Archive for the ‘Fox News’ Category

Reality Pierces Republican Bubble

Saturday, November 17th, 2012

Last week’s election was a big victory for President Obama and the Democrats.  But aside from a win for the Democrats, the election was also a win for the pollsters — you know, the trained statisticians who make their living surveying public opinion? These guys were under attack this year by Fox News and the conservative media. According to the perpetually paranoid over at Fox News, the pollsters who were showing Obama leading in the Electoral College for the entire year were just as liberally biased as the overwhelming number of scientists who believe in global warming and the statisticians in the Bureau of Labor Statistics who showed a decline in the unemployment rate in the run up to the election.

Even to the bitter end, Fox contributor and Harvey Fierstein impersonator Dick Morris was predicting an electoral college landslide for Romney, and the conservative media bought it hook line and sinker. I always try to keep Mark Twain’s maxim about statistics in mind, but when you have different polls with varied methodology all telling you something that’s at odds with your view of the world, that’s a pretty good indicator that your assumptions might be incorrect. Morris was contrite this week, explaining that he assumed a turnout more in line with 2004, but it’s not clear that there was any evidence to suggest this except the personal opinions of him and others on Fox.

I was having this debate months ago with my conservative uncle whose comeback for “the polls are showing you behind” was always “not according to Scott Rasmussen.” Rasumssen was was the king of the 500 person automated poll which assumed a strong Republican turnout based on responses to questions regarding party identification. Rasumussen’s polls consistently showed a Republican bias of a few points, which can make a real difference in a close election. But a little knowledge can be dangerous and Rasmussen’s polling bred a cottage industry of bloggers contesting the polling in the presidential race by adjusting the party identification mix the pollsters were predicting based on their interviews. The website was the most prominent of the naysayers and they “specialized” in taking other peoples polls and recasting the results by adding more Republicans to the mix.

Meanwhile, the conservative media shills needed to find a visible scapegoat and they found it in Nate Silver, a statistician who turned to election prediction in 2007. Silver had a great record in 2008, predicting every state except Indiana for Obama. In the wake of that election, he was hired by the New York Times as a blogger, where (in case you were wondering) he did well predicting the Republican Congressional landslide year of 2010 as well.

Silver’s model was projecting an Obama win for most of the year based on his narrow but steady lead in the Electoral College polls. Oftentimes, his percentage prediction of an Obama win seemed over-optimistic, so you could quibble with the confidence level, but it’s hard to look at a guy who leads for most of the year in enough electoral college states to win the presidency and argue that he’s not the favorite. Plus, this is a statistical model. One assumes that if Romney was showing the same swing state resiliency, then it would have shown the same result for him.

By the Monday before the election, Silver had Obama at an 85% chance of victory. Meanwhile, the folks at Fox were still telling their viewers that Romney had the momentum and was going to win this thing. Dick Morris, George Will and others predicted a Romney landslide. Perpetually smarmy Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan wrote a blog post that Monday in which she predicted Romney would win the election based almost completely on… a feeling she had. Business Insider called it “the most anti-Nate Silver column imaginable,” not because she spoke about or even alluded to Silver, but because her analysis was almost completely devoid of empirical facts. This seemed like bravado at the time — a way to embolden the troops before a big fight–but in the aftermath it looked like they spent so much time in their own bubble that they couldn’t imagine any other objective reality where a majority could vote for Obama. Last week James Fallows likened it to the dismay attributed to Pauline Kael in the wake of the 1968 election when she couldn’t imagine how Nixon could have won, since “no one I know voted for him.”

To a certain extent, this makes sense. If you spend all your time talking to white Republicans who think that Obama is leading this country on a dangerous slide to socialism, that’s going to color your analysis. To be sure, Romney did carry white voters by a big margin and if the electorate turned out to be as white as they all seemed to think it would be, then we would have been looking at President Romney. But with all of the evidence pointing the other way, these guys should have known better. I have to imagine that there’s more than a few Fox viewers this week who feel like they’ve been had.

