Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Slow-Witted Beast

Jon Stewart lectures reporters on coverage (CNN)

As Comedy Central's "Daily Show" descends on Denver for four days of coverage, Jon Stewart took after the "established" media for getting too cozy with candidates and regurgitating campaign spin when it comes to political coverage.

In a breakfast with reporters, Stewart directed most of his ire at the 24-hour cable news networks, which he called "gerbil wheels," and said the media at-large had "abdicated" to what he called the "slow-witted beast."

He said the never-ending television news cycle creates a "false sense of urgency" and forces reporters to "follow the veins that have been mined," instead of pursuing serious and in-depth reporting.

Stewart said politicians in recent campaigns are "animatronic" because all of the "humanity has been managed out of campaigns." He referenced the back-and-forth during the Pennsylvania Democratic primary over Obama's lack of bowling skills.

"It's stunning what this election is going to be decided on," he said. "Or what we allow it to be decided on."

No Joke: Jon Stewart Takes Aim At 24-Hour Cable News 'Beast (Washington Post)

Jon Stewart ripped the cable news networks Monday as a "brutish, slow-witted beast" and castigated Fox News in particular as "an appendage of the Republican Party."

The "Daily Show" host told reporters at a University of Denver breakfast that Fox's "fair and balanced" slogan is an insult "to people with brains" and that only "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace "saves that network from slapping on a bumper sticker. . . . Barack Obama could cure cancer and they'd figure out a way to frame it as an economic disaster." "I'm stunned to see Karl Rove on a news network as an analyst," he said of the Bush White House aide turned Fox commentator.

Stewart included CNN and MSNBC in a far-ranging indictment of what he called "that false sense of urgency they create, the sense that everything is breaking news. . . . The 24-hour networks are now driving the narratives and everyone else is playing catch-up."

The Comedy Central funnyman touched a nerve when he criticized journalists for having off-the-record dinners with politicians, such as a barbecue in March at John McCain's Arizona ranch. "That colors your vision of them so clearly and so profoundly," he said.

When New York Times columnist David Brooks and others protested that there was value in getting to know candidates privately, Stewart stood his ground: "I don't say access is useless. But the more you get sucked into it, the more you become part of that machinery." And when another reporter accused him of courting the press at the breakfast as skillfully as any officeholder, Stewart called the comparison "crazy."

a good example of the "gerbil wheels" at work:

Hillary Clinton speaks at convention. The press concocts a story

by Eric Boehlert

Writing at his Atlantic blog, Marc Ambinder, who seems to enjoy regular access to Obama sources, noted that "reports of strife between negotiators for Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama are exaggerated" and that "multiple sources in both campaigns have described the negotiations as relatively free of acrimony."

The next day, Ambinder returned to the topic perplexed, wondering why so many members of the press were pushing the clearly inaccurate story line that the Obama and Clinton camps were practically at war over the convention schedule.

Ambinder was either being naïve or playing nice with his Beltway colleagues. (My guess is the latter.) Because it was obvious the press didn't care whether the rift about Clinton's speech was real or imagined. The story helped journalists advance their beloved narrative that Clinton is a political-party wrecking ball and that Obama is too weak to control her. So even if the evidence ran counter to that, the press was sticking with its story line.

This newly manufactured media attack on Clinton is just the latest in a long line of press grenades thrown her way this year. But this time, she's not the only victim, because the media's concocted story line is being used to unfairly skewer Barack Obama, too.

Consider New York magazine: "Obama Agrees to Roll-Call Vote for Clinton. Does That Make Him a Sissy?"

What's so startling in watching the coverage of the Clinton convention-speech story has been the complete ignorance displayed about how previous Democratic conventions have dealt with runners-up like Clinton. It's either complete ignorance or the media's strong desire to painstakingly avoid any historical context, which, in turn, allows the press to mislead news consumers into thinking Clinton's appearance (as well as the gracious invitation extended by Obama) represents something unique and unusual. Something newsworthy.

