Thursday, January 04, 2007

Fox News Remains Ratings King, But Ratings Slid In 2006

Fox News Channel's prime-time lineup saw its ratings slide in 2006.

About 20 percent fewer viewers -- and 25 percent in the precious 25-54 age group -- watched Hannity & Colmes, O'Reilly Factor and the rest of Fox News' nightly shows.

Fox News remains the ratings king, with 1.4 million viewers nightly.

MSNBC -- led by buzzworthy Keith Olbermann -- was the only cable news network to see its ratings climb last year. MSNBC, ranked third among the four news channels, was up 6 percent for the year, but up a whopping 22 percent in the fourth quarter, when the network's prime-time line-up was revamped to focus primarily on the midterm elections.

Most of those viewers seem to have come from Fox News. As JABBS noted last month, Fox News' ratings were down 24 percent from October 2005 to October 2006, and were down 19 percent from November 2005 to November 2006 -- the peak of election season.

At the time, Fox News executives spun that their ratings declined because of a slow news year. Others have rightly suggested that the ratings drop mirrors a change among voters, and a rejection of the conservative analysis that makes up Fox News' nightly lineup.

Savage: Man-Made Global Warming Doesn't Explain End Of Ice Age

On last night's edition of Savage Nation, conservative radio ranter Michael Savage chastised a caller for suggesting that global warming is a man-made phenomenon.

His reason? If man was to blame, then how did the ice ages end, long before man-made emissions?

It's a false premise relying on "truthiness" -- a gut feeling, rather than a concept based on scientific research.

It's like comparing a falling tree punching a hole in your roof and a hole forming in your roof because you used substandard material. Both events caused a hole in your roof, but the first was a natural occurrence, and the second was a man-made occurrence. One has nothing to do with the other.

How cozy it must be inside that bubble -- free of science.

Savage won't tell his listeners that the National Academy of Sciences has unequivocally concluded that "Human activities are responsible for much of the recent warming,” or that a 2001 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change -- which involves thousands of scientists from over 120 countries -- stated, “There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.”

It's cozy in the bubble, where Savage can lash out at "ecofreaks" like Al Gore. Savage would never tell you that Gore's documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, got a thumbs-up for conveying the science correctly from 19 climate experts.

Administration Official Tells NBC News That Troop Surge In Iraq Is "Political Decision"

"(O)ne administration official admitted to us today that this surge option is more of a political decision than a military one because the American people have run out of patience and President Bush is running out of time to achieve some kind of success in Iraq. While this plan will clearly draw some stiff opposition on Capitol Hill, the president is expected to announce it a week from today."

-- NBC News Pentagon Correspondent Jim Miklaszewski, Jan. 3

The above sentiment would be consistent with comments made in November by CentCom commander Gen. John Abizaid told Congress “I met with every divisional commander, General Casey, the corps commander, General Dempsey, we all talked together. And I said, in your professional opinion, if we were to bring in more American Troops now, does it add considerably to our ability to achieve success in Iraq? And they all said no.”

Abizaid -- perhaps not coincidentally -- submittted plans to retire two weeks ago, and will leave his post in March.

That's what happens when you have a foreign policy that is one part failed neocon theory and one part empty catch phrases and other conservative spin -- like "I will listen to my commanders on the ground."

The truth is, Bush listens to his commanders when they tell him what he wants to hear. Otherwise, such commanders suddenly retire.

***

Liberal journalist Robert Parry wrote yesterday that the political decision of a troop surge should be called: "Operation: Save Bush’s Legacy, with the goal of postponing the inevitable until 2009 when American defeat can be palmed off on a new President."

I hope he's wrong -- I still have hope that some combination of military and diplomatic efforts can get the U.S. out of Iraq with the fragile democracy intact. But I fear Parry's right about Bush's motives.

Forget Conservative Talking Heads And Radio Ranters. Broad Majority Of Americans Support "Liberal Ideas"

The conservative talking heads and radio ranters would have you believe that "cut and run" liberals, with their "San Francisco values" plan to lead the country astray.