Never Pick a Fight With A Comedian

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

I actually wrote this a while back, but it seemed a little off key with the whole Republicans-holding-the-United-States-economy-hostage-in-order-to-get-their-way-in-a-political fight, crisis. Now that the memories are fading slightly, here you go…

Thought this recent skirmish between Jon Stewart and Fox News was interesting.

On June 2oth, Stewart appeared on Fox News Sunday for an interview with Chris Wallace. The interview featured some mild fireworks as Wallace ran a number of clips from the Daily Show and attempted to tar Stewart as a hypocrite for having his own biases while criticizing Fox.

Wallace is usually sited as the best example of a legitimate newsman at a network full of partisan hacks, but I was somewhat surprised at how much Wallace appeared to have drank the Fox Kool Aid, actually making the argument that Fox’s overt partisan agenda is in the same league as the more subtle biases of other news organizations. As Stewart noted, MSNBC may have attempted to follow Fox’s model, but it is not even close to Fox as an effective propaganda tool of the left.

Wallace’s biggest mistake in the interview was this attempt to create some equivalence between Fox News and The Daily Show. Fox is a partisan organization that tries to pawn itself off as a ”fair and balanced” news outlet, while The Daily Show is a comedy show that has no obligation or pretense of being a fair arbiter of the news.  Right off the bat, Wallace begins the fight with a disadvantage.

The coverage of the interview on the left mostly focused on the fact that Fox edited out Stewart’s comments about Bill Sammon, a Fox News exec whose released e-mails show him encouraging Fox News employees to deliberately distort the news in order to score partisan points for conservatives.

Stewart also got dinged by the Right for saying that Fox viewers were “consistently” the least informed of all news viewers. Politifact checked this statement and found that, while a number of studies had shown this, others had not, so Jon Stewart’s statement had to be considered “false.” Fair enough, but later that week, Stewart hit back on his show (see above), with a scathing scroll of the most eggregious false statements by Fox over the past few years, including Politifact’s “biggest lie of the year” for both 2009 and 2010 (can they get the trifecta this year? Stay tuned…).

The Fox propaganda machine went into high gear. Over a period of just a few days, they went on the attack against Stewart over a piece that he had done on presidential candidate Herman Cain’s (hopefully tongue in cheek) statement that he would only approve bills that were 3 pages or shorter. The party line on Stewart for the week was that Stewart was racist, refused to admit his political bias and that a conservative wouldn’t have been able to get away with those jokes.

But once again, Fox undermined their own point. First of all, by releasing a clearly coordinated attack on Stewart, they provided yet aother example of how manipulated their “news” coverage is. Second, arguing that Jon Stewart is racist is laughable, and finally, of course there’s a double standard: One is a comedian whose show airs right after South Park and a show that features puppets having sex. The other is desperately trying to portray itself as a “fair and balanced” news organization despite all evidence to the country.

Stewart’s response, makes the point well.

The lesson for Chris Wallace:

Never pick a fight with a comedian. You’ll lose every time.

Stewart vs. O’ Reilly on “Commongate”

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

Not to give anymore creedence to this totally bogus issue, but I can’t resist watching Jon Stewart calling Fox out on their shit, on Fox.

and Part Two

Glenn Beck off the Deep End

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

It seems like Glenn Beck may have finally gone too far.

The week that the Egypt protests broke wide open, Beck seemed to go off the deep end with his talk of how the peaceful protests in Egypt demanding the end of Mubarak’s rule could be a precursor to the eventual establishment of an Islamic Caliphate that would take over the entire Middle East and potentially spread into Asia and Europe.

If you didn’t know that Beck was a pasty faced huckster with no real sense of international politics or history, then you might get really freaked out watching him manipulate his touchscreen to create a phosphorescent Islamic Caliphate out of the entire Middle East and then explain how Spain, France, Britain and Italy could come under the sway of the new Caliphate because they also have some Muslims living in their countries. Beck goes on to weave a complex tapestry of conspiracy, which includes among its members both President Bushes, “the Left,” and labor unions, just to name a few. In fact,  throughout the week Beck tied the Islamic caliphate theory to quite an impressive list of Fox News villans, including Islamic Socialists, ACORN, Code Pink, Anarchists and Bill Ayers, all of whom Beck claimed were engaged in a  ”well orchestrated campaign” to pave the way for the caliphate.

