How To Get A Job On Fox “News”

I watched President Obama’s press conference on Tuesday at The Hague. Man, oh, man. What is it about those ABC News guys?

First, a little background:

When Fox “News” first opened up its fairly unbalanced doors in 1996, a 23-year veteran of ABC News, Brit Hume, joined them. Hume had been ABC’s Chief White House Correspondent, and at Fox he was the anchor of Fox’s “Special Report” for ten biased years.

In 2003, another prominent ABC News correspondent, Chris Wallace, joined Fox. Wallace, son of Mike, still hosts the closest thing−and sometimes it isn’t that close−to a real news show on the network, “Fox News Sunday.”

John Stossel, who for years was a correspondent and co-anchor of ABC News’ 20/20 program, left ABC in 2009 to join Fox “News” and Fox “Bidness” Channel, where he preaches his libertarian ideas to, if not the choir, at least the gullible.

Earlier in 2009, Michael Clemente joined Fox as a Senior Vice President of News, after spending 27 years at ABC News, including a stint as senior broadcast producer for ABC’s World News Tonight and later for 20/20. His last job at ABC News was as Senior Executive Producer of the ABC Digital Media Group.

If you happen to watch Fox “News,” you will see Rick Klein, who is a “regular guest.” Except that Rick  Klein is the Political Director for, uh, ABC News! Now, I understand that ABC does not have its own cable news platform, but why allow your Political Director to appear so often on Fox? Is it because occasionally Fox promotes his stuff for ABC? If so, ABC News ought to be ashamed of itself.

All of which leads us to Tuesday’s press conference at the Hague. Jonathan Karl, who is currently ABC News’ Chief White House Correspondent, actually asked President Obama these questions:

Mr. President, thank you. In China, in Syria, in Egypt and now in Russia we’ve seen you make strong statements, issue warnings that have been ignored. Are you concerned that America’s influence in the world, your influence in the world is on the decline? And in light of recent developments, do you think Mitt Romney had a point when he said that Russia is America’s biggest geopolitical foe? If not Russia, who?

If that sounds to you like something John McCain might ask, or something that Reince Priebus might ask, or something that Sean Hannity might ask, you have good ears. Karl is apparently auditioning for Roger Ailes and, as a long-time Fox monitor, I’d say he is well qualified for a job on the network. Or just about any reactionary operation. Here’s how a few right-wing sites reported on Karl’s performance at The Hague:

right wing responses to karl

And my personal favorite, posted by Jonathan Karl’s Fox friend Greta Van Susteren, includes a proud shot of the ABC News correspondent:

greta and jon karl

As you can see, Karl is something of a journalistic hero on the right. But that’s not just for what he did at The Hague yesterday. When you examine Karl’s body of work, you see why the right-wingers love him so.

He started his reporting career in a right-wing organization created to promote conservative journalism on college campuses, the same kind of collegiate journalism that gave us people like Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin. Karl also worked for Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post, which is basically Fox “News” in print. He has written articles for the right-wing Weekly Standard (including this embarrassing piece), a publication that helped bring us the Iraq War.  At ABC News, if you watch his reporting, you see a clear bias in favor of Republican talking points, including the need for austerity and tiny tales of government waste. Because I like Diane Sawyer, I frequently watch her newscast, and the best one can say about Karl’s reporting is that it slants to the right; the worst one can say about it is that, well, Karl is an undercover reactionary.

Nothing demonstrates his conservative bias better than his infamous mishap involving the Fox-created Benghazi scandal. Karl went on the air last spring and unethically fed into the Fox Benghazi narrative by erroneously “quoting” from an email that he himself had not read. The false quotes, presented as “exclusives,” made it appear that the White House (read: Barack Obama) and State Department (read: Hillary Clinton) had “dramatically edited” the famous Benghazi talking points used by Susan Rice on all the Sunday news shows. We found out later that Karl was fed his false information by, uh, congressional Republicans. He sort of apologized for the error and ABC News should have sort of fired him, but on he goes.

Given Karl’s track record, you have to wonder why President Obama, who has publicly compared Jonathan Karl to Fox’s Senior White House Correspondent Ed Henry, didn’t answer Karl’s question this way:

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Wow, Jonathan! Isn’t ABC treating you well? Aren’t they paying you enough? Did Roger Ailes promise you a job and a raise if you came here to the Netherlands and tried to claim how weak I am on the world stage? Isn’t that Fox’s “Obama meme du jour”? No, wait. They’ve been saying that for some time now. But, congratulations anyway! I think you’ve got the job you obviously want whenever you want it. I look forward to not calling on you at my next presser. Oh, and tell Mittens that Mr. President said “hey.”

Instead of that, President Obama, soberly and thoughtfully, answered in a way that demonstrated what real strength is and why we are fortunate the American people chose him to lead the country in these perilous times:

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, Jonathan, I think if the premise of the question is that whenever the United States objects to an action and other countries don’t immediately do exactly what we want, that that’s been the norm, that would pretty much erase most of 20th century history.

I think that there’s a distinction between us being very clear about what we think is an appropriate action, what we stand for, what principles we believe in, versus what is, I guess, implied in the question, that we should engage in some sort of military action to prevent something.

You know, the truth of the matter is, is that the world’s always been messy. And what the United States has consistently been able to do, and we continue to be able to do, is to mobilize the international community around a set of principles and norms. And where our own self-defense may not be involved, we may not act militarily. That does not mean that we don’t steadily push against those forces that would violate those principles and ideals that we care about.

So yes, you’re right, Syria — the Syrian civil war is not solved. And yet Syria has never been more isolated.

With respect to the situation in Ukraine, we have not gone to war with Russia. I think there’s a significant precedent to that in the past. That does not mean that Russia’s not isolated. In fact, Russia is far more isolated in this instance than it was five years ago with respect to Georgia and more isolated than it was certainly during most of the 20th century when it was part of the Soviet Union.

And what we have to make sure we’re…putting all elements of our power behind finding solutions, working with our international partners, standing up for those principles and ideals in a clear way.

There are going to be moments where military action is appropriate. There are going to be some times where that’s not in the interests — national security interests of the United States or some of our partners, but that doesn’t mean that we’re not going to continue to make the effort, or speak clearly about what we think is right and wrong. And that’s what we’ve done.

With respect to Mr. Romney’s assertion that Russia’s our number one geopolitical foe, the truth of the matter is that, you know, America’s got a whole lot of challenges. Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors — not out of strength, but out of weakness.

Ukraine has been a country in which Russia had enormous influence for decades — since the breakup of the Soviet Union. And you know, we have considerable influence on our neighbors. We generally don’t need to invade them in order to have a strong cooperative relationship with them. The fact that Russia felt compelled to go in militarily and lay bare these violations of international law indicates less influence, not more.

And so my response, then, continues to be what I believe today, which is Russia’s actions are a problem. They don’t pose the number one national security threat to the United States. I continue to be much more concerned, when it comes to our security, with the prospect of a nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan, which is part of the reason why the United States, showing its continued international leadership, has organized a forum over the last several years that’s been able to help eliminate that threat in a consistent way.

Why Liberals Should Thank Bill O’Reilly

You gotta love it. First President Obama tells the truth about Fox “News” and then Hillary Clinton follows it up. Now, when CNN, NPR, The New York Times, The Washington Post, NBC News, ABC News, and CBS News start telling the truth about Fox, then we will be getting somewhere.

In any case, Bill O’Reilly’s interruption-plagued ObamaCare-Benghazi-IRS interview (come on, what did you expect? Billo has to eat, ya know) with Obama ended with this:

I think — I — you know, I know you think maybe we haven’t been fair, but I think your heart is in the right place.

That moment of lucidity, I knew at the time, would get Billo in trouble. One commenter on the Fox “News” site said what a lot of right-wingers were thinking:

oreilly interview

“I’m DONE with you Bill!” When they start shouting, look out!

What you should know is that, as incredible as it sounds to liberal ears, Fox “News” is now seen by many right-wingers as part of the problem. Yes, Fox isn’t conservative enough! Over at Glenn Beck’s “The Blaze,” we find this comment attached to an article on O’Reilly’s interview with President Obama:

oreilly interview

O’Reilly and Huckabee traitors? Yikes. But look at his one:

oreilly interview

Nice folks, no? But what I really want you to see is this comment:

oreilly interview

When Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Karl Rove aren’t conservative enough for you, then the political dementia on the far right is worse than we thought. And speaking of dementia, try this:

blaze

It seems that Glenn Beck, Mark Levin, and Sean Hannity, who apparently have been feuding (who knew?), are now teaming up for a kind of mischief they apparently can’t accomplish as free agents. The article reports:

Beck said he, Levin and Hannity all have a different skill set, all of which are important to bring the country together and focus on real solutions.

Yes. These guys think their brand of right-wingery will “bring the country together.”

Hey, don’t laugh. Beck is serious:

“Something big is happening. Something good is really happening,” Beck concluded. “Well, I mean, unless you’re a progressive then I don’t think you’re going to like this. It’s not good news for you.”

Oh, yes it is, Glenn! It is always good news for progressives when the reactionaries are fighting so fiercely among themselves, and if Beck and Levin and Hannity want to join forces to give their extremist followers more power to attack the Republican establishment, I say, bravo!

And they aren’t the only ones bashing the establishment. Just this afternoon, I received an email from a Tea Party group that was asking for dough. After bashing unions (“who are working diligently to pervert our system of government”), the appeal continued in bold letters:

For too long we have allowed the political establishment of both parties to drive our country into the ground. Today is the day that we stop the political elite and return America to greatness. 

Yes, Democrats and Republicans are just one big elite group working together to destroy the country! Of course!

Today on his show, Rush Limbaugh, the king of the talk radio dung heap, himself spent a lot of time attacking the Republican establishment. He has a theory about what they are up to, and it goes something like this:

By pushing immigration reform (“amnesty”), Republicans are blowing their chances of winning the upcoming election “in a landslide.” Oh, sure Republicans want to win in 2014, but they want to do it without the Tea Party. Why? Because if the Tea Party delivers another landslide election to the Republicans like it did in 2010, then the Republican establishment is in deeper trouble when it comes time to nominate their presidential candidate in 2016. Teapartiers would demand that the GOP candidate come from their ranks. That is why the establishment is trying to get rid of Tea Party influence in the House and get immigration reform passed, Limbaugh said. They want to marginalize teapartiers, eke out a victory this year, and then get their establishment guy ordained as the party’s front man against Hillary.

I know, I know. It’s nuts. But it helps our side when these folks get this way. And I personally want to think Bill O’Reilly and Fox “News” for playing their part in the chaos.

