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December 14, 2007 - December 7, 2007

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Hard News

Journalism is digging for hard news, right? Digging deep.

22 MINUTES? Commander Drudge seems to be taking some delight in reporting on the ratings race sparked by the launch of Katie Couric's CBS Evening News Today show. He links to a Variety article that analyzes the latest numbers.

Katie Couric's "Evening News" fell to third place Monday night, just six nights after she stormed into first in her debut week at CBS.

Couric's debut... brought in well over 13 million total viewers last week. While her audience dwindled from there, she finished the week with a comfortable 3 million-viewer lead over NBC's "Nightly News" and ABC's "World News."

But on Monday, the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Couric resumed a ratings position only slightly better than the one Bob Schieffer left her with. Her 7.49 million total viewers were slightly behind ABC's 7.87 million and NBC's 8.27 million.

Drudge's headline features the ratings slump, but he appears to have missed the most shocking part of the story, buried in the tenth paragraph:

Rival nets pointed out that Couric's "Evening News" aired the least amount of hard news among the network newscasts over the course of last week.

According to news analyst Andrew Tyndall, CBS aired 19 minutes of hard news last week, compared with 46 minutes for ABC and 44 minutes for NBC.

Come again. Couric had 19 minutes of hard news? That's less than four minutes per day and only half the time viewers are subjected to commercials in a half-hour newscast. This means the CBS news audience will, on average, learn twice as much about floorwax, hemorrhoid remedies, and fast food alternatives than they will about what happened today in the world. And Les Moonves expects us to take him seriously as a news executive?

ABC and NBC aren't much better, averaging barely 9 minutes a day each of hard news, which is just about a minute more than the time allotted for floorwax and hemorrhoids. For this we have to endure the slick sanctimony of Brian Williams? If this truly is the financial reality of network news, shouldn't he discard the Savile Row suits and opt for one of those porkpie hats with a card reading "Press" stuck in the brim? And maybe he could also be honest enough to return to those thrilling days of yesteryear and read the ad copy himself while holding up an oversized pack of Chesterfields. That would at least be entertaining.

Still, we are bamboozled with columns by media journalists analyzing whether or not Katie Couric has the starpower to save the genre of nightly network news broadcasts. The answer is no. No one can save a format so utterly empty and bankrupt. You can get more hard news than that between calls on your cell phone.

The options are few and stark. The networks can go burlesque, or they can turn out the lights and go home, because nobody will be watching.

Changing of the ThongGuard

SACRED TRUTHS. So, after several years of sound and fury signifying nothing everything important, Air America is finally augering in.

Air America Radio will announce a major restructuring on Friday, which is expected to include a bankruptcy filing, three independent sources have told ThinkProgress.

Air America could remain on the air under the deal, but significant personnel changes are already in the works. Sources say five Air America employees were laid off yesterday and were told there would be no severance without capital infusion or bankruptcy.

The really excellent news is that on the same day, a brand new radio enterprise has been announced by Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda, who have figured out -- after much objective deliberation --  that talk radio is generally male, combative, and in need of the soft woman's touch so long exemplified by these two icons of female gentility, tact, and grace:

Greenstone Media, a radio company whose founders include social activist Gloria Steinem and actress Jane Fonda, has launched an all-women, all-talk network across the United States.

Steinem said the network, which is run by women, aims to provide an alternative to current radio talk, which she describes as "very argumentative, quite hostile, and very much male-dominated."

This network "has a different spirit. It has more community. It's more about information, about humor, about respect for different points of view and not constant arguing," Steinem told Reuters in an interview.

But Greenstone also hopes to attract male listeners.

This sounds like an opening for a show by Randi Rhodes, who definitely knows how to do the obscene, scatological name-calling that all men prefer in their political analysis and,who, let's be honest, may just possibly be in need of employment sometime during the next few weeks.

I know I can't wait to feel the warm waves of feminine intelligence oozing from the radio on a regular basis. I had a tiny taste today on the Rush Limbaugh show when a cultured, highly educated liberal woman called Rush to show him the error of his ways in sponsoring the evil people who are determined to destroy our great nation by warring against muslim fanatics. It was a joy. She was articulate, forcible without being loud, and it took her a full 45 seconds to get around to comparing his powers of perception with his total hearing loss. When it comes right down to it, everyone must concede that women are just nicer all around than men.

And their promotional merchandise is always much more exciting too.

Triangulating on Truth

Get ready, folks. Air America may soon be a memory, but help is on the way.

Monday, September 11, 2006


RESPONSIBILITY. So it's been exactly five years since we all turned on the TV to watch that second plane strike the second tower and begin the 21st century in earnest. Where were you at that moment? And what were your immediate thoughts?

