Monkey Media Report Archive

A North Carolina
news and arts Weblog
November 2004

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11.30.04 - Funny to watch the various spins on the departure of two of the Big 3 network news anchors. MSNBC has the full text of an AP article that was chopped short in Monday's N&O to make room for an airline ad. Note the different headline tilts:

MSNBC: Can nightly news survive beyond star anchors?
N&O: Evening news still strong

Love that second version. And what's the evidence of the "strength" of network news? Seems the Big 3 are losing audience at a rate 4 percent slower than the rest of prime-time. What a hoot. The "steady and scary erosion" of the evening news audience has been obvious for years.

As if that weren't enough, here's an interesting tidbit about network newscasts that was left out of the chopped N&O story: "They all run a lot of health coverage, since most of their viewers are over 50." More precisely, the audience for the Big 3 has an average age of 60 and rising, according to this more skeptical Newsday piece. It quotes a former NBC News president saying anchors "used to be almost biblical, but that's no longer possible." CNN's Anderson Cooper, one of the newer, slightly less annoying crop, agrees: "Younger people who tune into the news don't buy the all-seeing, all-knowing anchor anymore."

Thank god for that. The last thing America needs is more pretension to omniscience in its journalists.

The age difference matters, folks. Even if it's true that, as one [cough] expert claims, "viewers like a Cliff Notes version of the day's events, delivered to them by a voice of authority," sheeplike news consumers no longer have only Big 3 anchors to turn to for their authority fix. The success of hypocritical asses like Bill O'Reilly and screaming jerks like Chris Matthews (who once tellingly offered praise for the way O'Reilly "designed the perfect character" for television) proves the point nicely. Superstars like Brokaw, Rather and Jennings built their self-aggrandizing pedestals during a time when their shows were the only game in town, earning their positions in a limited arena that was nothing like today's cacophany. Their distant, pompous style doesn't stand a chance against the obvious next wave of irony-drenched, opinionated newsreaders. Sure, their successors will have a head start, but ultimately will have about the same chance of making a huge splash as any of the growing number of smaller voices out there.

Let's end with a piece from this week's Economist, "Dropping the Anchorman:"

For most of the post-war era the American media were dominated by a comfortable liberal consensus. The New York Times was the undisputed king of the print news, while the network anchors lorded it over TV news. That consensus is now under siege...The erosion of the old media establishment probably does entail some shift to the right, if only because so many of the newer voices are more reliably pro-Republican than Mr Rather. But the new media are simply too anarchic and subversive for any single political faction to take control of them.

Well, we'll see about that. But you can definitely count me among those celebrating the decline of "VoiceFromOnHigh"-style TV news anchors. [link]


11.19.04 - I admit to being a little stunned when I heard a relatively intelligent Republican partisan use the "number of counties" argument to support the tenuous claim of a huge mandate for Bush/Cheney. Seems the Republican presidential ticket, see, won an overwhelming majority of the total counties in the U.S. of A. Gosh and golly. This particular Bush fan was convinced - via Rush Limbaugh, I immediately grokked - that his new pet statistic was not only meaningful, but actually constituted hard proof of the country's overwhelming rightward tilt.

Yeah, whatever. Number of counties? It's an appalling indictment of our educational system that such an obviously arbitrary measure could appear conclusive to anyone's brain. That crap may work in Limbaugh-land, but a smidgen of basic monkey curiosity should be enough to show how utterly ridiculous it is to assert "number of counties" as a meaningful explanation of voting behavior. Take a look for yourself. Here are the eight U.S. states that for some reason or other are divided into 100 or more counties, with their 2003 population rank in parentheses:

Texas, 254 counties (2)
Georgia, 159 counties (9)
Virginia, 134 counties (12)
Kentucky, 120 counties (26)
Missouri, 115 counties (17)
Kansas, 105 counties (33)
Illinois, 102 counties (5)
North Carolina, 100 counties (11)

For comparison, here's the rest of the 10 most populated states:

California, 58 counties (1)
New York, 62 counties (3)
Florida, 67 counties (4)
Pennsylvania, 67 counties (6)
Ohio, 88 counties, (7)
Michigan, 83 counties (8)
New Jersey, 21 counties (10)

Look at that data again, Republicans. Do you really need further explanation? Lord knows why relatively unpopulated states like Kansas and Kentucky have far more counties than densely populated states like California, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, but goshdarnit, they do. And the number of counties in Texas is just plain hilarious. Bottom line: Anyone who uses the number of U.S. counties won by Bush and Kerry as an indicator of anything is either a liar or a fool.