These fringe conservatives represent the know-nothings, creating fictional "liberal" straw men that they can knock down. Listen to Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage or Mark Levin, and you know who to get angry at: "Hillary Rotten Clinton" or "Schmucky Schumer." Laugh with them at Dianne Feinstein or Nancy Pelosi, make fun of Barack Obama's name, misrepresent what they stand for, and hope you share their anger.

But just because these yahoos say they represent "mainstream" values doesn't mean anyone has to believe them. Americans just need to know the facts, and frame the subject accordingly.

A new poll from CNN helps. It gives more strong evidence that the "liberal" ideas mocked by conservatives are, in fact, mainstream views. In issue after issue, Americans are siding with Pelosi, Obama, Feinstein and the rest, and not George W. Bush or his conservative Congressional counterparts.

Consider some poll results:

-- Raising the minimum wage: 85 percent favor, 14 percent oppose.

-- Cutting interest rates on federal loans to college students: 84 percent favor, 15 percent oppose.

-- Creating an independent panel to oversee Congressional ethics: 79 percent favor, 19 percent oppose.

-- Making significant changes in U.S. policy in Iraq: 75 percent favor, 21 percent oppose.

-- Implementing all anti-terrorism recommendations of 9/11 Commission: 64 percent favor, 26 percent oppose.

-- Federal funding of embryonic stem cell research: 62 percent favor, 32 percent oppose.

It should be noted that all of the above are issues the new Democratic majorities in Congress plan to address.

***

It would be easy (and I'm paraphrasing Levin) to just scream at the conservative pundits, "Get off the radio, you big dope!"

But we know that isn't going to happen, and it shouldn't. Free speech -- even ridiculous, mean-spirited, ill-informed speech -- is something that we must all defend.

As Michael Douglas, as President Andrew Shepherd said in the 1995 movie The American President: "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours."

They want you to try to stop them, so they can change the subject from what Americans want, to some fake battle over "liberal media bias."

Instead, shut these people up is with facts. Defends "mainstream" values, not as defined by Mark Levin, but as defined by a wide American majority.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Soldier Asks What Will "Next Story" Be To Keep Troops In Iraq

U.S. troops cheered as news of Saddam's execution appeared on television at the mess hall at Forward Operating Base Loyalty in eastern Baghdad. But some soldiers expressed doubt that Saddam's death would be a significant turning point for Iraq.

"First it was weapons of mass destruction. Then when there were none, it was that we had to find Saddam. We did that, but then it was that we had to put him on trial,'' said Spc. Thomas Sheck, 25, who is on his second tour in Iraq. "So now, what will be the next story they tell us to keep us over here?''

-- Associated Press report, Dec. 30

***

That's a very good question. Does anyone have an answer?

The most recent "next story" given by President Bush for staying in Iraq was "to take the lead, and to deal with these radicals and extremists, and to help support young democracies. It's the calling of our time."

Of course, the "Bush Doctrine" on fledgling Middle East democracies doesn't extend to the Palestinians, Lebanese or Egyptians. That's what happens when you have a foreign policy that is one part failed neocon theory and one part empty catch phrases and other conservative spin.

***

Just 16 percent of Americans think the federal government reflects the "will of the people." Just 11 percent agree with the latest neocon theory -- the "McCain Doctrine" -- which calls for the U.S. to increase troops levels in Iraq. Bush is expected to follow through on this gameplan.

The administration spin -- the "next story" -- is that by increasing troops, the U.S. can gain control over violence in Baghdad, then speed up the handover of territory to Iraqi forces.

It sounds good on paper, but the Bush Administration has been wrong so many times on Iraq, Americans have the right to be skeptical.

Lawrence Korb, assistant defense secretary in the Reagan Administration, offered two reasons to be worried that this "next story" will not be the last: "If you send another 20,000 more troops, casualties are going to go up, you're going to increase the Iraqi's dependence on us."

And of course, there are s problem with stretching the military so thin -- ranging from anxiety, depression and acute stress to suicide. But such concerns rarely get in the way of neocon theory.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year, America

Happy New Year, America.