The next week, Bill Kristol at the American Standard, the most idealistic (Pollyanish?) of the neo-cons, called Beck out. Kristol contrasted Charles Krauthammer’s words of caution about events in Egypt and Beck’s paraniod ravings, noting:

hysteria is not a sign of health. When Glenn Beck rants about the caliphate taking over the Middle East from Morocco to the Philippines, and lists (invents?) the connections between caliphate-promoters and the American left, he brings to mind no one so much as Robert Welch and the John Birch Society. He’s marginalizing himself, just as his predecessors did back in the early 1960s.

In fact, as Chris Matthews pointed out, Beck’s paraniod ramblings seems to be cribbed directly from the John Birchers‘ recent talking points.

In the month that has followed, a number of prominent conservatives have joined Kristol in denouncing Beck. Joe Scarborough (no fan of Glenn Beck before) called him ”bad for the conservative movement” and said that he was “losing it before our eyes.” Peter Wehner, from the uber-conservative website Commentary, called him the “most disturbing personality on cable television,” and urged conservatives to distance themselves from him before he “blows apart professionally.” Time columnist Joe Klein noted that he had heard from more than a few conservative sources that “prominent conservatives” have approached Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes and pushed for his ouster at Fox.

While Fox has never been a network particularly concerned with the truth, perhaps a better motivator may be Beck’s declining ratings: January’s ratings were the worst he’s posted since his Fox show debuted in January 2009.

My own take on this is that two trends are driving this backlash against Beck and people like him:

First, the country has had a full two years of heart rending bitter partisanship. While Obama and Pelosi were running the country and the Right was fully mobilized against them, there was a strong tendency toward cohesion. The nutty conspiracy theories that Beck was spouting were tolerated because they were aimed at a common enemy. Now that the inexorable march toward liberal “tyranny” has been stopped, people are looking for a respite from the continual pitched battles between left and right. This has shown up not only in Beck’s declining ratings, but in public opinion about Sarah Palin after she clumsily and agressively went on the attack after Gabby Giffords was shot. At a time when the country needed healing, Sarah Palin showed the same pettiness that she has shown throughout her career, and the public took note. While Obama delivered a stirring speech on the need to come together as Americans and tone down the rhetoric, Palin once again seemed obsessed with her own public image and sense of victimhood.

In a similar vein, the Republican victory is revealing cracks in the facade of conservative unity that were obscured during the fight against a common enemy. These cracks were conspicuously on display during the Egyptian protests.  Neo-cons who still believe in Bush’s “freedom agenda” have a far different worldview from the cautious realpolitik that Repulicans like Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft used so effectively (and that Obama’s team has tried to emulate), and Glenn Beck’s Bircher influenced conspiracy theories are almost diametrically opposed to the neo-con worldview. As events unfolded in Egypt, you had people like Beck and others basically arguing that Muslims can’t be allowed to have democracy and neo-cons like Kristol arguing that Middle Eastern democracy is essential to achieving our national security objectives.   

While no faction has a monopoly on truth, Beck’s recent rantings are undeniably nutty and it is clear that it’s probably in the interest of the Republicans to distance themselves from him. As Kristol alluded to, we may finally be seeing a replay of the early 1960′s when William F. Buckley famously denounced the John Birch Society in the National Review.

The secretive Birch Society had views that were not far from Beck’s. It’s founder, Robert Welch had called President Dwight D. Eisenhower, ”a conscious, dedicated agent of the communist conspiracy” and he claimed that the US government was “under operational control of the Communist party” (can’t you hear Beck saying something like this on his show?).  

In his 1962 editorial, Buckley called Welch “idiotic” and “paranoid” and said his views were “far removed from common sense.” This effectively banished the Birchers from the conservative movement for almost 50 years, until  they re-emerged in 2010.

Could we be watching history repeat itself 5o years later? I won’t hold my breath, but this might be fun to watch. 