I'll let you decide which category best fits Limbaugh. [link]


11.18.04 - Sure, the recent unpleasantness is unpleasant and all, but it does offer a lot to laugh about. And nothing is more hilarious than the ongoing attempts by Republicans to ignore the reality of a population still split down the middle. Take this example, which occurred on the show last night:

Me: Look, the country split the vote 51-49...
Caller: No it didn't!

Me, laughing: Um, yes it did.

Priceless, isn't it? What the hell's behind the need for rank and file Republicans to drastically exaggerate their recent win, if not insecurity about the relatively small margin of victory? (The analogy with penis size is striking.) The caller then launched into the standard moronic spin about "red states" being the mainstream of America, blah blah blah, reminding me that some folks apparently still haven't seen those gorgeous University of Michigan cartograms that turn the standard "red v. blue" maps - which, btw, are about as scientifically useless as it is humanly possible to make a voting map - into something that has a bit of theoretical rigor to it. Voila, the county-by-county map, adjusted for population:

So much for "no blue in the heartland." Of course, to anyone without a grasp of basic math, the above is just more hoodoo liberal lies, but really, the concept is simple enough. When analyzing voting trends, people count more than prairie dogs and wheat fields. Not that I have anything against prairie dogs or wheat, both fine specimens of nature's glory, but come on. This is very easy stuff here.

My other favorite moment on last night's show was the debunking of the hilariously Limbaugh "Bush won more counties" argument, but it's time for work. More on that tonight. [link]


11.17.04 - For the guy I spoke with at work today about Bush's debate bulge, here's the link to an astonishing CNN clip [wmv] that offers highly suggestive proof that our often-tongue-tied president uses radio transmission in tough situations to feed himself canned lines. In this case, the clip is from a June 5, 2002 press conference attended by both Bush and French president Jacques Chirac. I'd love to hear comments about that one from all the folks who pooh-pooh Bulgegate as a mere "conspiracy theory." There are lots more fascinating clips at CanOFun, for those of you lucky enough to have a desk job. [link]



By county.

By state.

Now, ask yourself: Which map offers more information about the relative strength of the two major parties in America's heartland?

Yep, it'd be the top one, which shows chunks of Texas, Mississippi, Arkansas, New Mexico, Colorado and Iowa, among other "red states," going for a northern Democrat like Kerry. So why are so many media pundits relying on the bottom map for their analyses? Why would anyone base their pontifications on a map that presents less information? Because it's simpler for TV and newspapers, maybe?

Suddenly, all that rhetoric about Democratic voters being absent from the center of the country kinda starts to look like horseshit, doesn't it? Yeesh. It's as if no one in the mainstream press has ever heard of Edward Tufte. [link]


11.6.04 - I know the USA is supposed to be in the midst of a massive turn to the fundamentalist right and all, but I'm having a hard time reconciling that centrist bit of spin with the fact that North Carolina, Idaho and Missouri - states that tilted heavily for Bush - all just elected open lesbians as state legislators, while Oregon just elected an openly gay guy to its Supreme Court. Hell, in Dallas County, Texas - which, of course, voted overwhelmingly for Bush on Tuesday - all of those right-wing "moral" voters just elected a damn lesbian as their sheriff.

Take that, all you centrist spinners busy claiming that gay issues are the kiss of death for Democrats. You have your heads up your asses. While I understand the argument that blames San Francisco's mayor for stoking straight fear at the wrong time, I also know that winning as a Dem is all about framing left-leaning issues in a way that appeals to the center. Too bad candidates like Erskine Bowles never bother to try that particular approach, instead preferring to unconvincingly stake out right-wing positions. How moronic and self-defeating is that? As if there were hordes of anti-gay voters just waiting to vote for a Democrat over a hardline Republican. Puh-lease.

Meanwhile, the estimated 4 million voters who self-identified as gay to exit pollsters in 2000 - a number roughly equivalent to the 5 million nonvoting Christian fundamentalists specifically targeted by Karl Rove this year - were not only ignored but actively insulted by mainstream Democratic losers like, er, Erskine Bowles.

Good lord, that is depressingly stupid and homophobic politics. [link]


11.5.04 - DailyKos has a thoughtful, non-paranoid take on concerns about voter fraud in Florida and Ohio during Tuesday's election. Closer to home, news that electronic voting machines lost 4500 votes in Jacksonville should have everyone in the state calling their legislators to demand paper trails for all NC elections. Bottom line: a paper trail would have allowed a hand recount of the Jacksonville vote that is currently impossible. Talk about your no-brainers.