I know there have been a lot of weighty analyses of the fifth anniversary of 9/11 and its meaning. I heard one Saturday on the radio, hosted jointly by NPR and the BBC, with listeners from all over the globe solicited to call in, collect, to offer their own perspectives. Frank Rich was a guest and seemed impressed enough by the dignity of the venue that he actually tried to restrain his Bush hatred and affect an objective point of view. Dorothy Rabinowitz was also on hand as the lone defender of (outmoded) 20th century traditions like patriotism and national security. Whenever she made a point the BBC hostess didn't like, a caller was summoned from the queue to provide an anecdotal rebuttal. The foreign callers were identified by nation of origin -- France, Britain, etc -- but they were invariably muslim and offended to the core by the fact that the U.S. would seek to defend itself against muslim terrorism by scrutinizing muslims more closely than Indiana housewives. The BBC hostess was enjoying herself immensely until Rabinowitz had finally had enough and pummeled the BBC for its venomous anti-American propaganda, which caused her to lapse into relative silence.

Still, it was interesting to hear the American pundits trying, for once, to be less partisan and more reflective about the difficulties America faces in trying to fight a war on terror in the current international climate. Even if it was all for show, the prospect of Frank Rich declaring that the policy decisions were extraordinarily difficult and unavoidably controversial was like the experience of rain after a long drought, almost palpably life-giving. What would the past five years have been like, I couldn't help wondering, if debate and criticism had proceeded atop the civil platform of agreement that the President was really trying to do his best in a terrible crisis that almost no one had anticipated? Imagine that everyone had been sober and serious all along, as if the responsibility were theirs and not someone else's. Imagine that the opposition to the administration's policies had been more substantive than personal, focused on alternative proposals rather than autopsies of irrevocable decisions past. Imagine that all of us were dealing with today's reality instead of pet grievances from months or years ago. Isn't it possible that the critics might have had more impact on events, that the defenders of American policy might have listened and responded more thoughtfully?

You can decide all these questions for yourselves, but I know I would have been more open to opposing views if their proponents had not insisted that doing the right thing required a first step of denouncing the president as a fool, a liar, an opportunist, and a closet tyrant. If I put aside the partisan emotions such postulates inspire, I have enough breathing room to perceive that my own views have changed again and again over the past five years. On September 11, 2001, I wanted to nuke Afghanistan, I wanted the world to tremble in fear of American military might, I wanted to go Roman Empire on the whole smelly, barbarian world. I wanted bin Laden and everyone he had ever met vaporized into a radioactive cloud. But Bush did not launch the B-52s and ICBMs. I was irate when I asked the question a lot of people just like me were asking at the time, "What is he waitng for? Just go DO it."

But you can't nuke a country of 15 million people because some of its residents killed 3,000 Americans. I would have recognized that fact if I had been the one making the decisions in the Oval Office. But I wasn't. I had the luxury of not being responsible for how the nation responded to an act of ultimate depravity and viciousness. Indeed, we have ALL had that luxury. All of us, that is, but the most vilified man on Planet Earth, the one man who has had to be continuously responsible for protecting the United States of America throughout each of the 2,628,000 minutes since the first plane crashed into the World Trade Center.

In honor of the fifth anniversary of 9/11, I propose that all Americans perform two exercises. The first is to compile a list of notable public examples of the luxury of not being responsible for protecting the nation. The list should take in the full five year timeframe, and it should be written down to make it official. I'm offering a sample here, just to illustrate what I mean, but yours will, of course, be different.

On 9/11/01, a day when four airliners were hijacked, two of the world's largest buildings lay in smoking ruins, and U.S. air traffic controllers had to land 4,000 planes in three hours, network anchorman Peter Jennings sneered at the fact that the President of the United States didn't return to the nation's capitol until nightfall.

As newly anointed chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Howard Dean told a radio audience he considered theories that the President of the United States had advance knowledge of the 9/11 attacks "interesting."

Congressman John Conyers, who would chair the committee responsible for drawing up articles of impeachment if the Democrats win a House majority in the 2006 elections, presided over a mock trial of the President in which he tolerated "evidence" that 9/11 was planned and executed by Jews.

Senator Jay Rockefeller, this week, denounced the President of the United States for deliberately lying and misleading the nation into the war in Iraq despite the fact that he himself had described Saddam Hussein as an "imminent threat" to the United States (which the President never did), citing intelligence indicating that Saddam was possibly only months away from nuclear weapons (which the President never did).