How Jon Stewart & Shep Smith Got the 9-11 First Responders Bill Passed

Monday, January 24th, 2011

Another story I didn’t get to during the holidays:

The role of Jon Stewart and Shepard Smith in getting the Zadroga bill passed.

The Zadroga bill funds health care and other benefits for 9-11 first responders and others who helped clean up the Ground Zero site in the aftermath of 9-11. You would think that, as much as the Republican’s used 9-11 as a political cudgel against the Democrats for the past 9 years, they would wholehaertedly support the idea of taking care of the America’s heroes…and if they didn’t support it, that they would easily be shamed by the Democrats to support the bill.

But if you thought those things, you would be wrong. The bill was brought up in the House in July but didn’t pass due to partisan manuvering on both sides. It finally did pass the House in September, but the Senate had not taken it up before the election and the Democrats wanted to pass it during the lame duck session. In an amazing display of party unity (not to mention chutzpah), the Republicans sucessfully filibustered aid to 9-11 first responders, so that they could get tax cut extentions for the top 2% of earners.

After they got those tax cuts passed, they then said that they didn’t have time for the bill and that it would have to be put off until the new Congress was sworn in (which would make it significantly more difficult for passage). With the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal and the START treaty also on the docket, many pundits declared the Zadroga bill dead.

Jon Stewart had actually been on this issue early in the process, covering the partisan bickering that caused it to fail in the house initially, but with the prospects for passage becoming increasingly dim, Stewart featured it in December. His initial piece included a parade of Republican politicians who had invoked their sacrifice of 9/11 first responders to score political points, but refused to support a fund to help them deal with terminal illnesses they developed while inhaling that toxic air. The hypocrisy was stunning. Before he signed off for the year, Stewart dedicated his entire last show to the bill.

The show started with an into that explained the situation, focusing specifically on the almost complete lack of media coverage, but especially Fox, who had cranked up their 9-11 outrage machine so many times before to support Republican political goals.  

Then, in some of the most powerful television I have ever seen, Stewart interviewed a panel of  four 9-11 first responders who were terminally ill.

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9/11 First Responders React to the Senate Filibuster
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Stewart asked them to respond to clips of Senator Mitch McConnel sheding tears about the retirement of fellow senator, Judd Gregg, and Senator Jon Kyl saying that Harry Reid holding the Senate in session after the Christmas holiday would be disrespectful to Christmas itself. Watching these terminally ill guys respond to those clips with their dry New York City wit and their calm dignity was devastatng.

Poor Mike Huckabee didn’t even get a chance to plug his children’s book, as Stewart grilled him about why Fox hadn’t cranked up their 9-11 outrage machine on this issue.

The next day, Shep Smith at Fox News took up the torch for Jon Stewart, speaking passionately to Mike Wallace about how outrageous it was that help for the heroes of 9-11 was being blocked so that “we could give tax cuts to Warren Buffett.”

The next Monday, Shep was at it again, pointing out that, since his show is on Fox, they are able to get call backs from Republican legislators, and then proceeding to name every single senator who had refused to come on his show to discuss this.

On Tuesday, New York Senator’s Kirsten Gilibrand and Chuck Schumer announced that they had the votes to block a filibuster and would pass it during the lame duck session. Later in that day Senator Tom Coburn announced that he had put an anonomous block on the legislation in an attempt to run out the clock on the lame session and kill the bill (Coburn had claimed that this was being passed without any hearings, but as Rachel Maddow pointed out, the hearings actually took place in Coburn’s Committee.)

Shep Smith called out Senator Coburn directly, saying:

this is the picture of Senator Tom Coburn, Republican from Oklahoma… he is the man who is trying to slow this down or block it, so that the necessary  funding for the ilnesses of the first responders who made it to Ground Zero to try to save lives on the day that America changed, remember? This is the senator who is vowing to block it, so that it doesn’t make it through: Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma.

Apparently, the Republicans got the message and realized that, if they couldn’t get Fox News to support them, they were really on the wrong side of this issue.

The bill (with $2 billion less in it and some changes in the funding) passed the Senate the next day by voice vote.