Based on previous conventions, if a candidate had accumulated as many delegates and votes as Clinton did during the primaries and then did not have her name placed into nomination, that would represent a radical departure from the convention norm.

But, boy, in 2008, an awful lot of media outlets have played dumb. When covering the August 14 announcement about Clinton's role in Denver, they miraculously forgot to make any historical reference to similar names-placed-in-nomination at previous conventions.

Instead, readers and viewers were left with the obvious impression that what was scheduled to happen in Denver was remarkable, an anomaly. And I suppose if you look at the events through a soda straw, it does look unusual. But if you include the slightest bit of context, the story changes into something normal and routine.

But that's not the story the press wants to tell (the Clintons are not normal!), so the press simply erased the context and stuck to its preferred story line that Clinton's appearance in Denver and the placing of her name in nomination are one for the record books.

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

I Called It!

I got my first and second choices for President from the primaries on the same ticket. When has that ever happened? I don't know when, but it feels good, a feeling Clinton supporters will never know! Ha!

Hoping It’s Biden - NY Times (David Brooks Op-Ed)

"Biden’s weaknesses are on the surface. He has said a number of idiotic things over the years and, in the days following his selection, those snippets would be aired again and again.

But that won’t hurt all that much because voters are smart enough to forgive the genuine flaws of genuine people. And over the long haul, Biden provides what Obama needs:"


On Becoming Joe Biden - NPR (Interview)


A Senate Stalwart Who Bounced Back - NY Times


Biden Strong On Foreign Policy, National Security - NPR


Profile: Joe Biden - BBC


Media outlets reported allegations Biden plagiarized Kinnock, but not that he had previously credited him - Media Matters

Summary: The Los Angeles Times reported that when Sen. Joe Biden ran for president in 1987, he "was accused of plagiarism when he did not credit Neil Kinnock, then leader of the British Labor Party, for much of his stump speech." The New York Times and the Associated Press made similar reports. But they did not note that Biden reportedly had credited Kinnock, as The Washington Post reported at the time: "John Quinlan, a reporter for the Sioux City Journal, said his notes showed Biden said he was quoting Kinnock when he used the same passage in a speech Aug. 14. Stories in The [New York] Times, The Boston Globe and other newspapers also said Biden had used the rhetoric and credited Kinnock for it."


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Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Problem is the Question Itself

"Now That's Rich"

Published: August 22, 2008 - NYTimes.com

Last weekend, Pastor Rick Warren asked both presidential candidates to define the income at which “you move from middle class to rich.” The context of the question was, of course, the difference in the candidates’ tax policies. Barack Obama wants to put tax rates on higher-income Americans more or less back to what they were under Bill Clinton; John McCain, who was against the Bush tax cuts before he was for them, says that means raising taxes on the middle class.

Mr. Obama answered the question seriously, defining middle class as meaning an income below $150,000. Mr. McCain, at first, made it into a joke, saying “how about $5 million?” Then he declared that it didn’t matter because he wouldn’t raise anyone’s taxes. That wasn’t just an evasion, it was a falsehood: Mr. McCain’s health care plan, by limiting the deductibility of employer-paid insurance premiums, would effectively raise taxes on a number of people.

The real problem, however, was with the question itself... Read More

Coverage of candidates' ability to relate to voters ignores their policy positions
"Media Matters" 8/22/08

It's easy to get caught up in trying to count John McCain's houses or listing Barack Obama's preferred salad greens or trying to figure out whether there's a Whole Foods in Iowa or how much John and Cindy McCain spend on household staff. But reporters covering these who-is-the-real-elitist battles should keep in mind that for most voters, the candidates' bank accounts are less important than their own. The candidates' policy positions -- their tax plans, their proposals for dealing with the mortgage crisis, their health care plans, among others -- should be part of any news report purporting to assess the skirmish over which candidate is more in touch with the needs of the typical American. Read more

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Speaking Truth to Power

Thanks to David Dark for turning me on to this fantastic interview of Andrew Bacevich by Bill Moyers.
August 15, 2008

As campaign ads urge voters to consider who will be a better "Commander in Chief," Andrew J. Bacevich — Professor of International Relations at Boston University, retired Army colonel, and West Point graduate — joins Bill Moyers on the JOURNAL to encourage viewers to take a step back and connect the dots between U.S. foreign policy, consumerism, politics, and militarism.