For my New Year's resolution, I ask that you watch this five-minute video. Send the link to your friends and loved ones. Send it to your Representatives in Congress and your Senators. Send it to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Help its message travel around the world.

Watch this video, and think about the 3,000 troops who have died in Iraq. Think about their friends and loved ones, who no longer have a brother, sister, father, mother or friends to hold.

Watch it, and be thankful that you have someone to hold.

***

Happy New Year to our leaders. May they have the wisdom and strength to do what's right and good -- not with empty slogans but with deeds, not for their egos but for their countrymen and women.

It's a lot to ask. More than we've received in recent years.

Happy New Year to our troops. The war will not end in 2007, but perhaps this will be the year when we can seriously begin planning your return home, so that you may once again hold close your loved ones. Be safe.

***

Too often, asking for peace is chastised as weak or naive, something to stereotype as the fancy of hallucinatory hippies dancing in some San Francisco park. It's easier to laugh at the peace groups, or look the other way. It's harder to consider peace a viable option when war is afoot.

But a large majority of Americans want to see a change, quickly, in the path the U.S. has taken in the Middle East. Overwhelmingly, the American people do not believe their government represents their will.

They want peace. They don't want weakness. They don't want appeasement. They don't want to "cut and run" or embolden the terrorists, or some other empty catch-phrase uttered by conservative radio ranters. They just want a solution in the Middle East that doesn't require another 3,000 dead U.S. soldiers.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Rice Explains Why U.S. Won't "Just Talk To Iran" Or Syria

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice argued last week that the U.S. can't "just talk to Iran" or Syria.

Why? Because if "the Iranians and the Syrians want to act to stabilize Iraq, they can do that without talking to us," she told Margaret Warner of PBS' NewsHour.

Sort of circular logic, doncha think? We don't need to talk to them because they don't have to talk to us if we or they want a stabilized Iraq?

Rice also fears that any diplomacy would lead to the Iranians and Syrians seeking "some kind of trade." But that merely represents the Bush Administration (read: neocon) belief that diplomacy equals appeasement. Just because the Iranians or Syrians may want something does not mean that we have to appease their wishes.

"(T)he idea that we somehow have to tell them what to do in order to stabilize Iraq when they, in fact, are the ones who are destabilizing Iraq?" Rice said. "They know what they're doing. They can stop it on any day."

That's true. But they have been given no reason to fall into line. While the U.S. has failed to consider diplomacy, even when Syria has asked for it, Iran has tried to flex its muscles as a regional power. The longer Iraq remains a mess, the better the chances that Iran (with Syria in tow) can influence its future.

"They are, by the way, talking to the Iraqis about how to (stabilize Iraq). They are, by the way, members of the International Compact for Iraq," Rice said.

You would think a red flag would be raised, or warning bells would go off. The longer we leave Iran and Syria alone talking with Iraq, the harsher the price will be. If Rice is worried about Iran or Syria seeking "some kind of trade" now, how will she feel if Iraq's government allies itself with those countries -- and turns against the U.S.?

Friday, December 29, 2006

You Can't Make This Stuff Up ...

When people were asked in an Associated Press-AOL News poll to name the villains and heroes of the year, Bush topped both lists, in a sign of these polarized times.

Bush won the villain sweepstakes by a landslide, with one in four respondents putting him at the top of that bad-guy list. When people were asked to name the candidate for villain that first came to mind, Bush far outdistanced even Osama bin Laden, the terrorist leader in hiding; and former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, who is scheduled for execution.

The president was picked as hero of the year by a much smaller margin. In the poll, 13 percent named him as their favorite while 6 percent cited the troops in Iraq.

***

Perhaps one reason people don't like Bush -- beyond the failures in Iraq, the bungling of Hurricane Katrina, etc. -- is that the man just doesn't seem to work very hard, even in the face of catastrophes.

As the Associated Press noted yesterday: President Bush worked nearly three hours at his Texas ranch on Thursday to design a new U.S. policy in Iraq."

Three hours. Phew. Guess he had to make time for those photo-ops clearing brush.