State Board of Elections chair Gary Bartlett - who sits on the board of directors [doc] of the "Election Center," a non-profit whose stated purpose is "to promote, preserve, and improve democracy" but which allows electronic voting machine companies to offer dinner cruises to election officials during its national convention - has been actively dismissive of paper trails in the past, but it sure will be hard for him to ignore the national attention garnered by this particular botch.

Can't wait to see how Bartlett, who looks from here to be deep in the pocket of the electronic vote industry, responds. I'm sure it'll be a hoot. Keep the pressure on by calling state legislators. [link]


10.29.04 - I like what William Rivers Pitt has to say about the latest episode of that crazy Osama reality show, but, to be honest, Newsmax's reaction is much more fun and MSNBC offers a few more interesting tidbits:

NBC’s Richard Engel reported that bin Laden spoke in a modern style of Arabic, in contrast to the flowery Quranic language he has used in previous messages. He appeared to be speaking in a fashion he thought would be better suited to this target audience, the American people...

U.S. officials told NBC News that in parts of the tape not aired by Al-Jazeera, bin Laden acknowledges that the recent Afghan elections were not a success for him because “they came off with minimal violence.” And he admits that “aggressive Pakistani operations” in South Waziristan, where he is believed to be hiding, have hurt his operations.

Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Rick Francona, a Middle East specialist and former military official at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, said the tape was surprising in that it appeared to demonstrate that bin Laden was in good health.

Of course, ratings for the world's most famous villain had dropped severely after the White House programmed "Iraq II" against him in the same time slot, but - despite U.S. attempts to keep him off the air - his comeback moment has apparently arrived. And news that U.S. military commanders supposedly know where Osama is but can't or won't go after him certainly won't be helping Bush's reelection chances:

Former Navy Secretary and 9-11 commissioner John Lehman says the U.S. knows where al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden is hiding but can't reach him because he is in a region of Pakistan controlled by Islamic extremists opposed to President Pervez Musharraf.

"There is an American presence in the area, but we can't just send in troops," Lehman told the Sun. "If we did, we could have another Vietnam, and the United States cannot afford that right now."

Hm. I wonder why. [link]


10.28.04 - What the hell, I said on the air I'd do it so here it is: For those late deciders who watched the show this week and still need convincing that the invasion of Iraq was a colossal miscalculation, my attempt at a non-partisan three-point argument:

First point: For the first time in the history of modern U.S. intelligence, the White House created a new entity, the Office of Special Plans, to override the CIA and State Department analysts who normally reported to the President. This strange new office was designed for one purpose: to funnel dubious - and, according to Colin Powell himself, "deliberately misleading" - assertions about Iraq directly to the White House for use in public speeches. Those speeches convinced an awful lot of folks, including the nameless geniuses on the News & Observer editorial board*, that preemptively invading a country that hadn't attacked us was sound foreign policy. Question #1 for you late deciders who read the above two links: Why was such an office necessary?

Second point: Rumsfeld, Bush, Rice and Cheney saw the emotional turmoil caused by 9/11 primarily as an opportunity to establish U.S. military bases in Iraq. They then unnecessarily endangered our soldiers by rushing to war while many of us were reacting out of anger, hurt and a desire for revenge. The 'Osama = Saddam' misdirection has not only made you terror moms much less safe, it's also placed your sons and daughters in gruesome, morally horrific situations [wm] that create enough death and suffering to darken those soldiers' lives for a long time (if they survive, unlike the apparently innocent folks in that video). Meanwhile, Al Qaeda has almost certainly used the time we've been mired in Iraq to grow stronger worldwide, using Iraq as yet another failed, chaotic state in which to hide and plan. Whatever else Iraq was before the U.S. invasion, it sure as hell wasn't a Wahabist safe zone.

Third point: Bush & Co. actively suppressed concerns from military commanders about the White House's near-total lack of post-war planning, which led Rumsfeld and his neocon pals to make a series of stunningly ignorant blunders immediately after the invasion that have led directly to the deadly mess we're seeing today. Why would anyone trust the same folks who drove us into this ditch to get the car home in one piece?