Click to Watch Video: PART 1 ---- PART 2

Bacevich begins his new book, THE LIMITS OF POWER: THE END OF AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM, with an epigraph taken from the Bible: "Put thine house in order." Bacevich explained his choice to Bill Moyers:

"I've been troubled by the course of U.S. foreign policy for a long, long time. And I wrote the book in order to sort out my own thinking about where our basic problems lay. And I really reached the conclusion that our biggest problems are within.

I think there's a tendency in the part of policy makers — and probably a tendency in the part of many Americans — to think that the problems we face are problems that are out there somewhere beyond our borders, and that if we can fix those problems, then we'll be able to continue the American way of life as it has long existed. I think it's fundamentally wrong. Our major problems are here at home."

Bacevich concludes, we cannot solve our problems by simply electing a new president, or removing a beligerant foreign regime. To address our triplet crises, we must first confront our core misconceptions. Which we do, Bacevich explains, by confronting our consumerism and
"...giving up our Messianic dreams and ceasing our efforts to coerce history in a particular direction. This does not imply a policy of isolationism. It does imply attending less to the world outside of our borders and more to the circumstances within. It means ratcheting down our expectations. Americans need what Niebuhr described as "a sense of modesty about the virtue, wisdom and power available to us for the resolution of [history's] perplexities."

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Saturday, August 16, 2008


UPDATE: In an ironic twist, the DNC Convention has record-breaking crowds and perfect weather and the RNC Convention is "blessed" with a hurricane and two days disrupted. There. is. a. God.

Focus on the Family wants you to pray to God for event-stopping rain to halt Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention. They've now pulled this video due to public outcry. (One example being comments left on their site like, "Focus on your own damn family.") But in the good old free internet it can still be found. Prepare to shudder.

"You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that takes his name in vain." - Exodus 20:7

Does that answer your question, Stuart?

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Faux Fun

More lunacy from the beacons of journalism over at FoxNews...

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Hail to the Thief? or Divine Inspiration

Third Day - Revelation (2008)

Radiohead - Hail to the Thief (2003)

Salvation Mountain, Niland CA (1985)


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

"Baby don't let 'em, don't let 'em put a name on you"

"...once media have hung a label on you, anything that you do—or don’t do—can be depicted as confirming it, with the most unremarkable behavior..."

“we [the media] went totally haywire over a couple of gutter balls and we sort of traffic in this world of symbolism,”

These are quotes from a great compilation of bad reporting documented by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) in this article:

Extra! July/August 2008
Obama the Snob?

Hanging the ‘elitist’ label on another Democratic candidate

By Peter Hart

It’s safe to assume that Barack Obama knew he could expect certain lines of attack when he decided to run for president: whispers about his religious beliefs, for example, or questions regarding his patriotism. And sure enough, those issues came up almost as soon as the campaign started. But it’s difficult to imagine that Obama—whose one grandfather was a high-school dropout and the other a colonial servant—expected to fend off the accusation that he is “elitist.”

Corporate media coverage of political campaigns often rests on certain storylines, though, that don’t necessarily bear any relationship to reality...
[story continued here]

Does liking good food make you "not ready to lead"?...