It reminds me of the image of Bush flying over the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina -- spending far too little time on the problems at hand. This was before he was given a DVD briefing him on the situation, and long before he had his photo-op showing off how much he cared.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Campaign 2008: Four Years Ago, The "Liberal Media" Trashed Kerry Because Of His Wealth. Here We Go Again ...

Here we go again.

Four years ago, the "liberal media" picked on John Kerry's wealth, trying to suggest that it was a metaphor for someone out of touch with the needs of mainstream America.

Now, if this MSNBC image is any indicator, John Edwards will be the candidate picked on for his wealth.

It won't matter, I guess, what the personal wealth is of Rudy Giuliani or John McCain or whomever else wins the Republican presidential nomination. The "liberal media" loves a storyline when it finds one, and "wealthy Democrat" may once again be too good to pass up.

***

During Campaign 2004, the New York Times published at least three splashy stories detailing John Kerry's wealth, as well as describing mannerisms that would suggest he was wealthy.

The Times prattled on about Kerry's highbrow pronunciations, described a campaign assistant as a "butler," and told us that "some Democrats" were worried that Kerry liked to vacation among the wealthy in Nantucket.

Those same articles offered contrasting images of President Bush as someone who "despite his own family's legacy of wealth and political power, manages to come off as a simple-hearted Texan," failed to discuss the help Bush had gotten along the way in creating his own fortune -- such as how he used borrowed money to make a killing as part owner of baseball's Texas Rangers -- or how his family had long vacationed among the wealthy in Kennebunkport, Maine, long before he was providing the made-for-spin image of clearing brush in Crawford, Texas.

Four years ago, the "liberal media" had a story to tell. Kerry was wealthy, and out of touch with the common man. Bush was wealthy, but in touch with the common man.

To make those stories work, the "liberal media" had to paint a picture. Kerry had a butler and correctly pronounced words. Bush liked to clear brush and eat barbecue.

***

Fast forward to the current election cycle.

Here we go again, America. John Edwards is the new candidate to annoint as "wealthy." Let the stereotyping and storytelling begin.

Campaign 2008: Did You Know That His Full Name Is Barack Hussein Obama?

His name is Barack Hussein Obama.

Obama, the popular Democratic Senator from Illinois and possible 2008 presidential candidate, doesn't use his middle name as say, John Quincy Adams or William Henry Harrison did. He doesn't even refer to it -- as say, George W. Bush does with his middle initial.

But conservatives want you, the voter, to associate Obama with his middle name, in the hopes of scaring you into thinking anyone named Hussein must have ties to terrorism, or at the very least, brutal Iraqi dictators.

It all began last month, when GOP strategist Ed Rogers ridiculed Obama on MSNBC's Hardball, making sure to note that Obama's middle name is "Hussein." Now, references to "Barack Hussein Obama" are commonplace on conservative websites.

Forget that "Hussein" -- Arabic for "good, small handsome one" -- is a popular name throughout Africa and the Middle East. Forget that in Obama's case, it's a family moniker passed down from his Kenyan father and grandfather.

Conservatives want to scare you. And if that means saying "Hussein" early and often, so be it.

***

If the middle name isn't enough to scare you, then conservatives hope Obama -- which of course, sounds like Osama -- will do the trick.

Right-wing Web site Freerepublic.com has featured a photoshopped image of "Senator Osama Obama," and Rush Limbaugh has for some time called him "Obama Osama."

Other conservatives, like CNBC's Larry Kudlow, have "accidentally" referred to Obama as "Osama."

***

Will all the conservative scare tactics work?

The Chicago Tribune asked that question this week. The answer, apparently, is "not always."

"People have unconscious, emotional reactions to names," Cleveland Kent Evans, a psychologist who studies the practice and effect of naming, told the Tribune. "And there's a lot of psychological research that shows people do a lot of unconsciously prejudiced things. But most people do not think of themselves as biased. And when those things become conscious, when they realize they're in danger of doing something against their values, it may be more likely that they're going to behave the opposite way."

In other words, if the conservative talking heads and radio ranters play the scare card too often, it's bound to backfire.

This may all be moot if Obama decides not to run for president. But clearly, conservatives are scared enough to lay the ugly groundwork in hopes of derailing him.

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