DeadLines

nullJustice Dept. against ‘Net neutrality’
The Justice Department on Thursday said AT&T and other Big Telecom are more important than mere citizens. They believe that the industry should have the right to decide what you can and can not access on the Internet.

Democracy, the press at a critical juncture
American democracy is suffering. The natural strain on our political system after more than two centuries is accelerating with the purposeful weakening of the press. This article is one of the best on the subject of media consolidation that I’ve ever read.

Americans Feel Military Is Best at Ending the War
Despite the headline, the real news in this column is that 33 percent of all Americans, including 40 percent of Republicans and 27 percent of Democrats, say Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. That’s just so sad.

Dow Jones chief paves way for job cuts
Despite a promise from Rupert Murdoch that there would be no layoffs if he were to acquire the company, Dow Jones is talking now about layoffs.

Study finds left-wing brain, right-wing brain
Previous psychological studies have found that conservatives tend to be more structured and persistent in their judgments whereas liberals are more open to new experiences.

Rupert’s Attack Dog Gets Bitten, Keeps Barking
The [New York] Post hasn’t won a Pulitzer Prize since 1931 (which was well before Murdoch), a fact that pleases [editor Col] Allan. “Hopefully never!” he exclaims defiantly. “Who would want to win an award that is dished out by the hard left of American journalism? Who’d want that?” Sore loser?

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The O’Reilly Fracture: Countdown To Victory Edition

Keith Olbermann’s Countdown has reached a milestone that many thought was out of reach. After getting a boost from an airing during the pre-season football broadcast on NBC a couple of weeks ago, Countdown has burst into a real competition with its nemesis, The O’Reilly Factor.

The highpoint of the week for Olbermann was Friday when he bested O’Reilly in the 25-54 demo by 39,000 viewers. But the trend has been heading this way for a while. On Thursday, O’Reilly took the hour, but Olbermann had won the first half (Countdown: 408K – Factor: 373K). An average of all airings for the shows for the week gave O’Reilly a lead of just 11.7K demo viewers. A year ago O’Reilly was clobbering Olbermann by 279K. Are the walls closing in around you Billy?

The first full week after Olbermann’s NBC appearance, Countdown spiked 17% over its 2nd quarter 2007 average. This week that bump is 37%, so there is no evidence that this train is losing speed. The Factor, on the other hand, is still under-performing its 2nd quarter average by 16%. O’Reilly is quickly becoming the Little Train That Couldn’t.

A key point in this victory is that, while last week’s success was achieved with O’Reilly on vacation, this week Bill was on duty and he still got his loofah handed to him. Also, for the record, Olbermann appeared during halftime on the Saints-Colts game Thursday which might have given him an extra push on Friday. And the week was shortened by the Labor Day holiday (Countdown did not air on Monday but O’Reilly did. The Factor pulled in just 329K which was its 2nd worst number for the week).

All of this leads me to quote from the insightful analysis of a truly visionary media scholar:

Hopefully NBC will recognize what’s happening here. And it isn’t just that Olbermann is a phenomenon who warrants additional network attention (although that’s true). It is also that there is a vastly underserved market for mainstream progressive news that is factual and compelling. That is a message that all of the media should heed and act on. It’s time to stop coddling losers like Glenn Beck and Tucker Carlson. It’s time to stop pandering to rightist, corporate media. It’s time to start reshaping the media into something more diverse and representative of America.

Mark @ News Corpse ~ September 4, 2007

By the way…Happy Birthday Bill-O.


Petreaus And Crocker On Fox News

Perhaps this is a Fox News pilot for a program to follow Hannity and Not Hannity: Petreaus And Crocker. Today, following their testimony on Capital Hill, the general and the ambassador will appear exclusively on Fox News in a move that affirms the starkly partisan intentions of both the guests and the the network. Sometimes they make this just to easy.


Bin Laden Video Premieres To Conservative Raves

The latest video episode of Osama bin Laden’s terror series (transcript) has stirred up the rightist media mouthpieces like little that has come before it. There is a uniform glee amongst them that savors the return of OBL much the same as Harry Potter fans relish each new edition of the young wizard’s tales. Were it opening at the Cineplex, I expect that lines of Crusaders dressed up as Rummy and Saddam would be forming around the block. Their delight stems from their confidence that every Osama sighting scores points for the Republican Doctrine of freedom by agression.