Former Vice President Al Gore stormed at a partisan crowd that the President of the United States "betrayed us" and subsequently undertook a promotional tour for a book and movie arguing that the greatest current threat to the United States of America is a theoretical climate condition demonstrated by mathematical models in a "science" that has yet to produce a single mathematical model capable of predicting what the climate will do next week.

A former President of of the United States, this week, demanded that a national television network withdraw a miniseries implying that his administration failed to take the threat posed by al Qaida seriously enough to kill or capture its leader when it had the chance, despite this record. Further, his political allies -- supposedly devoted to the inviolability of he First Amendment under all circumstances, including the rawest pornography -- backed up his demand by implying that the network could lose its license to broadcast if the miniseries was aired on national television.

The Senate Minority Leader boasted on network television that his party had "killed the Patriot Act," which permits the federal government expanded powers to investigate terrorist threats, and subsequently claimed -- also on network television -- that America is "less safe" from terrorist attack because of the President's lackadaisical attitude about national security.

The country's major opposition party has continuously derided and scorned the policies of Defense Department Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, in particular his determination to invade and reorganize Iraq with too few troops, and this week, published a document calling for his immediate dismissal, a document which also contained as its one military proposal a demand to increase funding for special operations forces; that is, the smallest and most specialized military forces there are.

The mainstream media, led by the prestigious New York Times, have perpetuated a three-year (unfounded, as it turns out) assault on the President of the United States and his staff for exposing an "undercover" CIA operative in retribution for a diplomatic leak by a former ambassador that was itself a lie, arguing that the leak of a CIA operative's identity was tantamount to treason while, at the same time, publishing details of classified intelligence operations which were both legal and effective on the basis that the public's right to know trumps ALL questions of national security.

The country's major opposition party has refused to publicly and officially condemn the absurd position taken by approximately 33 percent of Americans (some overlap with the 33 percent of Americans who are registered Democrats?) who believe -- in defiance of the voluminously documented evidence to the contrary -- that the 9/11 attack was either planned by the President of the United States or permitted to happen despite complete, detailed knowledge of the plot in advance.

Well, I could go on, but you get the idea. As I said, everyone can draw up his own list. There are absurdities on every side, and I'm sure that those who are so disposed can find laughable examples that suit their own political biases. My overriding point is that all of our positions, causes, pet peeves, and raging hatreds are luxuries. Only one of the 300 million people who live in America wake up every day to a briefing from the nation's intelligence agencies about what threats might become reailty today. That's a fact. The man's name is George W. Bush.

I'm NOT saying this makes him immune from criticism. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Forget all the invective about his cowardice or shirking of military duty when he was a twenty-something. Five years of such briefings would be enough to give most of us Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It's probably the case that the President of the United States has been damaged by what he's been through. It's the most obvious explanation conceivable for why the White House seems so slow to respond to the daily firestorms the mass media engender. My guess is, not too many of us would want to be living inside George W. Bush's head right now. It's too much. For anyone. He needs advice and constructive criticism and thoughtful opposition. But who -- and I'm including all of you in this -- is served by characterizing the advice, criticism, and opposition as the obvious response to a criminal idiot?

But that's right. You, me, all of us, we're so much smarter than the oil monkey who's been getting the daily briefings for five years. That brings me to the second exercise. Make a list  -- and write IT down too -- of the extreme positions you have taken personally over the past five years, beginning with 9/11.  What are the worst things you have thought? What are the wildest positions you have espoused in your times of greatest personal weakness, disgust, anger, fatigue, despair? Measure them against the imaginary state in which you are responsible, day after day after day after day after day... Define loneliness. Could you bear it?

Now. That done, how would you really go about discussing your differences with the President of the United States? If you answer this question truthfully, I'm sure he'd be prepared to listen.

UPDATE. Thanks to Glenn Reynolds and to all the commenters who have been so kind.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Texas Commits Suicide

THE ALAMO. Terrible sadness on this Sunday. The State of Texas, having suffered football losses by  the University of Texas,  the Dallas Cowboys, and the Houston Texans -- all within a single 24-hour period -- shot itself through the heart and died on this day, the tenth of September, 2006.

We offer our sincerest condolences.

Friday, September 08, 2006

By the way...

Patrick Fitzgerald.

LAWYERS. Remember this guy? We've mentioned him before, but now that the facts of the Plame case are becoming known -- no thanks to Fitzgerald -- it's time to look specifically at what this special prosecutor has been up to for almost two years. His job was to investigate the leak of Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA employee and determine if that leak was a criminal, i.e., knowing and deliberate, act.