_______________________________________

limbaugh and immigration

Fair And Balanced Gossip

Have you heard about the latest gossip found in a not-yet-released book?

No, I’m not talking about the gossip about President Obama and Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden that news outlets have culled—and twisted out of shape to some degree—from former secretary of defense Robert Gates’ too-early-to-tell-all book,”Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War.

I’m talking about a much funnier book called, “The Loudest Voice in the Room,” written by Gabriel Sherman, an advanced copy of which was reviewed by The New York Times.

In that book,  which is a 560-page biography of Fox’s master of misinformation, Roger Ailes, you will find Ailes admitting to his Fox lieutenants before the 2012 elections:

I want to elect the next president.

What a howler! A regular knee-slapper! What a revelation! Who could have guessed that Fox was trying to elect Mitt Romney president? How hilariously shocking.

And who could have guessed that the conservative kingmaker, the sultan of sophistry, is an authoritarian? And a crass sexist:

Former employees cited in the book talked of Mr. Ailes’s volatile temper and domineering behavior. In one anecdote, a television producer, Randi Harrison, told Mr. Sherman that while negotiating her salary with Mr. Ailes at NBC in the 1980s, he offered her an additional $100 each week “if you agree to have sex with me whenever I want.”

I wonder if Ailes offered Fox and Friends’ Brian Kilmeade, whom he sarcastically referred to as “a soccer coach from Long Island,” the same deal? More to the point, I wonder what Kilmeade’s answer might have been?

Perhaps most genuinely surprising of all is in what was revealed by “A Fox News spokeswoman” responding to the above incident that was chronicled in Gabriel Sherman’s book:

These charges are false. While we have not read the book, the only reality here is that Gabe was not provided any direct access to Roger Ailes and the book was never fact-checked with Fox News.

Who knew that Fox employed fact checkers? I wonder what they do all day?

The book also offers us one of the funniest descriptions of the insufferable Bill O’Reilly, a man who makes a lot of money for Fox and for himself by constantly advertising his “best-selling” books on his popular evening hour of spit-inducing spin, that you will ever read from someone who knows him better than we do. Ailes said O’Reilly was,

a book salesman with a TV show.

Now, leaving aside the fact that Roger Ailes owes a sincere apology to book salesmen everywhere—if there are any book salesmen left anywhere—you have to admit that reducing the self-bloated Fox host, who thinks he is some kind of intellectual giant kind enough to share his intellectual giantness with the rest of the world, down to a pedestrian book peddler is kind of funny.

No, it’s real funny. Even if what Fox “News” does all day every day is not that funny, considering what it, guided by Roger Ailes, is doing to pollute the minds of millions of our fellow Americans.

60 Minutes Leaves Fox “News” In The Lurch

You have heard by now that the famed CBS News program 60 Minutes is doing a my bad! on its recent report on Benghazi, a report that many right-wingers, especially the Obama-haters on Fox “News,” have been using to justify their own misreporting on the tragedy that occurred there.

Here is the way HuffPo began its story:

In a humiliating retreat from a piece she had staunchly defended, “60 Minutes” correspondent Lara Logan admitted on Friday morning that she and the news magazine had made a “mistake” in their reporting of a controversial story about the Benghazi attacks.

You can read the details for yourself, but the important thing to know here is that because Fox journalism is always seeking validation from mainstream journalists (who are much too eager to give it to them), it quickly latched onto the 60 Minutes story. Via Media Matters, here is how an alleged straight news reporter (he’s not) on Fox, Brett Baier,opened a segment on Fox’s flagship news program Special Report the day after the Lara Logan piece ran:

BAIER: Answers are still hard to come by in the investigation into last fall’s Benghazi terror assault. Last night, one of journalism’s heavy hitters reaffirmed what we knew and had reported on.

“What we knew and had reported on” turns out to be, well, “what we wish we knew but reported on as if we knew it.”  Fox, and many Republican politicians and pundits, have been pushing the idea that somehow President Obama or someone in his administration (by the time its all over future presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will be to blame) withheld military help from those under attack in Benghazi, and that the whole thing was a grotesque scandal that the “lamestream media” was covering up. Foxers were so damn happy that finally someone had legitimated their coverage they could hardly contain themselves.

Again, on the day after the 60 Minutes report aired, Media Matters chronicled another Fox response, this time from another anchor pretending to be a straight journalist, Martha MacCallum:

Now 60 Minutes, the venerable news program, Sunday night news program, is putting a lot of focus on this story … Here at Fox News we’ve been covering this story for a very long time. At times we’ve been criticized for continuing to cover this story…

It remains to be seen whether 60 Minutes will remain a “venerable news program” in the eyes of Fox on-air talent, but what we do know is that right-wingers will not give up their quest to taint the President or, as will eventually happen as the 2016 draws closer, taint Hillary Clinton over the horrific events in Benghazi.

Finally, the indispensable Media Matters.org also kept track of other right-wingers’ expressed glee over the now-flawed 60 Minutes report: from Pat Robertson’s pronouncement that “it’s all over” for Obama to Breitbart’s declaration that “It was a reversal for CBS News, which played a key role in the Benghazi cover-up in 2012,” to the National Review’s Jonah Goldberg’s tweet:

jonah goldberg tweet

Yikes! It turns out that the original 60 Minutes piece—centrally flawed—does corroborate “pretty much everything” Fox has been reporting.

God’s In His Heaven And ObamaCare Will Soon Send You To Join Him, Buttsex Or Not

The year’s at the spring,
And day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hill-side’s dew-pearled;
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn;
God’s in His heaven—
All’s right with the world!

—Robert Browning

All’s right with the world alright.

Republicans have shut down the government and Fox “News” is doing what it is that Fox “News” does best.

I strolled past the Republican News Channel this morning and peeked through its fogged-up windows for a couple of minutes. What I saw was a man from the Heritage Foundation, who has written a book on Margaret Thatcher, explain why the Iron Lady would be aghast to even set her saintly peepers on ObamaCare! Yes, this man told Fox viewers that the private business- and free market-loving woman who presided over Great Britain’s genuinely socialist healthcare system would oppose a conservative-inspired scheme in which markets are used to bring in customers to private insurance companies! Only on Fox.

But the worst thing I saw through the fogged-up windows was none other than Betsy McCaughey, former Republican Lieutenant Governor of New York, who Fox used all morning to “explain” ObamaCare to the folks. Just to give you an idea what a bad idea it was to have McCaughey explain the Affordable Care Act to gullible, low-information Fox viewers, I bring you a recent headline from Wonkette:

‘Death Panel’ Inventor Betsy McCaughey Warns Obamacare Will Force Doctors To Ask You About Buttsex

As I said, all’s right with the world.

Bill O’Reilly, Jason The Surfer, And The End Of American Civilization

Bill O’Reilly likes to talk about race hustlers and parasites. Well, it takes one to know one. Using his own standards of judgment, O’Reilly is a race-hustling parasite himself.

His show, a tribute to narcissism, has lately found him doing the race hustle in front of race-anxious whites, those who find it a bit unsettling to have someone other than a white man occupy The White’s House and who find it depressing that America is browning. O’Reilly exploits white angst and makes money off that exploitation.

But I’m particularly pissed off about the latest Fox-inspired attempt to put the blame for our financial and cultural troubles on those O’Reilly calls “parasites.” Billo once again brought up a guy now known as “Jason the Surfer“—no relation to Joe the Plumber—whom Fox managed to unearth in California, and who spends some of his monthly SNAP money (reportedly $200) on, Jesus forbid, sushi and lobster.

O’Reilly said,

This guy is a parasite. And my contention is that the Obama administration is encouraging parasites to come out and, you know, take as much as they can with no remorse and this is how a country declines. This is how we become a weak nation.

Now, if you’re like me, you find it hard to imagine that President Obama or anyone in his employ has spent a millisecond trying to figure out how to get California surfers to avail themselves of food stamps.Jason-Greenslate

And, if you’re like me, you also find it hard to believe how a kid on a surf board with a belly full of taxpayer subsidized sushi and lobster—even if it’s only a rare treat (at these prices)—can lead to the decline of American civilization, especially when all those Romney types are still out there hard at work practicing vulture capitalism, described famously by Republican Rick Perry during the 2012 campaign:

They’re sittin’ out there on the, on the tree limb, waitin’ for the company to get sick, and then they swoop in, they eat the carcass, they leave with that, and they leave the skeleton.

Newt Gingrich also famously said during that campaign the following:

I think we have to be honest about this. One of the reasons people who like free enterprise do not like Wall Street is that they see very rich financiers who rig the game, so the taxpayer loses, the worker loses, and somehow the rich guy does okay…If we identify capitalism with rich guys looting companies, we’re gonna have a very hard time protecting it…Is it fair to have a system, is it right, is it the kind of country you want to live in to have a system where somebody can come in, take over your company, take out all the cash and leave behind a wreck? And they go off to a country club having a great time and you go off to the unemployment line.

I remind you that people who do such nasty things in this country are essentially subsidized by everyone else. Many pay a lower rate of taxes because they have talked (via ca$h) the establishment into believing that all of what they do is essential to the economy and the nation’s well-being. That scam goes on while the race-baiting, cultural-angst-exploiting Bill O’Reillys of the world focus on a mixed up 29-year-old kid in California who gets a couple of hundred bucks a month in food help.

As I have said many times before, if we go down as a civilization, I’d rather it be by trying to make sure folks have enough to eat—even if a few folks game the system for a few bucks—than by making sure Mitt Romney’s vulture-money can vacation comfortably in the Cayman Islands.

Searching For Fox “News”

Remember when some folks in the Obama administration tried to accurately describe Fox “News” as “not a news organization”? And remember when there was some tumult over the Obama Treasury Department not wanting Fox “News” to interview pay czar Kenneth Feinberg? And remember when the other legitimate news networks stood up for Fox and said “that’s not gonna fly”?

Well, where is Fox “News” now that the Republican Party is trying to punish CNN and NBC for their sneaky attempt to make Hillary Clinton president by allegedly producing favorable television specials about her?

I typed into Google the words “fox news defends cnn and nbc”and I got 3,300,000 results, none of which led me to a single article or blurb in which Fox executives or reporters told the GOP to back off from boycotting CNN and NBC. Not a word.

What a bunch of ingrates there is at Fox.

In any case, a commenter referenced a Fox “News” Poll and I went there to look. While there, I dared to enter into the site’s search engine the words “Fox News Poll” and I got 275,669 results, including the following:

fox news poll resultsNah, there’s no political agenda at Fox. They’re simply reporting and letting you decide. What was David Axelrod thinking when he said in October of 2009 that, “They’re not really a news station”? Former White’s House communications director, Anita Dunn, must have been out of her mind to say way back then that when President Obama goes on Fox,

he understands he’s not going on it really as a news network at this point. He’s going on to debate the opposition.