Their leader, Mr. Bush, kicked things off with his own critique of Osama’s new production:

“I found it interesting that on the tape Iraq was mentioned, which is a reminder that Iraq is a part of this war against extremists.”

It’s also a reminder that bin Laden is still free to make videos that bring such joy to the hearts of America’s conservative warmongers. The eminence grise of this gang, Rush Limbaugh declared, less than a year ago, that he would no longer carry water for the GOP losers of last November’s election. But today he still wears his yoke with giddy elation:

“It is a liberal rant. It’s everything you would hear out of San Francisco. It’s what you would hear from a major college campus, take your pick of a professor. It’s on the Senate floor. It’s anything you would hear out of the mouth of an average elected Democrat. It’s stunning. I can’t wait to get a hold of the actual transcript of this thing…”

Rush might have a point if you believe that liberal rants propose state-sponsored religions that take precedence over Constitutional law as bin Laden does in this video; or if you believe that it was liberals and not the Reagan administration that supported bin Laden’s Mujahideen in Afghanistan who are also praised in this video. This is the kind of misrepresentation for which the right is famous. Sean Hannity provides another example:

“(Bin Laden) seemed to adopt the very same language that is being used by the hard left in this country as he describes what’s going on in Iraq as a civil war, he actually used the term ‘neocons’ …”

Indeed, bin Laden referred to neocons Richard Perle, the disgraced Pentagon advisor who was forced to resign from the Defense Policy Board for conflict of interest; Donald Rumsfeld, the disgraced Secretary of Defense who was forced to resign for incompetence; and Dick Cheney, who, while still in office, has the distinction of being the least popular vice-president ever. If Hannity wants to associate bin Laden’s comments critical of these neocons with Democrats for the purpose of tarnishing them, he should be aware that he is also disparaging the vast majority of Americans who oppose these crooks and made their views known long ago.

And Wizbang chimes in: “The new OBL tape is out… He’s feeling kinda down spending all his time in a cave talking to himself so he decided to use his tape to audition for Daily Kos…”

And Protein Wisdom: “To borrow from Voltaire, if Osama bin Laden didn’t exist, Republicans would have to invent him. At the very least, they might want to send him a fruit basket.”

And Ace of Spades: “Watch him criticize Democrats, Kos-like, for not being forceful enough in trying to end the War in Iraq, and even praise Noam Chomsky and the Kyoto Accord. I’ll give him this: he knows his target audience.”

And Wake Up America: “WOW, after reading the transcript, bin Laden is getting ALL his talking points from the Democrats in our own country. How many times have we said ‘they are listening to us’, they are ’emboldened by our Democratic politicians?'”

And Little Green Footballs: “The new Osama video is all over the news; in it, he advocates reading Noam Chomsky. It’s another pretty direct appeal to the Western left.”

And Atlas Shrugs: “The Bin Laden sounds like a candidate for the Democrat presidential ticket.”

The celebration greeting bin Laden must be gratifying coming from the group that has provided him with the most effective recruiting campaign he could have ever imagined. This video seems like little more than a holiday bonus for his most loyal fans. Do conservatives think for a minute that bin Laden doesn’t know the effect of the words he has chosen? To whom do they think he is playing?

If I had to pick out a single piece of this production number that succeeded in delivering a message that deserves our attention, it would be this:

“…despite America being the greatest economic power and possessing the most powerful and up-to-date military arsenal as well…19 young men were able to change the direction of its compass.”

The message delivered here is not the one that bin Laden thinks it is. The sad point that this quote conveys is that America, under the guidance of the Bush Administration, has radically shifted course. We have adopted new laws that chafe against our Constitution. We have, for the first time, engaged in a war of aggression. We have abandoned long-held values of justice and humanitarianism. We have become divided as never before. And our faith in institutions like elections and the media and the church are strained and tainted. And all of these changes in the direction of our compass are indeed due to the reactions of frightened politicians who infect their constituents with their fear. They believe that the answer to terrorism is to be afraid; to lock yourself up in a prison so that the evildoers cannot harm you; to surrender your liberties in pursuit of a false security. Never mind Franklin D. Roosevelt, who’s famous quote went further than most people recite:

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror, which paralyzes needed effort to convert retreat into advance.”

