to Al Qaeda. That’s a perspective that’s shared by the pro-war right and you would think they would appreciate it. But they’ve developed a strain of ideological blindness so severe that it causes them to beat up on anyone who points out the cracks in their false accounts of a successful “surge” – even their allies.

The New York Times Editorial On April 1st

The Rovian Era
“Turn over a scandal in Washington these days and the chances are you’ll find Karl Rove. His tracks are everywhere: whether it’s helping to purge United States attorneys, coaching bureaucrats on how to spend taxpayers’ money to promote Republican candidates, hijacking the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives for partisan politics, or helping to organize a hit on the character of one of the first people to publicly reveal the twisting of intelligence reports on Iraq.”

This Times editorial contains more truth than the paper has published in six years, including this characterization of the BushCo mission:

“…the Bush administration’s far more menacing failure to distinguish the Republican Party from the government, or the state itself.”

All of this just makes me wonder if tomorrow the Times will retract it all with a big “April Fools” headline.

Bush Names Bill O’Reilly To Fill In For Tony Snow

Tony Snow’s recently diagnosed recurrence of cancer could not have come at a worse time for the Bush White House. Any president always has a need for a spokesperson that can present his vision and keep a disorderly flock of reporters in line. But current events are weighing on this administration with domestic scandals at the Department of Justice, a new and hostile Congress, foreign affairs heating up over Iran’s arrest of British soldiers, and, of course, the long-running and unpopular war in Iraq.

If there were ever a time that a president depended on an agile and articulate spokesman, it is now. And that is why the White House, looking to the bench that produced its previous stars, introduced the press gathered in the briefing room today to his new press secretary, Bill O’Reilly.

“Bill will be a valuable addition to our team,” said Bush. “He’s going to help us to prevaricate our agenda to the American people.”

O’Reilly didn’t waste any time taking the reins of his new post. With a gentle elbow jab, O’Reilly subtly nudged the President from the podium. Facing a curious and expectant press corps for the first time, he confidently assured them the President would be alright just as soon as he caught his breath. When David Gregory of NBC asked if the President could use a little help getting back to his feet, O’Reilly defiantly objected to Gregory’s negativity.

O’Reilly: “The President is in great shape and doesn’t need liberal media kooks like you implying that his administration is falling down on the job.”

Gregory: “I just thought he might…”

O’Reilly: “Oh, don’t give me that crap.”

Gregory: “…need a hand.”

O’Reilly: “Cut his mic. Somebody cut his mic right now. Lester, do you have a question?”

Les Kinsolving of WorldNetDaily: “Thanks Bill. Yesterday Matt Drudge reported that a homeless veteran accused someone that he thought looked like Nancy Pelosi of running off with his Persian cat. Is the President planning to have Speaker Pelosi arrested and is he at all concerned about the presence of Persian felines, that may in fact be Iranian, prowling the back alleys of America?”

Before O’Reilly could respond, Helen Thomas rose to leave the room, presumably to answer her ringing cell phone.

O’Reilly: “And just where do you think you’re going?”

Thomas: “I have to take this call.”

O’Reilly: “Sure you do. It’s typical of all you secular-progressives that can’t take the heat. They’re afraid to come on ‘The Fact…’ um, to come to the press briefing because they’re afraid to confront me. Go ahead, take your call you little baby. Any other questions?”

Gregory: “Is the President breathing? Don’t you think he should see a doctor or…”

O’Reilly: “I thought I told you to shut up. If that’s your microphone he’s using, Norah, you’re in big trouble. You know what? This press conference is over.”

With that, O’Reilly left the room. Gregory and Fox News correspondent, Carl Cameron, helped Bush up and leaned him against the podium.

Bush: “There see,” wheezed the President. “A valuable addition to our team. You didn’t get any more out of him than you did any of our other press secretaries, did you?”

Get well soon, Tony.