Just look at those headlines one can find under “fox news poll.” And look at the lack of headlines when one looks under “fox news defends cnn and nbc.” Those two searches tell you all you need to know about Fox “News.”

Stale Bread

We have all watched as Fox “News” and other right-wing media outlets have pushed the so-called Benghazi scandal. And some of us watched, in relative horror, as CNN recently joined in with its own right-wing-infected “special investigation,” complete with ominous music and boldly titled, “The Truth About Benghazi.

Revealing the truth about Benghazi, of course, had little to do with that dubious special investigation. What it did have to do with, as David Brock pointed out, is CNN’s turn toward more right-wingishness, presumably as a way “to compete with Fox News.”

The honcho of CNN, Jeff Zucker, “has lent legitimacy to the right’s agenda, especially the never-ending complaint that the network never airs enough conservative points of view,” Brock wrote. Zucker told Variety that such a complaint “was probably a valid criticism.” Yes, the network that brought us Pat Buchanan, Lou Dobbs, Erick Erickson and Dana Loesch lacks conservative voices.

As Brock notes, the response to that “never-ending” conservative criticism includes producing “truth” programs that push “long-debunked myths about the September 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya.”

Such is the state of the television news business these days. Excepting some thoughtful programs on MSNBC, it’s a race to the bottom it seems and CNN wants to be a part of it, even if it can’t really compete with the worst of the worst on Fox. But there may be something happening on the Roger Ailes-controlled conservative channel that needs a closer look.

For many years Fox “News” and right-wing media in general have been selling the stale bread of conservatism in the form of turd sandwiches. Hannity and Limbaugh may be the two biggest turds, but there are many smaller ones that serve as nourishment for American reactionaries. However, there may be a move away from selling pure turd sandwiches and instead put something more appetizing between those slices of stale conservative bread, something that would attract people who are not part of the turd-loving Tea Party tribe.

I’m talking about the rumor that the attractive Megyn Kelly, who is part of Fox’s daytime Republican propaganda lineup, may replace the unattractive Sean Hannity, who is part of Fox’s evening Republican propaganda lineup. John Whitehouse, writing for Media Matters, begins his interesting piece on the rumor this way:

Megyn Kelly’s move to primetime will mark a shift in the very essence of Fox News, away from the hate of right-wing radio and towards something more effective at shilling conservative misinformation.

Whitehouse says that Kelly,

is a much more pernicious purveyor of political propaganda. Kelly has the unique ability to pluck misinformation and imbue it with a veneer of legitimacy that Sean Hannity has long since lost, if he ever had it at all.

The point of all this, says Whitehouse, is adaptation. Fox is moving away from the Hannity-turd model of conservative propaganda, thus “allowing it to more effectively advance a political agenda.” My own view is that, fearful of a powerful Hillary Clinton-for-president campaign, there is a need to get people like Megyn Kelly out there to push, without the insanity of Hannity, the Benghazi “scandal,” which, naturally, will soon be an all-out assault on our former Secretary of State.Roger Ailes, Megyn Kelly, Sean Hannity

And speaking of politics, take a look at what is happening to New Jersey governor Chris Christie. I have heard even liberal commentators rave about his appeal, about his personality, about his ability to attract even Democratic voters (and Democratic money). Christie is obviously a favorite of the mainstream press, which is why so much was made of his public spat with Rand Paul. By comparison to the nuts-turds in the Republican Party, Chris Christie looks quite sane and un-turdly, which, of course, is why he is so politically dangerous to Democrats.

Besides his willingness to raise money for the unhinged right-wing congressman from Iowa, Steve King—talk about your turds!—consider just how conservative Christie is. As Salon’s Alex Pareene notes, the governor

is anti-choice on reproductive rights (after being pro-choice);

has doubts about evolution;

has doubts about the reality and causes of climate change;

bullies “teachers and public servants”;

favors at least some privatization of public schools;

has opposed same-sex marriage in his state;

has opposed early voting in his state;

has vetoed a minimum wage increase;

has withdrawn New Jersey’s participation in a carbon cap and trade agreement;

has “killed” his state’s version of the DREAM Act;

has cut funding for women’s health services, including cancer screenings and family planning, which led to the closing of clinics.

Others have pointed out how Christie refused to renew a state tax on millionaires while cutting the Earned Income Tax Credit.  He has cut business taxes and increased the amount of subsidizes given to corporations operating in New Jersey. He has cut funding for county colleges, causing tuition to go up for students.

The bottom line is that Chris Christie is a very conservative, even ultra-conservative guy. He’s just not a turd in the same way Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh are. And that’s why he may be able to serve up president-size slices of stale conservative bread to a public hungry for solutions to the dysfunction in Washington.

Especially now that CNN has made a conscious turn toward the dark side of journalism.

I Can’t Think Of Anything That Better Demonstrates…Than Donald Trump

Last Wednesday, President Obama delivered a great speech to the Marines at Camp Pendleton in California. It was full of bravado—“We don’t get terrorized,” said the President—and, naturally, full of praise for the troops.

CNN and MSNBC covered Mr. Obama’s speech on Wednesday. But the Fox “News” Channel, the network where blondes and bravado meet to constantly (and ostensibly) celebrate our men and women in uniform, did not. Fox has a habit of ignoring the President’s speeches until its reactionary opinion makers have had a chance to comb through them in search of solecisms, socialism, and scandal.

What Fox did carry, as the President was finishing up his speech, was an interview with, uh, Donald Trump. Yes, as the President was telling the story of Captain Matthew Lampert—a Marine who lost both legs to an IED in Afghanistan, yet returned to his unit 18 months later—Fox’s Neil Cavuto was interviewing an ignorant birther buffoon who “stars” in his own “reality” TV show, if not his own reality.

I can’t think of anything that better demonstrates the hate-Obama-at-any-cost principle that guides Fox programming than ditching a presidential speech to the troops in favor of yet another talk with a decadent conspiracy nut.

That Fox interview was conducted a day after Trump played golf with the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, who enjoys both golf and golf-graft—the two played on Trump’s course and Trump reportedly has given $100,000 to a Boehner-related super PAC. At least this outing explains why Boehner can’t be bothered with negotiating with President Obama. The speaker has more important things to do.

I can’t think of anything that better demonstrates the sorry state of our politics than the most powerful Republican in the country slinking around the links with a Punchinello who pretends to run for president in order to stay relevant to right-wingers who somehow find his schtick interesting and enlightening, and to others who find it entertaining.

But that’s not all that is wrong with the right-wing these days. If you are so inclined, you can attend on Saturday—for only 49 bucks!—a “Family Leadership Summit” in Ames, Iowa, put on by a Christian group called The Family Leader. That group identifies itself this way:

The FAMiLY LEADER champions the principle that God is the ultimate leader of the family. Our goal at The FAMiLY LEADER is to honor and glorify God – not a political party, not a candidate, and not a program. The FAMiLY LEADER is a Christ-centered organization that leads with humility and service to strengthen and protect the family.

The Family Leadership Summit, put on by a group that says it is a non-partisan, Christ-centered organization, features Republicans like Chuck Grassley, Steve King, and Rick Santorum, as well as fast-rising reactionary Ted Cruz from Texas.

Oh, yeah. I almost forgot. Highlighting the evening—the last speaker of the day—is that paragon of Christ-centered living, that champion of God-honoring and God-glorifying behavior, Donald Trump.

I can’t think of anything that better demonstrates how corrupt is American evangelicalism than inviting the thrice-married, gold-plated materialist-conspiracist to a “family leadership summit.” Jesus would be turning over in his grave, if he were still in there.

By the way. Trump is mad at NBC’s Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd. Why? Todd, almost alone among TV journalists, dared to say of Trump that he is “one of the dumbest voices in politics” and said of his appearance in Iowa:

In the “here we go again,” the sideshow that is Donald Trump, he’s apparently showing up for another PR stunt. The question is: Will he drag it out for three years before he finally announces that he’s not running for president so he doesn’t have to turn over all of his business paperwork?

Trump returned Todd’s “one of the dumbest voices in politics” insult and then suggested that Todd was just mad because ABC’s This Week has, unbelievably, booked Donald Trump. Yes, the once-reputable Sunday talk show is now a forum for a clown.

I can’t think of anything that better demonstrates the poor quality of journalism these days.

The Enablers

Blogger Erick Erickson of RedState.com is now a very popular conservative, partly because CNN chose to employ him as a political contributor. The network chose him to represent conservatives on its network even though:

he referred to Michelle Obama as “Obama’s Marxist harpy wife,”

he called former Obama spokeswoman Linda Douglas “the Joseph Goebbels of the White House Health Care shop,”

he smeared retired Justice David Souter a “goat f*&king child molester,”

he labeled the Democratic National Convention, “The Vagina Monologues.”

Yes, despite all that, Erickson has a job at CNN and has become quite popular.

When he was hired by the network, first as a contributor to the old John King, USA program, CNN’s political director said Erickson was “an agenda-setter whose words are closely watched in Washingtonand that, “as a person who still lives in small-town America, Erick is in touch with the very people John hopes to reach.”

So, Washington pays attention to this guy and this guy is in touch with those small-town folks and CNN thus blesses his noxious rants with legitimacy.

And I’m afraid that in that formulation we can find the reason our divisions in America are so deep and so bitter.

You see, because Erick Erickson does speak for some people, some conservative people, he does get attention, even, I’m sorry to admit, in Washington, D.C.  But because CNN, which used to be a first-class news organization, gives him a platform that reaches millions of people, he gets much more attention than he deserves.

And so it is with most of what is now being called the “conservative media complex,” of which Erick Erickson’s RedState is a small part. Without help from more mainstream outlets, like CNN, these corrosive conservative voices would have a limited impact on our discourse, beyond selling their ideological trinkets to a relatively small but gullible audience.

A larger part of that conservative media complex, Fox “News,” is also given undeserved credibility by mainstream news outlets, which, just because there are some real journalists working there, treat Fox as a completely legitimate journalistic enterprise, thus damaging the brand of all.

About three years ago, bona fide reporters, like Jake Tapper of ABC News, came to the aid of Fox, as the White House was pushing back against the network and accusing it, accurately, of being “a wing of the Republican Party.” Tapper referred to Fox as “one of our sister organizations.”

Some sister.

Enabling Fox to do what it does—which is to provide part of the country with its own set of facts, facts that happen to support the conservative agenda of the Republican Party, and facts that often don’t happen to be the facts that the rest of us understand as facts—is part of why there were a lot of conservatives who woke up on November 7th and couldn’t believe their eyes: Barack Obama is still alive!