Now we know that the leaker was Richard Armitage, who has finally come forward to tell the truth:

July 2003, Armitage told columnist Robert Novak that Ambassador Wilson's wife worked for the CIA, and Novak mentioned it in a column. It's a crime to knowingly reveal the identity of an undercover CIA officer. But Armitage didn't yet realize what he had done.

So, what exactly did he tell Novak?

"At the end of a wide-ranging interview he asked me, 'Why did the CIA send Ambassador (Wilson) to Africa?' I said I didn't know, but that she worked out at the agency," Armitage says.

Armitage says he told Novak because it was "just an offhand question." "I didn't put any big import on it and I just answered and it was the last question we had," he says....

Armitage immediately met with FBI agents investigating the leak.

"I told them that I was the inadvertent leak," Armitage says. He didn't get a lawyer, however...

That was nearly three years ago, but the political firestorm over who leaked Valerie Plame's identity continued to burn as Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald began hauling White House officials and journalists before a grand jury.

So why didn't he come forward sooner?

Armitage says he didn't come forward because "the special counsel, once he was appointed, asked me not to discuss this and I honored his request."

Amazingly, columnist David Broder has called the press to account for their disgraceful reporting of the story (h/t Malkin), which systematically replaced fact with wild conspiracy theorizing. But there is more judgment to be passed here. Armitage himself is a disgusting worm, his emotional mea culpa notwithstanding:

"Oh I feel terrible. Every day, I think I let down the president. I let down the Secretary of State. I let down my department, my family and I also let down Mr. and Mrs. Wilson," he says.

When asked if he feels he owes the Wilsons an apology, he says, "I think I've just done it."

Well, the Plames have been wined and dined by the national media for years now, based on the Armitage leak. They don't need any apology. The people who are owed an apology are President Bush, Karl Rove, and Scooter Libby, whose reputations and effectiveness have been continuously impaired by the fraudulent scandal, as well as the American people, who have been manipulated and misled throughout. Yet he offered no apology to the country and apparently hasn't even had the guts to speak with the President. Worm.

Colin Powell is also a worm. According to Armitage, "I almost immediately called Secretary Powell and said, 'I'm sure that was me." Which means that the vastly over-praised bureaucrat-general also remained silent for years when the country and its leadership would clearly have been better served by the truth than the legalistic priorities of the State Department and the special prosecutor's office.

And what about that special prosecutor? We now know that the mission of the special prosecutor was accomplished before Patrick Fitzgerald even began his investigation. And he knew it. What purpose could there possibly have been to this whole charade other than to embarrass the administration and create a perjury trap for spurious prosecutions? None.

Patrick Fitzgerald should be investigated, then prosecuted for conspiracy and misconduct, disbarred, and sent to prison.

Won't happen, of course. But it should.

Redeploying Language

PSAYINGS.5Q.46. The Democrats are trying pretty hard to show us that they're strong on national security and the War on Terror. That's why they introduced their new (?) multi-point plan for re-strategerating U.S. policy. Here's their own summary:

Therefore, we urge you once again to consider changes to your Iraq policy. We propose a new direction, which would include: (1) transitioning the U.S. mission in Iraq to counter-terrorism, training, logistics and force protection; (2) beginning the phased redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq before the end of this year; (3) working with Iraqi leaders to disarm the militias and to develop a broad-based and sustainable political settlement, including amending the Constitution to achieve a fair sharing of power and resources; and (4) convening an international conference and contact group to support a political settlement in Iraq, to preserve Iraq's sovereignty, and to revitalize the stalled economic reconstruction and rebuilding effort. [boldface added].

Of course, it's all just talk except for the highlighted point. The others are being done already or, like point four, can't be done because other world leaders are no more interested in a stable, free Iraq than the Democrats are. But I am fascinated by the use of the word 'redeployment.' The context makes it obvious that they are talking about leaving Iraq; that is, quitting, surrendering, giving up, making like sheep and getting the flock out of there, or whatever other synonym you prefer. So why bother with the neologism? Curious, I did some research among some of history's greatest speechifiers and discovered just how noble and valuable the word 'redeploy' and its conjugates is.

Here, for your education and entertainment, are a few eloquent examples:

We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never redeploy.

No other terms than unconditional and immediate redeployment can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your works.

I must save this government if possible. What I cannot do, of course I will not do; but it may as well be understood, once for all, that I shall not redeploy leaving any available card unplayed.

There was a famous saying in the Stalin years: “If the enemy won’t redeploy, let’s finish him off.”

The path we have chosen for the present is full of hazards, as all paths are…. The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of redeployment....

The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a redeployment.

Redeploy! Redeploy!

Sometimes junk words actually sound better than real words. Sometimes they don't.

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