The Politics of Brie: Time to Scrap a Label - NPR.org

Listen Now [3 min 23 sec]

All Things Considered, October 26, 2006 · In election years, there are Soccer Moms, NASCAR Dads, and the Silent M ajority. But writer David Kamp says it's time to ditch one popular political nickname: the Wine-and-Cheese Liberal. The difference, he says, is that it's not true. Kamp is the author of the United States of Arugula.

Bringing it back to the FAIR article...

Associated Press reporter Ron Fournier penned an outraged column (3/17/08) warning that Obama had “better watch his step,” since he was “bordering on arrogance” and “can be a bit too cocky for his own good.” (An example of his “self-importance and superiority”: citing his 2002 opposition to the Iraq invasion as a sign of courage.) Obama and his wife, for that matter, “ooze entitlement.”

I however think of another political figure when I hear the word, "arrogant," though I don't think there's any "bordering on" happening here:

one more article for good measure:

Bob Cesca: The Exotic Candidate Is The One With Eight Houses

Bob Cesca

August 13, 2008 ...The Exotic Candidate Is The One With Eight Houses

"It is possible," Gore Vidal once wrote, "for any citizen with time to spare, and a canny eye, to work out what is actually going on, but for the many there is not time, and the network news is the only news even though it may not be news at all but only a series of flashing fictions."

The barbecue media script for this election, a work of unabridged fiction and co-written by the modern Rove Republicans, has crow-barred Senator Obama into the incongruous frame of the exotic effete elitist, irrespective of the fact that, on all counts, he's absolutely none of those things. It's the same script that's been wheeled out during the last several presidential elections -- designed as a way of sculpting reality into a neatly packaged prime time dramatic narrative that both reinforces and exploits fear-based stereotypes.

continue reading

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Liar Liar Pants on Fire

Playing on the idea that if you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed, McCain released three new ads with multiple false and misleading claims about Obama's tax proposals. How does McCain get away with just completely lying in his ads? It's not even "misrepresenting" or "taking out of context" or "exaggerating." They are just out-right lies.

Here's the ad:

The ad continues McCain's pattern of misrepresenting Sen. Barack Obama's tax proposals as falling on middle-income families. It claims that Obama "promises more taxes on small businesses, seniors, your life savings, your family." But that's untrue for the vast majority of small businesses, seniors and individual taxpayers, who would see their taxes go down under Obama's actual plan. He proposes to increase taxes only for those with more than $250,000 in family income, or $200,000 in individual income.

Summary from FactCheck.org

McCain released three new ads with multiple false and misleading claims about Obama's tax proposals.
  • A TV spot claims Obama once voted for a tax increase "on people making just $42,000 a year." That's true for a single taxpayer, who would have seen a tax increase of $15 for the year – if the measure had been enacted. But the ad shows a woman with two children, and as a single mother, she would not have been affected unless she made more than $62,150. The increase that Obama once supported as part of a Democratic budget bill is not part of his current tax plan anyway.

  • A Spanish-language radio ad claims the measure Obama supported would have raised taxes on "families" making $42,000, which is simply false. Even a single mother with one child would have been able to make $58,650 without being affected. A family of four with income up to $90,000 would not have been affected.

  • The TV ad claims in a graphic that Obama would "raise taxes on middle class." In fact, Obama's plan promises cuts for middle-income taxpayers and would increase rates only for persons with family incomes above $250,000 or with individual incomes above $200,000.

  • The radio ad claims Obama would increase taxes "on the sale of your home." In fact, home-sale profits of up to $500,000 per couple would continue to be exempt from capital gains taxes. Very few sales would see an increase under Obama's proposal to raise the capital gains rate.

  • A second radio ad, in English, says, "Obama has a history of raising taxes" on middle-class Americans. But that's false. It refers to a vote that did not actually result in a tax increase and could not have done so.
These ads continue what's become a pattern of misrepresentation by the McCain campaign about his opponent's tax proposals.

Here's someone's independent response to the lies using McCain's premise:

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Paris Hearts America

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Net Neutrality at Risk

Save the Internet | Rock the Vote