Our country has always been divided in various ways, but never have we had anything like a Fox “News,” a large-scale enterprise that not only broadcasts our differences, which would be okay, but it magnifies them, exploits them, and then profits from them.

While there have been a multitude of examples that I could cite to back up this claim, none of them are as stark, as telling, as what has been happening on that network since Mitt Romney first shamefully tried to exploit the tragedy in Benghazi.

In fact, as I write this, Fox is featuring the nutty right-wing congressman Louie Gohmert, who is unashamedly calling for a “special prosecutor” to investigate what happened in Benghazi, even though there are already investigations going on all over the place.

But Gohmert was really on the network to promote a group called “Special Operations Speaks,” which claims to have 100,000 signatures on a petition, the title of which is:

Special Operations Speaks DEMANDS an Independent Investigation to Uncover Potential High Crimes and Misdemeanors in Benghazigate

In case that doesn’t make clear the motives of this right-wing group that purports to represent “the Special Operations community,” how about the group’s logo, complete with the universal symbol for Obama haters:

______________________________

Having Gohmert on this morning is just another attempt by Fox “News” to commodify ignorance, and, perhaps more important for its profitability, to undermine and delegitimate President Obama.

In fact, things have gotten so bad on Fox, that this morning even Geraldo Rivera went on the network and called the latest claim by Foxers—that David Petraeus was essentially forced to cover for the Obama administration because of the investigation over his extra-marital affair—”absolutely reckless, and it has no fact base at all and really is a disgrace to a man who has served us honorably.”

No fact base at all,” says Geraldo, yet the beat goes on, and on.

And the vitriol continues to flow.

As do the profits for the father of Fox, Rupert Murdoch.

Essay: A Day In The Life Of The Nightly News, Or How Television Journalism is Being Transfoxed And What We Can Do About It

___________________

trans·fox: \tran(t)s-’fox\ transitive verb: to change in composition or structure so as to appease conservatives, intransitive verb: to become transfoxed: become “fair and balanced” in the Fox “News” sense

trans·fox·a·tion: \tran(t)s-fox-ā-shən\ noun: the operation that converts objective news reporting into “fair and balanced” reporting in the Fox “News” sense

The Erstwhile Conservative Dictionary

iberals and Democrats need to start complaining more, and I mean a lot more, about the way the press, particularly the national political press, does its job. In fact, we need to start a major campaign of whining about the news business, particularly about the television network news business.

Something needs to be done about what is happening to big-time TV journalism, vis à vis its coverage of politics and political campaigns. There has been a slow but steady transfoxation of television news going on.

As a former conservative, I can tell you that what often accompanies conservatives’ ideological message is a withering critique of the news business, which they believe, as vigorously as they believe anything, is strongly skewed toward the left. That’s nonsense of course, but what isn’t nonsense is the fact that their whining, their unrelenting attacks against journalists and the news industry, have been—without question—quite effective. Those attacks, combined with the advent and financial success of Fox “News,” are working.

And we, those of us in the fight against reactionary political forces, need to undertake a plan of unrelenting attacks ourselves, before all the news business is transfoxed.

Conservatives’ constant complaining and protesting of news coverage has caused too many mainstream political reporters, editors, and anchors to shy away from presenting an accurate accounting of political news. This is especially true on the nightly network news shows.

If you watch the evening news on ABC, CBS, or NBC, you get very little of what is actually happening on the campaign trail or in the world of politics (there’s only about 21 minutes of news time available in a nightly broadcast and only a fraction of it is devoted to political news). What campaign news you get often features results from the various polling firms, especially the network’s own polling efforts, or other reports on the horse race aspect of the contest. And what other political news you get frequently comes in the form of a carefully composed report designed to achieve some mystical and false balance, rather than in a form that follows the evidence and reports the truth.

A perfect example of that false balance and failure to follow the evidence was—is—the press’ coverage of the deliberate attempt by Republicans to subvert Obama’s first term by sabotaging the economic recovery. If the popular political press had accurately reported on that issue, if they would accurately report on it today, Republicans would have to answer for it, would have to explain their actions to the American people, would have to defend their radical and nakedly political motives.

Alas, Republicans are free to run, with much success, against Democrats on the basis of an alleged “failure” to right the economy.

As a random test of my theory of the transfoxation of high-profile TV journalism, I decided to spend some time surveying the three network’s nightly news broadcasts on Friday night, in terms of their coverage of the presidential campaign. Despite a declining viewership (less than half of what it was in 1980), there are still around 21-23 million folks who get their nightly news from either ABC, CBS, or NBC, with NBC viewership the greatest of the three at about 8-9 million per night. (About 13 million get their news from the networks’ morning shows.)

And here’s what I, naively it turns out, thought would be the big news stories Friday night related to the campaign, all of which developed after Thursday night’s network broadcasts:

♦ John Sununu’s offensive comments about Colin Powell and Romney’s failure to address them, especially since Sununu is the national co-chair of Romney’s campaign and one of his top surrogates.

♦ Romney’s refusal to answer questions about Richard Mourdock’s weird claims about God and rape, especially since Romney’s running mate holds similar views and Romney himself has said he would be “delighted” to sign a law outlawing all abortions.

♦ Romney falsely telling Ohio voters that Chrysler was moving jobs to China.

Surely, I thought, all three of those stories would come up in some way or another.

ABC’s World News with Diane Sawyer

I first watched ABC. The first story Diane Sawyer presented, naturally, was about Hurricane Sandy and the threat it poses to folks on the Atlantic Coast. Fine, so far.

The second story, comprising two reports, was about presidential politics, beginning with a silly piece by ABC’s White House reporter Jake Tapper, focusing on Obama’s attempt to “reach out to young voters” via non-traditional, “pop culture” news sources like “The View” and Jay Leno’s “Tonight Show.” Tapper’s voice-over began:

President Obama has not taken questions from White House reporters since August. Today he took them from MTV…

Now, given what happened on the campaign trail in the 24 hours since the last ABC News nightly broadcast, did that “story” really deserve such a prominent place? No, it didn’t, clearly. But it was a way for Tapper to vent his frustrations about the Obama campaign’s decision to ignore him in order to reach folks who get their news from less “official” and presumably less sterile sources.

ABC’s second report from the campaign trail on Friday night was a piece by David Muir, who covers Romney’s Swing State Lying Tour. Now, I want to reiterate that Muir is covering Romney out on the campaign trail. He’s there with him, hearing everything Romney says. He, more than anyone else at ABC, should be aware of what is happening, or in the case of Romney, what is not happening, since Mittens refuses to answer any campaign reporter’s questions.

So, what was the substance of Muir’s report Friday night? That Romney was “rallying key voters,” namely white men, around his vapid “economic message.” There was a Green Giant-size graphic to make the point clear:

Rick Klein, Senior Washington Editor of ABC’s World News with Diane Sawyer, who often, and unbelievably, appears on, uh, Fox “News” (and given his opinions, I think he is auditioning for a job) saw to it that his boyish mug appeared during the segment saying,

Mitt Romney may have a hard time relating to voters, but he is dialed in to white men. They are very much attuned to what he is saying about the economy.

As he was giving us that wonderful journalistic gem, one that just happens to favor Romney’s efforts, and one that fails to mention that what Romney is “saying about the economy” has been discredited by nearly every economist and fact-checker in the Milky Way, this image appeared on the  screen:

Ah. Isn’t that special, that nice, old, and quite white vet greeting Mittens? So sweet, so touching. What important news that is.

Muir, who again travels with Romney every day, finished up his stunningly bad piece of journalism by explaining that the earnest GOP candidate was concentrating on “jobs” and “white men” and Obama was, well, he was spending his time courting “undecided women” folk.

Such is the state of network TV journalism these days, at least at ABC on Friday night.

Meanwhile, let’s look more closely at what really was worthy of reporting, what really happened out on the campaign trail, since ABC News had last broadcast its nightly program on Thursday.

Romney’s loudmouthed surrogate John Sununu said on CNN that Colin Powell, a man who has had more military bling-bling pinned on his chest than any thousand neo-con think-tankers, endorsed Obama because he was proud of his race. That race-baiting remark, not the first to drip from Sununu’s venomous lips, at least should have been mentioned on ABC ‘s broadcast, along with the fact that Romney refuses to comment on it, don’t you think?

Also deserving at least a mention was Romney’s stubborn and supposedly strategic refusal to comment on the mess surrounding Richard Mourdock’s stupid and offensive comments about God and rape. One would think, given the role the gender gap is expected to play in this election, that story would deserve at least thirty seconds on a national news broadcast, right?

And also not mentioned was a particularly sensitive story, given the importance of Ohio to the election, about Romney lying to Ohioans about a loss of jobs:

The Detroit News, which endorsed Romney, felt compelled to point out, rather politely, that he was lying through his car-loving teeth when he said at a rally in northern Ohio on Thursday night that Chrysler was considering moving production of its Jeep vehicles to China—whoops! my bad; according to the friendly paper, Romney was merely, “reacting to incorrect reports circulating online.”

Yes. That’s quite different from lying. The paper took pains to point out that Romney was a victim of “right-leaning blogs.” A victim. He was misled. Those right-leaning blogs, as they always do, lied about—the Detroit News said they “misinterpreted“—a Bloomberg News story regarding Chrysler’s possible building of Jeeps in China “for sale in the Chinese market.” And Romney merely fell for their lies. Poor guy.

A Chrysler spokesman emphatically said that “Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China,” and then directly aimed the barrel at Romney and the right-wing:

A careful and unbiased reading of the Bloomberg take would have saved unnecessary fantasies and extravagant comments.

Jeep LogoUnnecessary fantasies and extravagant comments,” If only big-time, mainstream journalists, broadcast and print, were as willing to tell the truth as plainly as that Chrysler spokesman.

But even though it would be way too much to ask of network reporters and editors, not to mention big-city newspapers, to actually use language like “unnecessary fantasies and extravagant comments” in reporting on either Romney or Obama, it is not too much to ask that they at least report on what Romney said and how wrong he was and particularly how careless he was to take as gospel something written on a right-wing blog. If he wasn’t lying, then by God he was bleeping careless, too bleeping careless for a man who is auditioning for a job that depends on carefully and correctly evaluating what he reads.

But nothing from ABC News on Friday night about Romney’s false claim, or nothing about Romney’s refusal to discuss John Sununu’s comments about General Powell’s proud-of-his-own-race endorsement of Obama or Richard Mourdock’s pathetic comments about God and rape. Nothing.