This is the victory of modern terrorism. It’s the sense of gratification we feel believing, in our bunkers, that the terrorists have not won and that we are still a proud and free people. Our enemies will never see us cower. Sure, they’ve seen the passage of the Patriot Act that limits long-held freedoms. They’ve seen our government listening in on our phone calls and monitoring our financial transactions. They see us lining up at airport terminals shoeless and forced to surrender our shampoo and Evian water. They see us resort to preemptive war and torture and submission to imperial, undemocratic leaders. They see us mourning the loss of our sons and daughters who are not even engaged in battle with the 9/11 perpetrators.

And now they see us anxiously hanging on every word uttered by the madman they revere. But if there is one thing that offers even a small measure of relief, it is that they will never have the satisfaction of seeing us recoil from militarism or the comforting imposition of martial law.


NewsBusters Has Kos Envy

The folks at NewsBusters are lamenting the lack of a right-wing version of DailyKos. In a lengthy post on their web site, they seek to examine why the left has been so much more successful at motivating activists and advancing progressive issues.

“Whether or not one agrees with the political views of Markos Moulitsas, there’s no getting around the fact his website has become not just a powerful force in the blogosphere, but is also shaping the Democrat Party. This raises an important question: Why isn’t there a conservative website like Daily Kos?”

The NewsBusters column erupted from the musings of Dean Barnett at the Weekly Standard and David Weigel, associate editor of Reason. While their soul searching has produced some accurate descriptions of the differences between the right and the left online, their conclusions are devoid of insight or logic.

The contributions by Barnett and Weigel correctly observe, for instance, that conservative blogs are structured as top-down enterprises and they focus more on punditry than political practicalities. In other words, they’re more interested in disseminating coordinated messages than in precinct walking and campaign outreach.

But when NewsBusters ventures to explain the reasons for dKos’ success they completely misread the obvious. They surmise from Barnett’s comment that the progressive blogosphere is “passionate and in your face,” that lefties are defined only by what they oppose. Even if that were true, it certainly would not be a path to Internet stardom. It is left to Weigel to correct the NewsBusters by pointing out a more profound reason for dKos’ popularity…

“Moulitsas’ willingness to open up the blog and let the readers run it was crucial.”

It’s called democracy and it’s practiced by notorious liberals dating back to Thomas Jefferson, et al. NewsBusters, however, believes that the Conservosphere is disadvantaged because of a liberal media bias that forces them to fight on that front while the left considers the press their allies. Huh? They seriously assert that…

“Kos and his compatriots can rely on the media being friendly to candidates and positions they support.”

By this I assume they mean the way we can rely on the media to responsibly investigate the reasons for going to war. Or perhaps they are referring to the friendly way the press incessantly hounds Democratic candidates about their haircuts or where they attended school when they were six. They even quote Glenn Reynolds who says…

“People on the right think their political machine works, but that the media is out to get them […] People on the left, on the other hand, know the media is basically on their side, but feel that their political machine stinks.”

How then would they explain the innumerable references to media bias, incompetency, and slander that is a daily part of DailyKos (and News Corpse)? Anybody who is paying attention would be well aware of the dissatisfaction the left deservedly holds for the corporate-dominated media that routinely disparages progressives and their values, despite the fact that polls show that those are the values that are most representative of mainstream America. And once again, even if NewBusters were correct, it hardly serves as an explanation for dKos’ success.

NewsBusters goes on to ascribe a laundry list of situational reasons for why dKos took off: the war in Iraq; Howard Dean’s campaign; the Republican majority; etc. But they only seem to trip over a real reason accidentally by recognizing its “free-wheeling nature.” However, even here they reveal their disdain for free speech by describing the comments emerging from this environment as “abhorrent.”

