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.

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