But we did find out that white guys, particularly old white guys, really, really like Romney. And we found out that Obama prefers MTV to ABC’s White House reporter. (And, by the way, who can blame Obama, given the way ABC’s Jake Tapper reports the news?)

So, that was ABC. What happened on Friday night on CBS and NBC?

CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley

CBS’ Scott Pelley briefly introduced the major stories of the night, beginning with Hurricane Sandy. Then he introduced the second story, “The Economy Picks Up Steam,” which noted the 2% GDP growth last quarter. But Pelley helpfully added a remark, presumably to soften for Romney the blow of good news: “But is it enough?” Enough for what? To keep Romney out of the White’s House? Jeez.

The third news snippet of the night on CBS was about the $2 billion dollars both candidates and their SuperPacs have spent on the campaign. It would have been nice if Pelley had tossed in the reason that so much money is available (Republicans want it that way) and so much of it is anonymously given (Republicans want it that way, too), or that about half of Obama’s dough was given by small donors and less than a fourth of Romney’s booty came from the little people, undoubtedly a lot of the little people Romney Hood referenced in his infamous “47%” discourse on dependency.

But, no, Pelley quickly pivoted to the latest polling, and viewers saw this:

Then Pelly brought on the old newsman Bob Schieffer, who told us how “perplexed” and “flummoxed” are the experts over who is going to win the election. Now, that there was some hot news, pardner. And Schieffer ended his segment with the comment that this election will come down to “turnout.” Yep, that was a shocking bit of news, there Bob. Thanks.

Pelley then promoted Schieffer’s “Face the Nation” Sunday broadcast by announcing that John McCain—who bleeping else?—will make his gazillionth appearance on a Sunday network show.  I can’t think of any more important and pressing news than that, can you?

The program moved on to a report on the horrific meningitis outbreak, and we are now more than half way through the broadcast, with no mention of Romney’s ducking questions on Sununu or Mourdock or his fibbing to Ohio voters about Chrysler moving Jeep jobs to China. It’s getting late.

The next segment was a piece on the Scott Brown-Elizabeth Warren senate race in Massachusetts. Scott Brown, naturally, was called a “moderate Republican” by the reporter, even as she allowed Brown to say on camera that Warren was “an extremist.” That damn liberal media! They were at it again!

The next story entailed a brief mention of a suicide bomber in Afghanistan, who killed at least 41 people outside a mosque. Then we moved on to the touching story of a recovering Malala Yousafzai, the teenage girl who was shot in the head on a school bus by the Taliban in Pakistan for advocating education for girls.

Her defiant and inspiring recovery is one of those feel-good stories that TV journalists are especially good at, perhaps because in this case they didn’t have to bother to appease conservative Taliban media critics. There’s no “both sides are guilty” reporting necessary when it comes to the assassination attempt of a schoolgirl by religious zealots donning turbans.

The CBS Evening News ended with an “On The Road” segment that featured an amazing man who is organizing a collection of old photos, 160 million of them and counting. It’s the kind of story that networks like to end with, you know, so folks can comfortably move on to “Dancing With The Stars” and “Two and a Half Men.”

And that was it for the night, all 21 minutes and 26 seconds of news for CBS viewers. Romney escaped the spotlight, in terms of what he had really done and not done since the last broadcast. No Sununu, no Mourdock, no Jeep-jobs-to-China falsehood.

NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams 

On NBC things went significantly better. Hurricane Tammy consumed a third of the broadcast. Then came the campaign coverage segment which began with a report from reporter Peter Alexander, who is following the Romney campaign and who did his segment standing in front of what looked like a rather large crowd of Mittenites.

Alexander included in his piece a “flub” by Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, who said during a Romney rally in Ames, Iowa, on Friday:

We will put America on a new path to a new day with a new President Obama—a new President Romney, pardon me.

Also at that Iowa rally, sharing the stage with Mittens, was Congressman Steve King, a crazy man who has wondered aloud about Obama’s citizenship, who has suggested states should still be able to stop couples from using contraception, and a man who supports the candidacy of Todd Akin. Unfortunately, Alexander never bothered to mention King in his reporting. Palling around with extremists must be old news. Sort of like Romney Hood’s tax returns.

But after playing some Romney boilerplate, Peter Alexander then remarkably and accurately reported:

Speaking at a construction company that benefited from President Obama’s stimulus grant that Mr. Romney routinely attacks, the Republican nominee blasted his opponent…

Now, that’s what journalists are supposed to do, right? If a candidate is attacking another candidate for his stimulus plan failures, people should know he is doing so at a site that was helped by that other candidate’s stimulus plan. Isn’t that the way it’s suppose to work? Kudos to Alexander and NBC. But where was ABC and CBS? Why didn’t their reporters mention that important fact? Huh? They were at that same event.

Alexander then pointed out the President’s MTV interview, which apparently cut deep into official TV journalism’s soul so much it just had to be broadcast far and wide. Reporters can sometimes be a sensitive lot.

But to his great credit, Alexander then pivoted to the John Sununu story, playing Sununu’s older offensive remarks about Obama being “lazy and detached” and his new offensive comments about Colin Powell, along with showing his subsequent statement trying to backtrack but not apologize. Alexander then ended with this:

We reached out to the Romney campaign for comment, Brian, but they offered nothing in addition to Governor Sununu’s statement.

They offered nothing. Which is what they usually do, but we didn’t hear a word about their silence, about Mittens’ silence, on ABC or CBS. Kudos again to a Fox-resistant NBC.

Up next came a segment with the talented Chuck Todd, NBC’s political director and White House correspondent. Brian Williams appropriately introduced the segment this way:

So, Chuck, here’s the field in front of us: John Sununu says Colin Powell endorsed the President ’cause they’re both black guys. A surrogate for Romney slips up and mistakenly endorses Obama for president. Romney goes after stimulus while his host on that very piece of property accepted help from stimulus money. Beyond unforced errors, the Romney campaign’s effort is to put together the electoral and not the popular vote math in these next ten days to push a victory out of it.

Now, you just wouldn’t hear Diane Sawyer of Scott Pelley talk that way, would you? No, you wouldn’t. Kudos to Brian Williams.

Chuck Todd then went through some scenarios that included the possibility of a Romney-Obama electoral tie, and a Republican-controlled House picking Romney for president and a Democrat-controlled Senate picking Biden for VP.

Yikes.

In any case, that was the end of the campaign and political news for NBC on Friday night.

Again, even though it did much better than the other networks, even though it did cover the Sununu fiasco, NBC’s broadcast did not mention the Mourdock issue nor the issue of Romney’s phony claim that Ohioans were going to lose Chrysler Jeep jobs to China. And considering what’s at stake regarding both of those stories—women’s reproductive rights and jobs in the electorally-important  Ohio—wouldn’t those stories at least have deserved a mention, especially since an aging Chuck Grassley’s relatively harmless gaffe was featured? Huh?

Maybe the NBC News team felt bringing all that other stuff up would be like piling on, even if Romney, at least on this day, deserved it. You can bet, though, that over on Fox, if the Obama campaign had had a similar bad day full of bad news, the crew wouldn’t hesitate to cover every painful  issue, over and over and over. See: Benghazi story. In fact,  the Romneybots at Fox don’t even require Obama to actually have had a bad day. They just make one up and go with that. See: Benghazi story.

Thus, although Fox has negatively influenced journalism, particularly network news journalism, I suppose we can be grateful that, at least on Friday night, NBC News did resist the transfoxation of the news and stood for more accurate coverage of what’s going on out on the campaign trail.

At least that’s something. But it ain’t enough. Let’s start whining.

And winning.

Obama Offers Thanks to Libya For Killing Americans, Or Something Like That

I stole this from Moe at Whatever Works because, well, this is what we’re up against people, twenty-four hours a day, every day:

The Fox Effect

Everyone knows that Obama’s policies, including the stimulus plan I discussed in the previous post, as well as saving the auto industry from collapse, have had a positive impact on the economy and kept things from being much worse.

Everyone except talk radio listeners and Fox viewers, that is. Those folks have assimilated the Obama-made-it-worse meme promoted by Republicans and conservative pundits, and what an effective lie it has been:

To the extent the poll is accurate, about half the country believes a falsehood. That falsehood is easily rebuttable, but its propagation is crucial to Republican success next year, which is why they endlessly and shamelessly promote it.  One of the effects of that promotion: The same CBS poll found that 54% of Americans don’t think Mr. Obama “deserves” a second term, whatever that could possibly mean next November.

The reason I know that most of those folks who believe the falsehood about the effectiveness of Obama’s policies are radio listeners and Fox watchers is because I have a PhD in Limbaugnics and talk radio and I have heard the misinformation and distortions first hand. Hour after hour, day after day.

As for Fox, a recent study done by the University of Maryland (“Misinformation and the 2010 Election: A Study of the US Electorate“) found that the more exposed to Fox “News” one is, the more likely it is that one will believe falsehoods about the issues.

Even Democrats who watch Fox are victims, willing or otherwise, of the Fox effect, according to the study.

There is a lot of misinformation out there and both sides believe more than their rightful share. But this finding is stunning:

Those who watched Fox News almost daily were significantly more likely than those who never watched it to believe that:

♦ most economists estimate the stimulus caused job losses (12 points more likely)
♦ most economists have estimated the health care law will worsen the deficit (31 points)
♦ the economy is getting worse (26 points)
♦ most scientists do not agree that climate change is occurring (30 points)
♦ the stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts (14 points)
♦ their own income taxes have gone up (14 points)
♦ the auto bailout only occurred under Obama (13 points)
♦ when TARP came up for a vote most Republicans opposed it (12 points)
♦ and that it is not clear that Obama was born in the United States (31 points)

These effects increased incrementally with increasing levels of exposure and all were statistically significant.

As you can see if you read the study, while there is much misinformation traveling around the country at the still-intact speed of light, a big hunk of it comes straight from Fox.

And we are a worse country because of it, and if it leads to a Republican president and Congress, worse still.

Chris Wallace Admits Fox Is Biased

I watched Jon Stewart’s appearance on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.  Naturally the discussion focused on Stewart’s frequent criticism of Fox “News” for its obvious bias.  I know that Stewart’s calling Wallace “insane” has grabbed much of the attention, but here is the most important part of the interview:

STEWART: So, you believe that Fox News is exactly the ideological equivalent of NBC News?

WALLACE: I think we’re the counterweight. I think that they have a liberal agenda and I think we tell the other side of the story.

Now, here we have Chris Wallace, Fox’s most prominent journalist—and to the Fox brass, its most journalistically validating employee—admitting that Fox tells “the other side of the story.” 