The NewsBusters are clearly suffering from an Internet inferiority complex. At least they recognize now that a race is in progress and that they are losing badly. But I don’t know how they can expect to compete when they have no idea what the game is. If NewsBusters really wants to know why dKos is successful, and how they can emulate that success, they will have to remove their blinders. Now, I don’t want to give away the recipe, but I will say this: It includes generous heapings of reality and liberal portions of free thought (pun intended).

Update: NewsBusters has posted a response on their site that generously concedes some of what I’ve said here – mostly the parts where I conceded some of what they said there. But they also said that I was “laughably incorrect about the media being pro-war.” I guess they don’t read or watch the New York Times, The Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, etc. All of these media outlets, and more, were unquestioningly supportive of the administration’s arguments in the run-up to the war in both their reporting and their editorials.


The Art Of Misdirection: Osama Edition

I recently wrote about how the press has been diverted by the White House from newsworthy events that the President might not really want covered. That story described how the White House Press Office sent the Washington press corps off to far flung locales while the President went somewhere else entirely. But sending reporters on wild goose chases is not the only way to distract them from doing their jobs.

Today it was announced that Osama Bin Laden is expected to release the latest video in his “Death To America” serial. This episode is debuting the same week as the report from General Petraeus on the status of the “Surge” in Iraq. That’s awfully convenient timing for the war propagandists who would like nothing better than to stir the nation into a fear-drenched frenzy at the same time they are making the case to extend their engagement in Baghdad. Never mind the fact that Iraq and Bin Laden have nothing whatsoever to do with one another, the connection is (again) subtly reinforced.

I hope that when the Bin Laden video airs on TV people will remember that our preoccupation with Iraq is part of the reason that he is still out there making videos. And I hope that when people watch Gen. Petraeus advance his theory that the war is progressing swimmingly, they will ask themselves why we are there at all when Bin Laden is still loose planning new productions of terror. Finally, I hope that people pay attention to the way the media tries to juxtapose these otherwise unrelated events and don’t allow themselves to be blinded by the shiny objects radiating from their TV screens.

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Post NBC: Countdown Jumps, O’Reilly Slumps

On August 26, 2007, Keith Olbermann’s Countdown was broadcast on NBC. Despite a scattered schedule wherein the program was delayed or preempted in many markets, it performed respectably, delivering 4.1 million viewers. But what I was waiting for, was to see if there would be any afterglow that reflected on his MSNBC airing. There was:

For the week ending August 31, Countdown averaged 278,000 viewers in the key 25-54 demo. That’s a 17% increase over the program average for the 2nd quarter of 2007. It is fair to conclude that this spike was due almost entirely to the promotional value of the NBC broadcast. None of the other programs on MSNBC’s schedule enjoyed a comparable bounce. Olbermann’s numbers exceeded his 2nd quarter average (230K) as well as his prior week average (242K).

At the same time, The O’Reilly Factor suffered a rather severe slump. For the same week, it was off its 2nd quarter average by 51%. As result, Countdown came close to beating the Factor on Monday and Wednesday. But the piece de resistance came Thursday when Countdown actually fractured the Factor, topping it by a whopping 94,000 demo viewers. That’s not merely a win, it’s a rout.

It should be noted that Bill O’Reilly was on vacation last week and that explains at least part of the weakness in his ratings. But even comparing last week’s Countdown to the Factor’s 2nd quarter average shows that Olbermann cut a good 10% off of O’Reilly’s lead in just five days. O’Reilly has taken plenty of vacations that did not result in him losing to Countdown. That fact underscores the significance of last week’s performance of both shows.

Hopefully NBC will recognize what’s happening here. And it isn’t just that Olbermann is a phenomenon who warrants additional network attention (although that’s true). It is also that there is a vastly underserved market for mainstream progressive news that is factual and compelling. That is a message that all of the media should heed and act on. It’s time to stop coddling losers like Glenn Beck and Tucker Carlson. It’s time to stop pandering to rightist, corporate media. It’s time to start reshaping the media into something more diverse and representative of America.


White House Sends Press On Wild Goose Chases

Tony Snow’s subterfuge with regard to the President’s recent itinerary on his “surprise” visit to Iraq apparently is not the only time the White House has misled the press corps on presidential travel plans. CBS White House Correspondent Mark Knoller is a little miffed that he and his colleagues have been shipped off to destinations far removed from the President on days when newsworthy events took place.

