Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sounds Vaguely Familiar

This from the Times rings a bell, somehow:
Interviews show that Ms. Palin runs an administration that puts a premium on loyalty and secrecy.
I've heard this about some other administration, but I just can't put my finger on it.

A few other tidbits:
  • Palin has said that polar bears are not endangered and has sued the federal government to keep them off the endangered species list because doing so would hinder oil and gas exploration. She argued that the bears are well-managed and not in danger, and that "there is not enough evidence to support a listing." But email records show that the scientists who studied this for her concluded that the bears are in danger.
  • She fired the Wasilla city attorney after he issued a stop-work order on a home being built by a campaign supporter.
  • She ordered city employees not to talk to the press.
  • The Wasilla high school yearbook now "now doubles as a veritable directory of state government."
  • Ms. Palin and her staff used personal email accounts in order to work around possible subpoenas of official records.
Laura Chase, Palin's mayoral campaign manager, is quoted as saying, "I’m still proud of Sarah, but she scares the bejeebers out of me."

Me too.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Just the Facts

Pretty depressing item in the Washington Post this morning.

Here are some Republican "facts": Sarah Palin said "Thanks, but no thanks" to that bridge. She fired the state house chef. She sold the state jet on eBay. She is dead-set against earmarks. Obama's tax plan raises everyone's taxes. He supports infanticide. He was referring to Palin with his pig-lipstick comment. He thinks Iran is a "tiny" threat.

We know every one of these "facts" to be untrue.

You think this is Republicans only? Not hardly. Whoever made up those Palin "facts" (her plan to cut special ed funding, the list of books she wanted to ban from the Wasilla library, and so on), shame on you. You're no better than they are.

In an article about how "untruths" become facts, the Post quotes Republican strategist John Feehery:
"The more the New York Times and The Washington Post go after Sarah Palin, the better off she is, because there's a bigger truth out there and the bigger truths are she's new, she's popular in Alaska and she is an insurgent," Feehery said. "As long as those are out there, these little facts don't really matter." [emphasis added]
The facts don't matter.

And, sadly, that is a fact. The truth doesn't seem to matter any more. A huge percentage of the American public will suck up whatever garbage is handed to it because it is too damn lazy to open a newspaper or click a mouse.

If there is a sadder comment on the state of American politics, I'm hard pressed to come up with it.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Olbermann and Matthews

OK, so MSNBC has announced that Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews won't be anchoring coverage of political news any more.

Now, I happen to like Olbermann. Yes, yes, he's over the top at times, and I wish he would tone it down a bit. (Memo to Keith: Calling people names [viz, "pinheads"] is the spécialité de la maison over at Fox. You don't need to sink to that level to make your point--your vocabulary didn't stop expanding in third grade as theirs apparently did.)

Nevertheless, this is the right move. Reporting should be separate from opinion, and the anchor desk should be manned by a reporter, not by op-ed people (MSNBC has tapped the excellent David Gregory as the new anchor). Doing this not only separates news from opinion, it affords Olbermann and Matthews the opportunity to voice what they think without the constraints of being reporters. They both crossed that line more than once; they knew it; so they fixed it.

What's really interesting to me is the gloating going on over at Fox. To see this in perspective, first look at what the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz has to say:
Olbermann and Matthews will remain as analysts during major political events, and officials at [both NBC and MSNBC] ... said Olbermann had initiated the discussions to clarify his role. They said Olbermann's influence at MSNBC would in no way be diminished and that the shift would enable him and Matthews to offer more candid analysis during live coverage. Olbermann confirmed yesterday he had initiated the discussions [emphasis added].

"[MSNBC president Phil Grffin] and I have debated this set-up since late winter/early spring (with me saying, 'Are you sure this flies?' and him saying, 'Yes, but let's judge it event by event') and I think we both reached the same point during the RNC," Olbermann said by e-mail.

So Olbermann agrees that this is the right thing to do, and he initiated the discussion about the change in role.

OK, now here's how Fox "reports" the same story (under the enormous blood-red headline, "KEITH OLBERMANN, CHRIS MATTHEWS BOOTED FROM MSNBC POLITICAL ANCHOR DESK"):
Keith Olbermann may be the “voice” of MSNBC, but network executives have decided to yank the talkmeister off its political anchor desk after the cable channel finished dead last in the Nielsen rankings of all news coverage during the two weeks of political conventions.
The network’s weak ratings during the conventions may have given MSNBC executives the cover they needed to boot Olbermann and Matthews. FOX News Channel topped all broadcast and cable networks with 9.2 million viewers on each of the last two nights of the convention. MSNBC got barely more than a quarter of Fox’s total –2.5 million viewers.

MSNBC also ranked last among the three cable channels during primetime coverage of the last two nights of the Democratic convention.

A portion of the O’Reilly interview with Obama aired last Thursday and earned O’Reilly his second highest rating ever, with more than 6.6 million viewers.
Ratings-obsessed, much? It appears that Fox has fully internalized O'Reilly's mantra: "Good ratings prove I'm right." This is all about ratings, and not about reporting, not about integrity. Don't bother to mention that Olbermann himself appears to have initiated the change. That wouldn't fit the storyline, so let's leave that part out, OK?

But we didn't get to the really funny bit yet:
The network announced Monday that Olbermann and Chris Matthews have both been booted as co-hosts on political night coverage in favor of David Gregory, whose White House press corps experience may make him better suited to deliver sober and less opinion-driven assessments of the news.
Fox News thinks someone else delivers "opinion-driven assessments of the news"? Are they serious? They had to be howling with laughter when they finished typing that sentence, right? I visualize them gasping for breath, holding their sides, falling to the floor in gales of hilarity. Oh, the irony.

The big difference here, really, is that MSNBC saw that there was a problem in using pundits as anchors, and they did something about it. Fox News, which doesn't seem to have anyone who can report news without sharing an opinion, will never understand that. Not in a million years.