What side is that?  Fox is supposed to be “fair and balanced,” remember? Wallace, basing his admission on the false premise that NBC News is “liberal,” is telling the world what the world already knows but what Fox journalists are loathe to admit: Fox does not do straight journalism.  It is designed to “tell the other side of the story.”

Conservatives are no longer able to deny that Fox, rather than a “we report, you decide” journalistic enterprise, is nothing more than a “counterweight” to the imaginary bias in the other major news outlets.

We know without a doubt now that the “news” side of Fox is biased, consciously so.  And the network’s most prominent journalist has said so.

And by the way, Wallace, when Stewart pointed out that Fox viewers were the “most consistently misinformed media viewers,” did not deny it. Instead, Wallace attacked Comedy Central.

That, folks, says it all.

Conservative “Journalism” And NPR

In yet another sad example of how conservative “journalism” is ruining real journalism, we now know that “several influential journalists” “regret” giving the fraudulent James O’Keefe’s video sting of NPR “wider circulation without scrutinizing them.”

That bit of melancholic news was reported today in a story broadcast on NPR, which finally got its act together and did some digging into the raw, unedited two-hour footage of the O’Keefe operation.  And to no one’s surprise this side of Bill O’Reilly, O’Keefe has been exposed—again— for the miscreant he is.

I saw O’Keefe on CNN’s Reliable Sources yesterday, where he claimed he was a real journalist and where he said, as NPR quotes him,

The tape is very honest. The tape cuts to the core of who these people are.

Never mind that O’Keefe, who ran afoul of the law in Louisiana trying to conduct another unprofessional sting on Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu, attempted to judge an entire news organization by the words of a fundraiser. 

But one would think O’Keefe would at least present what that fundraiser said honestly, if what he said was so egregious.  But nope. He couldn’t even do that.

NPR reporter David Folkenflik quotes former broadcaster Al Tompkins who now teaches journalism at the Poynter Institute:

“What I saw was an executive at NPR expressing overtly political opinions that I was really uncomfortable with,” Tompkins said. “Particularly the way the video was edited, it just seemed he was spouting off about practically everything.”

But Tompkins said his mind was changed by watching that two-hour version.

“I tell my children there are two ways to lie,” Tompkins said. “One is to tell me something that didn’t happen, and the other is not to tell me something that did happen. I think they employed both techniques in this.”

Many of the same dishonest techniques used to distort what ACORN employees said and did—which led to the death of that organization and made O’Keefe famous on Fox—were used to distort the picture of what NPR fundraiser Ron Schiller said to whom he thought were potential Islamic donors.

O’Keefe’s point was to taint NPR by portraying Schiller (and his associate who was present) as typical representatives of the news organization who were sympathetic to sharia-loving Muslim donors who also saw “Zionist influence” in our news coverage. Except Schiller—six times—made the following point on the unedited tape:

There is such a big firewall between funding and reporting: Reporters will not be swayed in any way, shape or form.

NPR asked a digital forensics consultant to review the tapes, who personally said he found some of Schiller’s responses disturbing. But the story continues:

But by analyzing time stamps, Menz concluded that many of Schiller’s remarks in that shorter video are presented out of sequence from the questions that were posed.

“For me, in my background, it immediately puts things into question,” Menz said. “You really don’t know what context these were in, what was going on in the 20 minutes before and after this question was asked.”

Take the political remarks. Ron Schiller speaks of growing up as a Republican and admiring the party’s fiscal conservatism. He says Republican politicians and evangelicals are becoming “fanatically” involved in people’s lives.

But in the shorter tape, Schiller is also presented as saying the GOP has been “hijacked” by Tea Partiers and xenophobes.

In the longer tape, it’s evident Schiller is not giving his own views but instead quoting two influential Republicans — one an ambassador, another a senior Republican donor. Schiller notably does not take issue with their conclusions — but they are not his own.

Today’s NPR story characterized Al Tompkins’ assessment of O’Keefe’s video as “repeatedly and blatantly unfair.”  He also said,

I think that Ron Schiller actually did a fairly remarkably good job of explaining how NPR works and what you can and cannot expect if you contribute money to the NPR Foundation.

And none other than the editor of Glenn Beck’s The Blaze, Scott Baker, told NPR that he had what must have been a rather grudging respect for the professionalism of the two NPR fundraising executives:

I think if you look at two hours in total, you largely get an impression that these are pretty — they seem to be fairly balanced people, trying to do a fairly good job.

Well, it’s much too late for that accounting, given that mainstream media ran with the phony story and NPR’s board overreacted and handed heads to O’Keefe and his Fox supporters.

But maybe, just maybe, next time real journalists won’t be so quick to act on the word of a conservative activist pretending to be a muckraker.

Juan Willliams Plays The Race Card, Why Isn’t Rush Limbaugh Outraged?

I haven’t noticed any criticism of Juan Williams from the right-wing since he indicted NPR as “an all-white operation,” which had “more success with white women” than black or Hispanic journalists.

Hmm. Usually, any African-Amerian who points out the pale-faced composition of an organization and accuses them of color bias is excoriated by conservatives for “playing the race card.”  But not the Right’s favorite black “liberal.”

Not that Mr. Williams offered any other evidence for his charges than his messy termination by NPR, after the comments he made on his real home, Fox “News.”  That firing, of course, had nothing to do with his pigmentation, but the company he was keeping. And for some of the things he was saying while he was with that company.

If Mr. Williams has other evidence of discrimination, let’s hear it. NPR is not exempt from accountability for any uncivil actions.

But the wisdom of that decision by NPR to fire him seems to be confirmed by Williams himself, who told HuffPo:

What you see is there a real reluctance to, despite 10 years of success…deal with me as a journalist,” Williams said. “For them, I think the fact that I was a journalist who was not being pigeonholed as just a black journalist, but something larger and sometimes even conservative in a point of view, made them have great difficulty with me.”

Not being pigeonholed as just a black journalist, but something larger and sometimes even conservative in a point of view.”  That reference to his employment at Fox is perfect. Because that’s exactly the kind of “liberal” commentator Fox “News” wants on its payroll, black or white. One with a “sometimes” conservative point of view or one who will softly spar with Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity, so as not to land any damaging blows.

NPR was right to can him, because obviously now he can say anything he wants on the network that hires only people—pale faced or not—who don’t stray too far from the Fox Nation Reservation.

The God Delusion?

John Cragin, well-known contributor to the Joplin Globe, wrote in today to comment on the “delusional” Margie Phelps, of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church. 

No doubt, Cragin, a bona fide right-winger, had been watching Fox “News” this past weekend and saw Phelps’ appearance on the network’s Sunday program with Chris Wallace.

Here is Wallace’s opening question addressed to Phelps:

WALLACE: …after the shootings in Tucson, you said, your church did, that 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green was better off dead and you wanted to picket her funeral. Question, how does an innocent 9-year- old girl end up in this?

PHELPS: Well, if you study the scriptures, you would know that no human is innocent, and that when a nation makes policies of sin, that the God of eternity deals with that nation by pouring his wrath out on that nation. And every description of that kind in the scriptures expressly includes, down to little saplings, get caught up in that matter.

So what we’re saying to this nation is that they’re dying for your sins, and if you want it to stop, you have got to repent and mourn for your sins and stop.

WALLACE: Well, let’s talk about interpreting God’s will. Your father, Fred Phelps, the founder of the church, was five years old when his mother died of throat cancer. The aunt who raised him was killed in 1950 in a car crash. Was the death of his mother, was the death of the aunt, was that also God’s will?

PHELPS: It absolutely was. I’m quite certain, knowing my father as I do, that for him to do the work that he has ended up needing to do in his life, it was absolutely needful to remove those women from the landscape.

There is no question. God holds the breath of life of every human in his hand and he has these things mapped out. And he does them according to his good will and pleasure.

Now, in rare agreement with John Cragin, I, too, believe Mrs. Phelps is quite delusional, as the above exchange indicates.  But I do want to point out that some of the basic ideas that Phelps is trying to push are fairly common among people who consider themselves to be rather mainstream Christians.  Are they delusional, too?

One idea is, as she said,

God holds the breath of life of every human in his hand and he has these things mapped out. And he does them according to his good will and pleasure.

Get it? God is in charge. What happens is due to his intervention. That happens to be a very common belief among Christians of all stripes, particularly among fundamentalists and evangelicals. Is that notion delusional?

Here is another idea common to many Christians, from later in the Wallace interview:

WALLACE: If I may, ma’am, are the nine justices on the Supreme Court — are the nine justices going to hell?

PHELPS: I have no objective indicator otherwise. The default for mankind is hell. Unless you bring forth fruits meet for repentance, the assumption is that you will end up in hell when you quit your life on this earth. There is a duty of every human to bring forth fruit meet for repentance. I have seen no evidence of that in a single leader in this nation.

Hell.  Eternal damnation. That’s the “default” for mankind.  Very common belief. Is it delusional?

But let’s go back to Phelps’ answer to Wallace’s first question:

PHELPS: …when a nation makes policies of sin…the God of eternity deals with that nation by pouring his wrath out on that nation.

Here is how John Cragin addressed this idea in his letter:

What could be more delusional than a woman who blames God, as if she knew God, for every bad thing that happens?

Well, let’s think about that for a minute.  Most Christians, particularly conservative Christians, speak about “God’s blessings” on America.  They talk of “miracles” performed by God; they talk of how God intervenes—always for the ultimate good, of course—in their lives. 

A brand-new healthy baby? A blessing from God. Some will even tell you that a brand-new unhealthy baby is a blessing from God. I have heard that many times.

A new job? A blessing from God.  Some will even tell you that getting fired from the old job was a blessing from God. I have heard that many times, too.

Or how about tithing?  From Malachi 3:10:

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.

Is that delusional?

So, I’m having trouble figuring out just why it is that Margie Phelps’ belief that God killed 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green in Tucson or her belief that God gave Fred Phelps’ mother throat cancer or killed his aunt in a car crash is any more delusional than the belief, say, that God had his hand on this nation at its founding? Or oversees the birth of each child?  Or hires and fires? Or rewards tithers?

John Cragin ends his letter with a strange prayer:

Dear God of love, compassion, mercy and forgiveness.  Forgive us for disliking cult leaders that claim to know your will and turn out to be liars of the worst sort.

Is Cragin also suffering from a Phelps-like delusion that God is somewhere considering whether to “forgive” Cragin for his dislike of Margie Phelps?

Let me rewrite Cragin’s original question, which he meant as an indictment of the “cult leader,” this way:

What could be more delusional than a man who credits God, as if he knew God, for every good thing that happens?