“Three times in recent weeks, those of us who were covering the President’s trips to Kennebunkport, Maine; Crawford, Texas; and today to Bellevue, Washington were totally out of position for the big stories of the day.”

In the first instance, reporters were whisked off to Maine and missed the President’s press conference in DC. Then they were sent to Crawford while Bush stayed in Washington to announce the resignation of Karl Rove. After that, they were flying to Seattle while the President went to Crawford to make his first comments on the resignation of Alberto Gonzales.

Does it seem a little like the White House Press Office is intentionally diverting reporters to keep them away from the President when important news is being released? To be sure, there will be somebody at the event with Bush, but it will not be the assigned correspondent with the most knowledge and relevant experience covering the President. This leaves Bush facing a bunch of second stringers who will likely be less aggressive and less probing. That’s exactly as the President would want it.

If I were a White House correspondent, I would start to be more suspicious when asked to get aboard the press plane. Given the pattern of behavior demonstrated here, I would wonder what they might be sending me away from.

All of this would be troubling all by itself, but the impact of this news is somewhat diluted by Knoller’s admission that the press is often not in close proximity to presidential newsmaking anyway.

“Truth be told, on most presidential trips, many of us in the press corps cover his statements and actions without actually laying eyes on him. We hear his statements on audio feeds from the White House Communications Agency or see live video transmissions arranged by the TV Networks. We get written reports from our colleagues in the pool with the President and we get transcripts of his statements from the White House stenographers.”

That revelation of media disengagement may explain why they so often miss significant stories or misreport those that they cover. What are they being paid for? If this is all that’s required to perform the duties of a network correspondent, I could be reporting the news from my home – and for a lot less than these guys are pulling in.

The American news consumers are the ones being hurt by this. We are left with a media that is often AWOL, and when they do report for duty, they are easily duped into detours that remove them from the events they are supposed to be covering. As citizens we should be outraged and we should make our opinions known. The media are not doing the jobs we expect of them, or deserve from them. If they continue to fail to perform, we need to find a way to fire them


Bush Makes Surprise Visit To America

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN)

President Bush made a surprise visit to America Monday, shortly before a White House deadline to report to Congress on the U.S. troop increase Iraq. Air Force One touched down under a blazing sun in Manhattan Beach, CA, for a six-hour presidential visit to tout a “remarkable turnaround” in the mostly Yuppi province west of Compton.


Now THAT would be a newsworthy headline. Instead we have CNN reporting Bush’s “surprise” trip to a remote air base in the Anbar province. They fail to mention that he has to avoid the more dangerous capital city of Baghdad as he flies into his photo-op under the cover of darkness.

Bush spoke optimistically before a captive audience of Marines saying that fewer U.S. forces may soon be able to maintain security at its current level. If maintaining security at its current level is the extent of his goals, the Iraqi people have very little to look forward to.

You have to wonder what the purpose of this multi-million dollar detour really is. The President is said to be meeting with the U.S. ambassador and Iraqi prime minister, Maliki, so they are being forced to take a perilous journey across the country to meet with Bush at his hideaway. Is there something besides public relations that justifies the risk and the cost of this event? Couldn’t they have arranged a conference call? And what do they expect to accomplish in six hours that makes this trip worthwhile?

If their intent is to engender a sense of credibility, they probably blew that effort by running this charade as reported by CNN:

White House press secretary Tony Snow said a false schedule released for the news media on Monday was part of the security plan for the trip.

That was the closing paragraph of CNN’s report, which is right where it belongs. There is very little news value to the revelation that Tony Snow lies to the media. We already knew that.


The Fox Frame: Truth In Labeling

FoxNews.com’s home page is again displaying their unique world view as well as their journalistic bias. Take this example of their editorial treatment of Senator Larry Craig and political donor Norman Hsu.


The story this screen grab plainly tells us, in both words and images, is that Fox considers revelations about a corrupt campaign contributer (who represents no one) to be more important than a lascivious United States Senator. And as a bonus, they make it look like the contributer is the pervert.