The Dynamics Of Fox News Opinions

The network best known for taking the phrase, “fair and balanced,” and draining it of all meaning is looking for more ways to upgrade their partisan message machine. The just published Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll (pdf) contains questions that might charitably be considered unconventional. More objectively, they could only be viewed as bizarre and manipulative. After the routine queries about candidate favorability and voting preferences, the poll devolves into questions like these:

Click to enlarge.

34) Do you think a television network that is hosting a presidential debate can influence the outcome of that debate?

35) If a political party agrees to participate in debates hosted by one television network but refuses to do debates hosted by another network, do you think it is fair to say the party is picking the network it believes is more aligned with its views and so would ask easier questions during the debate?

It’s almost irrelevant what the responses to these questions are. For the record, majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents all responded affirmatively to both questions (all responses are in the pdf link above). So the public is suspicious of the motives of both the networks and the parties. However, it should be noted that the first question is simple and straightforward, but the second adds conjecture that is openly biased. It implies that the only reason a party would discriminate between networks is to seek favorable treatment. It ignores the possibility that they may just be seeking to avoid hostile treatment by a network that is committed to their electoral defeat.

But what is really of interest is that Fox is attempting to use their poll to develop strategies for further exploitation of their audience and the media. These questions have no usefulness to the public and, indeed, Fox didn’t even publish them in their story devoted to the poll’s results. The questions could only have been included to help the network define their reaction to recent criticism about the proposed Fox-sponsored Democratic debates that were later canceled due to opposition from grassroots party members.

And there’s more. The next question is virtually dripping with the sort of prejudice that steers Democrats away from Fox in the first place.

36) After the 2004 presidential election, the president of the left-wing political action committee made the following comment about the Democratic Party, “In the last year, grassroots contributors like us gave more than $300 million to the Kerry campaign and the DNC, and proved that the Party doesn’t need corporate cash to be competitive. Now it’s our Party: we bought it, we own it and we’re going to take it back.” Do you think the Democratic Party should allow a grassroots organization like to take it over or should it resist this type of takeover?

Here Fox is using a controversial remark by a political activist that has not been validated in the electorate or by the party. In fact, Fox’ own poll reveals that only 63% of respondents have even heard of MoveOn. Still, Fox extends the impact of the remark to imply that the party is actually at risk of being “taken over” by a left wing PAC. In the context of this question, I doubt that a majority of MoveOn members would respond affirmatively. The question also succeeds in subtly demeaning the legitimate role of Americans to guide the actions of their representatives. Exercising the Constitutionally protected rights to free assembly and petitioning for redress of grievances, is not akin to a political takeover.

Fox is clearly upset that an association of peasants (i.e. citizens) successfully denied them a platform from which to assault the Democratic field of presidential candidates. And the inclusion of questions like these in their polling is evidence that they intend to do something about it. They have already issued veiled threats to John Edwards for being the first to decline Fox’ invitation to debate. Their intention to retaliate is clear and the answers to these questions will be useful for that purpose. But they aren’t even waiting to parse the poll’s results to launch their attack. Just look at the first paragraph of the article reporting the results of the poll:

“The latest FOX News poll finds that Americans think the next person to move into the White House will be a Democrat, and while many voters would be enthusiastic or pleased if any one of the current front-runners were to win, one candidate scares more people than the others – Sen. Hillary Clinton.” [cue ominous music]

This is a poll that shows President Bush with the highest disapproval rating he has ever received. But Bush’s record breaking achievment doesn’t appear until the third paragraph. It’s the chilling visage of Hillary Clinton with which Fox chose to lead the story. What they do not report is that the number for Clinton is skewed by the high number of Republicans (50%) that find her “scary.” Only 7% of Democrats thought so, which is in line with the number of those afraid of any of the candidates by voters of their own party.

It is this kind of blatant hostility that proves that Fox is not an impartial news network. And the questions they ask in this poll show that their bias is not accidental. They are engaging in a coordinated plot to manipulate public opinion just as Rupert Murdoch admitted in February, and they are conducting audience research to learn the best way to do it.

And Fox still wonders why Democrats don’t want to play in their yard?