Perhaps the delusion is not in believing God is punishing Americans for their sins or even in believing that God is forgiving them for their sins.

Perhaps the delusion is in believing there are sins that need punishing or sins that need forgiving.

Or, God forbid, that there is a God who cares one way or the other.

The Real Bill O’Reilly

Bill O’Reilly called MSNBC “anti-American.”  Last night, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell hit back and captured Bill O’Reilly and Fox exactly—and I mean, exactly—right, and it is a pleasure to watch:

Television And The Iraq “Victory Myth”

What American could forget the toppling of the statue of Saddam Hussein in Firdos Square in Baghdad on that triumphant day— in what seems now like ancient history—April 9, 2003? 

No matter our opinion of the war, the television images made us feel good, proud.  After all, Saddam was a bad man and we were the liberators and the liberated seemed to appreciate their liberation.

In an 8,800-word article for The New Yorker, here is how Peter Maass described the television coverage:

Live television loves suspense, especially if it is paired with great visuals. The networks almost never broke away from Firdos Square. The event lived on in replays, too. A 2005 study of CNN’s and Fox’s coverage, conducted by a research team from George Washington University and titled “As Goes the Statue, So Goes the War,” found that between 11 A.M. and 8 P.M. that day Fox replayed the toppling every 4.4 minutes, and CNN every 7.5 minutes. The networks also showed the toppling in house ads; it became a branding device. They continually used the word “historic” to describe the statue’s demise.

Obviously, bringing down a statue of a much-despised dictator is pregnant with symbolism, and coupled with non-stop television coverage, it would help to solidify public opinion on the Bush administration’s decision to go to war in Iraq.  In fact, as Maass points out, the statue idea wasn’t new: 

A few days into the war, British tanks mounted a raid into the heart of Basra, in the south of the country, where they destroyed a statue of Saddam. The Brits hoped the locals, seeing a strike against a symbol of regime power, would rise up against Saddam. As the British military spokesman, Colonel Chris Vernon, told reporters, “The purpose of that is psychological.” The statue was destroyed, but the event wasn’t filmed and drew little attention. Similarly, on April 7th, after Army soldiers seized the Republican Palace in Baghdad, their commander, Colonel David Perkins, asked his men to find a statue that could be destroyed. Once one was found—Saddam on horseback—a nearby tank was ordered to wait until an embedded team from Fox News got there. On cue, the tank fired a shell at the statue, blowing it up, but the event had little drama and did not get a lot of TV coverage. No Iraqis were present, and just a few Americans, and the surrounding landscape was featureless.

By now, you may know where this is going. 

Although it wasn’t exactly a staged event, the Firdos Square moment—which seemed like such a spontaneous and joyous occasion for viewers of television news—was not what it appeared.  As Maass reports: 

The media have been criticized for accepting the Bush Administration’s claims, in the run-up to the invasion, that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. The W.M.D. myth, and the media’s embrace of it, encouraged public support for war. The media also failed at Firdos Square, but in this case it was the media, rather than the government, that created the victory myth.

Maass writes about the “powerful words” that went with the “powerful pictures” that constituted that victory myth: 

On CNN, the anchor Bill Hemmer said, “You think about seminal moments in a nation’s history . . . indelible moments like the fall of the Berlin Wall, and that’s what we’re seeing right now.” Wolf Blitzer described the toppling as “the image that sums up the day and, in many ways, the war itself.” On Fox, the anchor Brit Hume said, “This transcends anything I’ve ever seen. . . . This speaks volumes, and with power that no words can really match.” One of his colleagues said, “The important story of the day is this historic shot you are looking at, a noose around the neck of Saddam, put there by the people of Baghdad.”

Even NPR got caught up in the television-created exuberance: 

Anne Garrels, NPR’s reporter in Baghdad at the time, has said that her editors requested, after her first dispatch about marines rolling into Firdos, that she emphasize the celebratory angle, because the television coverage was more upbeat. In an oral history that was published by the Columbia Journalism Review, Garrels recalled telling her editors that they were getting the story wrong: “There are so few people trying to pull down the statue that they can’t do it themselves. . . . Many people were just sort of standing, hoping for the best, but they weren’t joyous.”

In his article, Maass gives similar examples, but none more egregious than this one:

Robert Collier, a San Francisco Chronicle reporter, filed a dispatch that noted a small number of Iraqis at Firdos, many of whom were not enthusiastic. When he woke up the next day, he found that his editors had recast the story. The published version said that “a jubilant crowd roared its approval” as onlookers shouted, “We are free! Thank you, President Bush!”

In many ways, first-class journalism is a lot like science.  It is self-correcting.  A reporter may get something wrong and along comes another one to set the record straight.  Maass reports what really happened at Firdos Square:

Very few Iraqis were there. If you were at the square, or if you watch the footage, you can see, on the rare occasions long shots were used, that the square was mostly empty. You can also see, from photographs as well as video, that much of the crowd was made up of journalists and marines… Closeups filled the screen with the frenzied core of the small crowd and created an illusion of wall-to-wall enthusiasm throughout Baghdad. It was an illusion that reflected only the media’s yearning for exciting visuals… The journalists themselves, meanwhile, were barely photographed at all. The dramatic shots posted on Web sites that day and featured in newspapers the next morning contained almost no hint of the army of journalists at the square and their likely influence on events. One of the most photographed moments occurred when the statue fell and several dozen Iraqis rushed forward to bash the toppled head; there were nearly as many journalists in the melee, and perhaps more, but the framing of photographs all but eliminated them from view.

Maass also discusses the effects of the cameras themselves on the behavior of Iraqis:

At key moments throughout the toppling, the level of Iraqi enthusiasm appeared to ebb and flow according to the number and interest of photographers who had gathered.

Any veteran television viewer understands the dynamics of camera-plus-people.  We’ve all seen how otherwise normal folks act when the television cameras are turned on.  But we expect professional journalists to report not the artificial distortions but the reality of what is going on.  And apparently many journalists tried to do just that regarding the events in Firdos Square in 2003, but were frustrated by the bosses back home, who wanted to be part of the exhilarating historic moment, no matter what the facts on the ground were.

And as it often does, television was framing the story and driving the broader coverage, as its cameras were capturing “history.”

Maass writes:

At the square, I found the reality, whatever it was, hard to grasp. Some Iraqis were cheering, I later learned, not for America but for a slain cleric, Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr, whose son Moqtada would soon lead a Shia revolt against American occupation… The subsequent years of civil war, which have killed and injured hundreds of thousands of people, have revealed the events at Firdos to be an illusional intermission between invasion and insurgency.

And today it appears we are in an illusional intermission between the so-called success of the counter-insurgency and the long-term stability of an independent, democratic Iraq.  Who knows what the future entails, but one thing we do know: The pictures we see on our televisions—a profit-motivated medium—never tell the whole story and often tell us the wrong story.

Here is a short video summarizing the story:

Remarks And Asides

Here’s what wrong with Washington:  Harry Reid was told by nine Republicans that they would support his efforts to get the omnibus budget bill—which would have funded the government through next September—to the floor for debate, which meant it would have eventually passed the Senate. 

But because of a fear of the Tea Party—in the person of Jim DeMint, who demanded the 1900-page bill be read by the Senate clerk, a 50-hour endeavor—Republicans who gave their word to Harry Reid stabbed him squarely in the back at the last minute Thursday night, while he was on the floor.  He was forced to pull the bill and make yet another deal with Mitch McConnell over a continuing resolution.

Now, backstabbing Republicans are a problem, no doubt.  But why can’t the guys on our side at least name names when deceit like this happens?  Reid said on the floor that he would not call out the names of those senators—liars, all—who pulled back their support.  He said they knew who they were.  Yes, they do.  But the rest of us don’t. 

UPDATE: At noon today, I heard Andrea Mitchell, on her show on the “liberal” network MSNBC, say that Reid was “outfoxed.”  Outfoxed? The definition of that word is, “to surpass in guile or cunning.”  In other words, both sides were using guile and Reid simply got out-guiled by a better guiler.  That’s what happens when Democrats refuse to name names and put a face on the deception of the other side. 

At least Missouri’s own Claire McCaskill, who was going to vote against the omnibus bill anyway, did call them out. She specifically mentioned that the Republican Minority Leader had his own earmarks in the bill and fiercely criticized Republicans for their hypocrisy. 

_____________________________ 

Last night, the headline on CNN was: House passes Obama tax plan.  Get that?  It’s Obama‘s tax plan.

On CNN’s Anderson Cooper last night, I watched the first ten-minute segment, which was about all the “game playing” in the Congress.  Except, that if one were just a casual observer of American politics and didn’t know the truth, the impression left by Cooper and cast was that “both sides” were engaging in the game playing. 

This is Anderson Cooper and CNN at their split-the-difference best.  In order to solidify their self-described standing as the anti-Fox and anti-MSNBC network, they distort the truth to make it appear they are being neutral.  That’s not journalism, people.  Both sides are not equally guilty as regards the mess that is Washington, D.C.

______________________________

A new poll found what we all know:  Republicans believe certain facts about the world that are not in fact facts.  But so do Democrats.  The study also found that “those who had greater levels of exposure to news sources had lower levels of misinformation.”  Of course, that makes sense. 

But then there’s this:

There were, however, a number of cases where greater exposure to a particular news source increased misinformation on some issues.

Those who watched Fox News almost daily were significantly more likely than those who never watched it to believe that most economists estimate the stimulus caused job losses (12 points more likely), most economists have estimated the health care law will worsen the deficit (31 points), the economy is getting worse (26 points), most scientists do not agree that climate change is occurring (30 points), the stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts (14 points), their own income taxes have gone up (14 points), the auto bailout only occurred under Obama (13 points), when TARP came up for a vote most Republicans opposed it (12 points) and that it is not clear that Obama was born in the United States (31 points). The effect was also not simply a function of partisan bias, as people who voted Democratic and watched Fox News were also more likely to have such misinformation than those who did not watch it–though by a lesser margin than those who voted Republican.

Surprise!

To be fair, there was one case in which MSNBC and NPR were allegedly the guilty party:

Daily consumers of MSNBC and public broadcasting (NPR and PBS) were higher (34 points and 25 points respectively) in believing that it was proven that the US Chamber of Commerce was spending money raised from foreign sources to support Republican candidates.

Given the fact that the Chamber of Commerce won’t—and doesn’t legally have to—release donor lists or reveal just how it keeps foreign money separate in its accounting, it’s understandable how folks could jump to that conclusion.  But, again, to be fair, it is conclusion jumping, since apparently there isn’t a way to prove it.