After the holiday, Stewart had Kirsten Gillibrand on his show and she thanked him for his advocacy on the issue. Stewart demurred, saying that he just did the obvious thing, but it’s not an exaggeration to say that this bill probably would not have passed if not for the work that both Jon Stewart and Shep Smith did to put pressure on the Republicans.

Scarborough: Moving Past Right Wing Rhetoric

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

Here’s a link to another great Joe Scarborough piece on the Giffords tragedy and his discussion of it this morning.

Scarborough is fast becoming the chief critic of Palin and Glenn Beck in the Republican party, perhaps because of the fact that he is more concerned about the Republican party’s future than he is in saving his own political bacon.

Check this out:

We get it, Sarah Palin. You’re not morally culpable for the tragic shooting in Tucson, Ariz. All of us around the “Morning Joe” table agree, even if we were stunned that you would whine about yourself on Facebook as a shattered family prepared to bury their 9-year-old girl.

The same goes for you, Glenn Beck. You’ve attacked your political opponents with words designed to inspire hatred and mind-bending conspiracy theories from fans. Calling the president a racist, Marxist and fascist may be reprehensible, but it did not lead a mentally disturbed man to take a Glock to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’s “Congress on Your Corner” event.

Good on ya, buddy. You weren’t personally responsible for the slaughter at the Safeway. Maybe you can put it on a poster at the next “Talkers” convention.


Later in the article, he makes the point that it’s not only the right thing to do to call out people who engage in this kind of rhetoric, but it’s probably the politically savvy thing to do as well because, while overheated political rhetoric might be a great way to win elections in midterm years,

Presidential-year elections are driven by a completely different demographic. Good luck trying that “Second Amendment remedies” crap on swing voters in the suburbs. It just won’t fly. And neither will the cacophony of crazy talk that has gripped the far right for the past two years.

Nice to know that at least some nationally known Republicans have managed to survive the Obama-Pelosi years with both their brains and integrity intact…  

BTW, The reference Scarborough makes to Bryon Williams and the Tides Foundation is about a guy dressed in body armor who was on his way to shoot up the ACLU and the obscure San Francisco based Tides Foundation last July, but who was stopped by the police for drunk driving and decided instead to take on 10 CHP officers. I wonder where he could have heard about the Tides foundation?

Fox Viewers Significantly More Likely to be Misinformed

Saturday, January 8th, 2011

What a surprise.

Fox News Makes it Official

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010
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It’s official.

Fox is now just a less responsible wing of the Republican party.

Fox News: Evil or Just Stupid?

Sunday, August 29th, 2010
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Jon Stewart’s been on fire with the his “coverage” of the Park 51 center in Lower Manhattan. Check here, here, here and here.

This one’s on Fox’s attempts to tie the Islamic Cultural Center and mosque to “dangerous Saudi financier” Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who has supported Imam Rauf’s causes in the past. You may have heard of this Saudi financier since he is a prominent investor in many American companies, as well as the largest shareholder in Fox News Corp–a fact that Fox News was either trying to conceal or was just clueless about.

You decide.  Fox News: Evil or Just Stupid?

Go Get ‘Em Rachel!!

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

Rachel Maddow fillets Bill O’ Reilly on Thursday’s program.

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This is the combination of intellect and guts that would have been nice to see out of the White House last week.

O’Reilly makes the “our ratings are higher than yours” argument fairly regularly and I have heard it parrotted from more than one conservative.

Pretty amazing. It’s like the fact that they regularly don’t tell the truth to their viewers must be okay because more people are watching.  How does that joke go? “We might be taking a loss on each transaction, but we make it up in volume”…

Maddow points out that O’Reilly’s statement about the ratings wasn’t really about the ratings at all:

You were trying to take the attention off of me saying that Fox News continually crusades on flagrantly bogus stories designed to make white Americans fear black Americans (which Fox News most certainly does for political purposes), even if it upends the lives of people like Shirley Sherrod, even as it frays the fabric of the nation, even as it makes the American dream more of a dream and less of a promise.

 But even if no one watches us at all…You are still wrong on what matters, and that would be the facts.