There. That's the argument, for anyone who - beyond all expectation - is still able to be convinced. That last link is a real killer, by the way. I know very few of you will follow it, but the least you can do is read this much:

Many of the original miscalculations made by the Bush administration are well known. But the early blunders have had diffuse, profound, and lasting consequences-some of which are only now becoming clear. The first and foremost of these errors concerned security: the Bush administration was never willing to commit anything like the forces necessary to ensure order in postwar Iraq. From the beginning, military experts warned Washington that the task would require, as Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki told Congress in February 2003, "hundreds of thousands" of troops. For the United States to deploy forces in Iraq at the same ratio to population as NATO had in Bosnia would have required half a million troops. Yet the coalition force level never reached even a third of that figure. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his senior civilian deputies rejected every call for a much larger commitment and made it very clear, despite their disingenuous promises to give the military "everything" it asked for, that such requests would not be welcome. No officer missed the lesson of General Shinseki, whom the Pentagon rewarded for his public candor by announcing his replacement a year early, making him a lame-duck leader long before his term expired. Officers and soldiers in Iraq were forced to keep their complaints about insufficient manpower and equipment private, even as top political officials in the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) insisted publicly that greater military action was necessary to secure the country.

In truth, around 300,000 troops might have been enough to make Iraq largely secure after the war. But doing so would also have required different kinds of troops, with different rules of engagement. The coalition should have deployed vastly more military police and other troops trained for urban patrols, crowd control, civil reconstruction, and peace maintenance and enforcement. Tens of thousands of soldiers with sophisticated monitoring equipment should have been posted along the borders with Syria and Iran to intercept the flows of foreign terrorists, Iranian intelligence agents, money, and weapons.

But Washington failed to take such steps, for the same reasons it decided to occupy Iraq with a relatively light force: hubris and ideology. Contemptuous of the State Department's regional experts who were seen as too "soft" to remake Iraq, a small group of Pentagon officials ignored the elaborate postwar planning the State Department had overseen through its "Future of Iraq" project, which had anticipated many of the problems that emerged after the invasion. Instead of preparing for the worst, Pentagon planners assumed that Iraqis would joyously welcome U.S. and international troops as liberators. With Saddam's military and security apparatus destroyed, the thinking went, Washington could capitalize on the goodwill by handing the country over to Iraqi expatriates such as Ahmed Chalabi, who would quickly create a new democratic state. Not only would fewer U.S. troops be needed at first, but within a year, the troop levels could drop to a few tens of thousands.

Of course, these naive assumptions quickly collapsed, along with overall security, in the immediate aftermath of the war. U.S. troops stood by helplessly, outnumbered and unprepared, as much of Iraq's remaining physical, economic, and institutional infrastructure was systematically looted and sabotaged.

The rest is even better, with lots of details to clinch the case.

[*Powell, remember, expressed "regret" over some of the nonsense that wound up in his Feb 2003 speech to the U.N., but overly credulous media at the time (again, the N&O's editorial board serves as a perfect example) accepted the allegations at face value, even as CIA, State Department and Pentagon employees like Karen Kwiatkowski, who deserves some kind of whistleblower prize, looked on in shock and growing outrage. Funny, isn't it, how so many of us were able to immediately figure out that the administration's claims were flimsy justifications at best for a "preemptive invasion," while senior editors at major newspapers like the N&O willingly swallowed the administration line? And later, when CIA director George Tenet took the fall, lots of people (including, by golly, the N&O's editorial board) were fooled into believing the White House had simply been a victim of bad intelligence. Yeah, right. There wasn't a word in the N&O's "It's good that Tenet resigned" editorial about the Office of Special Plans. How out-of-touch can mainstream journalists get?

On second thought, don't answer that.] [link]


10.27.04 - For the folks who liked the marker graffiti I filmed for the last two episodes of Monkeytime TV, here's more boxcar art. In fact, here's pages and pages of strangely appealing boxcar art. [link]


10.26.04 - What do you want me to say? You want me to be all gung-ho for Kerry? (Yeah ok, whatever.) You want me to point to the best sites for convincing your conservative relatives? (I've been doing that for months; check the top of the home page.) You want me to tell you how to vote on NC's Amendment One? (This thread should convince you to vote no.) You want me to describe how many times I've called the Bowles campaign in the last three weeks to get Erskine's position on federal equality for gay and lesbian citizens, and how many times his policy coordinator and communications director have put me off with non-answers? (His stated position is worse than Dubya's, in case you're one of the few straight people who care.)

Fuck, y'all. I'm so sick, tired and angry it's no longer funny. If you absolutely must have a reason to explain why I've stopped posting, I'll make one up for you: This site is now a monument to those tens of millions of Americans who are registered to vote but won't. I'm not one of them, but damn can I relate. [link]


You can't stop now.

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