So, in the Misinformation Olympics, Fox “News” has nine gold medals, and MSNBC and NPR have one bronze.  In other words, Fox is the East German swim team of propaganda.  Congratulations!

Earmarks, Schmearmarks

This morning, I heard the toe sucker, Dick Morris, deplore the presence of a paltry $8 billion worth of earmarks in the 1900-page, $1.3 trillion omnibus federal budget bill coming to the floor of the Senate this week. 

Members of both parties have plenty of earmarks in the bill, but it is particularly hypocritical for Republicans to use the issue as a wedge during last month’s campaign and then rush to get earmarks in the budget before all tea party hell breaks loose next month in the House.  

But such hypocrisy is not unusual on the right.  Just consider Dick Morris’ protest about earmarks this morning on the Republican “News” Channel.  He condemned the inclusion of earmarks in the budget bill because, he says, they represent corruption in the process.  He calls the game “legalized bribery,” and he claims there is a correlation between the earmarks and donations to political campaigns.  And in that he’s not far from wrong.    

It works this way: Say a university is given a $500,000 grant—via an earmark inserted by Senator X—to research just why it is that some men are attracted to toe sucking.  The university’s lobbyist then turns around and donates $50,000 to Senator X’s campaign.  Voilà. 

Dick the phalangephile has a point, of course.  It is beyond unseemly what happens not only at the federal level, but at the state level, including right here in Missouri.  Politicians are on the take all over the place, because they need money to survive the next election.

And that’s where the hypocrisy on the right comes in.  People like Dick Morris—a political consultant, as well as a foxy regular on the Republican “News” “Channel—rage against a machine that they refuse to reform. 

The right-wing furiously opposes any meaningful change in the system, unless the change makes it worse—see the Citizens United decision.* If we revamped the campaign finance system by providing public money, we would save a lot of dough in the long run.  Senator X would be less tempted to insert the toe sucker research earmark in an appropriations bill just to get fifty grand from a university, although that would mean we may never know what makes Dick tick.

As for Morris, Media Matters exposes his and Fox’s part in the game, and here is just a sample:

In 2008, Morris repeatedly touted the National Republican Trust PAC’s website, GOPTrust.com, and asked viewers to “give funds to GOPTrust.com.” Between October 27, 2008, and November 17, 2008, Morris mentioned GOPTrust.com during at least 13 Fox News appearances without disclosing that the organization paid $24,000 to Morris’ consulting firm Triangulation Strategies from the beginning of October 2008 to November 24, 2008.

And:

Morris has served as the chief strategist and ad crafter for the conservative group League of American Voters (LAV), which opposed the Democrats’ health care reform proposals. On Fox News, Morris implored viewers to donate for ads opposing health care reform at least 10 times just in February and March, often directing viewers to his website, which contained contribution links for the LAV. Morris also regularly solicited funds on Fox for 2009 LAV ad campaigns.

Republicans get away with this blatant hypocrisy all the time on Fox, of course.  No matter the issue, whether it’s earmarks in particular or government spending in general, they get credit for publicly agitating against obvious deficiencies in the system, while secretly undermining those who are trying to fix them. 

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* In an article on Clearly New Mexico, we find out that the toe sucker was the front man in a “campaign phone blitz” in that state, which aimed to “take back America” from those noted socialists, “Reid, Pelosi and Obama.”  The message began:

“Please stay on the line for an important message from Dick Morris of Citizens United.”

Glenn Beck’s Toasty White Friends

On his radio show this morning, Glenn Beck, who peddles fear for ca$h, said during a particularly inane conversation with a particularly inane caller:

If you are white or you are an American citizen or a white American citizen you are pretty much toast.

Ca-Ching! 

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate for November, 2010:

Black folks: 16%,

Hispanics: 13.2%

Toasty Whites: 8.9%.

Meanwhile, the median household income for 2009:

Blacks: $32,750

Hispanics: $38,039

Toasty Whites Alone, not Hispanic: $54,461 

Meanwhile, the median family net worth in 2007 dollars:

Non Toasty White or Hispanic: $27,800

Toasty White, non-Hispanic: $170,400

Meanwhile, millions of Americans who follow Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh pretend that there is absolutely no racial ingredient in their toxic stew of sudden solicitude for the wellbeing of America, by which they mean the wellbeing of white folks.

And those white folks seem to be doing just fine compared to those scary, if underachieving, dark people.

Numbers In The News

Some numbers in the news lately:

41% of Republicans in a CNN/Opinion Research Poll timed for release near the President’s birthday, said Barack Obama was “probably” or “definitely born in another country.”  I don’t think I can say much about that result suitable for a family newspaper, except the number is likely higher here in Southwest Missouri.

29,000 black viewers tune in to Fox “News” Channel during prime time.  That represents 1.38% of Fox’s 2.1 million primetime audience.  I’m just guessing, but perhaps black folks don’t see Fox’s fixation on what Howard Dean called a “theme of black racism” or its confusion of black people all that appealing.

45% is the latest Obama Job Approval number from Gallup Daily.  Given what the country has been through, and given the vitriol directed at him from Republicans all over the country, aided and abetted by Fox “News,” that number is remarkable.

+4 is the spread Harry Reid has over the very strange Sharron Angle in a Reuters-Ipsos poll in Nevada.  Angle enjoyed an 11-point lead at one time, but that was before the extent of her ignorance was fully known. For some Republicans, though, the extent of her ignorance is the extent of their ignorance, which is why she still polls at 44%.

637,789 is the number of times 7th District Republican candidate Billy Long uttered the words, “fed up” or a variation since January, 2010.  [Numbers compiled by The Erstwhile Conservative research staff.]

1,238,000 is the estimated number [TEC staffers worked overtime] of times Billy Long will refer to himself between now and November, either directly or indirectly, as a “citizen legislator.”  Of course, lost on Billy is the fact that hopefully all our legislators are citizens, although there does seem to be some doubt, as noted above, as to whether we have a citizen President in the White House.

The Truth About The New Black Panthers Case That The Ku Fox Klan Won’t Report

Forget for a moment that the so-called whistleblower in the imaginary controversy over the Justice Department’s decision to drop the case against members of the New Black Panthers is none other than Bush hired hand and conservative activist, J. Christian Adams.  Adams hiring was part of a process that the Bush Justice Department’s own Inspector General determined was improperly politicized.

Forget for a moment that Adams had previously been a volunteer for the Republican National Committee’s “Republican National Lawyers Association,” which, according to Main Justice, “trains lawyers to fight on the often racially tinged frontlines of voting rights.”

Forget for a moment that the alleged intimidation occurred at 1221 Fairmount Street in Philadelphia, a majority black neighborhood (according to Main Justice, only 34 whites lived in the precinct, out of a total of 970) and forget that the incident was recorded by a “journalist” hired by the local Republican Party.

Forget for a moment that King Shamir Shabazz, one of the two men accused of voter intimidation in the almost all black precinct, was not an Obama supporter.  According to Politico, Shabazz said, “[Obama] is a puppet on a string. I don’t support no black man running for white politics. I will not vote for who will be the next slavemaster.”

Forget for a moment that the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which conservatives point out is hot to trot over the phony controversy, is actually dominated by Republican appointees.

Forget for a moment that in terms of pure politics, the alleged motivation—protecting black activists—of the Justice Department is plain silly. The most politically prudent thing to do would be to prosecute the Panthers, even if the case was weak.

Forget for a moment that the guy holding the “deadly” weapon at the Philadelphia polling site—a baton—is now prohibited—through an injunction sought by the Obama Justice Department—from doing what he did in 2008, up to and including the election in 2012.

Forget for a moment that Bartle Bull, a civil rights attorney who worked for Bobby Kennedy and Jimmy Carter, and who Fox “News” conservatives trot out as “proof” that the charges against the Justice Department have merit, was a McCain supporter in 2008 and hated Barack Obama, saying,Obama’s notion of economic fairness is pure Karl Marx, plus a pocketful of Chicago-style ‘community organization.”  Sound familiar, Fox fans?*

Forget for a moment that as conservative writer Abigail Thernstrom pointed out, writing for National Review Online, where conservatives go for medication,  prosecution under the applicable provision in the Voting Rights Act—section 11 (b)—has only been successful three—(3)—times in the 45 years since the law was passed.  And forget, as she also pointed out, that, “after months of hearings, testimony and investigation—no one has produced actual evidence that any voters were too scared to cast their ballots.”

Forget for a moment that Fox “News” has been race-baiting, using the New Black Panthers to scare the bejesus out of its white viewers.

Forget all that (I bet you can’t) and then watch this video of Megyn Kelly, part of the Fox “News” lineup that claims to be real news and not conservative nuttery, as she goes completely berserk on one of Fox’s own contributors, who has the audacity to stray from the reservation of wing nuts:

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*Also forget that Bartle Bull is part of a group itching to draft Rudy Giuliani for Governor of New York, which, if doesn’t call into question his Democratic bona fides, calls into question his aesthetic discernment.

ACORN Vindicated, Fox “News” Guilty

Remember ACORN?

Remember how Fox “News” and talk radio successfully destroyed the nation’s largest anti-poverty organization?

Remember how the right-wing accused ACORN of stealing the 2008 election?

Remember those misleading videotapes—made by discredited conservative activists—supposedly showing ACORN employees helping a couple who wanted to engage in prostitution but were really carefully edited to smear the group’s employees? 

Remember how the “liberal” media—the New York Times and the Washington Post—made false assertions about ACORN workers, apparently based on the claims of conservatives bent on destroying ACORN?

Remember how the California Attorney General investigated ACORN and found it had done nothing wrong?  How about the District Attorney in Brooklyn who found the same thing?

Remember how Congress cut ACORN’s funding—essentially killing it because other sources of funding then dried up—and initiated a Government Accountability Office investigation of ACORN to see if it fraudulently obtained government grants or inappropriately used the approximately $40 million in government funds it received?

The GAO’s preliminary report is now finished and guess what?  No problems were found by the nine government agencies who handled the grants to ACORN.  None.

But that doesn’t change the fact that conservatives and Republicans—with the help of both faux and real journalists—were able to destroy an organization that, as the GAO described it,

…had 500,000 members and had expanded into a national network of organizations involved in the development of affordable housing, foreclosure counseling, voter registration, and political mobilization, among other things.

The truth is that ACORN’s involvement in voter registration is what made it a target of conservatives and Republicans and thus made it worth the effort to sully.  The fact that Fox “News” was heavily involved in that effort should forever brand it as the phony news channel it is.

It’s just too bad that the New York Times and the Washington Post and other mainstream news outlets continue to treat the Fox “News” Channel like it is practicing real journalism, which in the end only harms the real journalists—the few there are left.

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