The Truth About TV News: When Opinion Dominates, Everything Becomes Opinion

Unless we’re careful, we who are charged with reporting the news could lose sight of truth as our ultimate goal. We could end up in a world where, implicitly, none of us — not the audience and not the reporters — even believe any longer in the truth. (see full article by David Westin in CJR)

The UN Ambassador

President Bush has nominated "hardliner" John Bolton to be Ambassador to the United Nations. "Imagine Jerry Falwell being placed in charge of marriage in Massachusetts."

This is where Bush has apparently been getting his ideas about how the country should work with the rest of the world. (Hint: scroll to the lower right hand corner.)

Just a coincidence, look at who provides the core funding of the modern right-wing "noise machine" that put Bush into office.

Bankruptcy Bill

Talking Points Memo - Special Bankruptcy Edition Blog -- a separate blog just for the bankruptcy bill.


Credit Cards

In case you haven't heard, there's a new bankruptcy bill making its way through Congress. Read up on it here, here and here.

Kevin Drum points out that:
"Bottom line: credit card companies now make half their profits from penalties and late fees. They actively seek out customers who are likely to miss payments and end up in a penalty fee spiral, and they make a fortune from them."
"And where does the bankruptcy bill come into this?
Credit card companies want the ability to make risky loans, but they also want federal protection that protects them from bearing the risk that goes along with making those loans. That's a pretty cushy setup, as long as you can buy yourself enough politicians to make it happen. Apparently they can."
He also writes here about amendments offered by Democrats, that Republicans voted down, and other details:
"The poor get shafted, the very real crisis of medical bankruptcy is ignored, the rich are allowed loopholes that let them off the hook, and credit card companies can continue on their merry way knowing they won't have to pay the price for their own folly."
I stopped using credit cards several years ago. It's AMAZING how good it feels to be free of monthly payments and interest charges. Why would I want to contribute to the machine? If I can't just pay for something I just don't buy it. (Yes, I drive an old beater.)

Brit Hume Must Resign!

Bloggers and Readers,

Here is another story that needs to gain wider attention. Brit Hume Must Resign. Oliver Willis has been on this for 25 days, and we should all join him by blogging about it, writing letters and making phone calls. Here's the background:
On February 3rd, Hume intentionally manipulated the words of the 32nd president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, to make it appear as if FDR supported privatization of social security. This is a brazen falsehood. President Roosevelt's grandson, James Roosevelt Jr., describes Hume's journalistic malfeasance as an "an outrageous distortion". We agree.
This is far more serious than anything Dan Rather was accused of. But Hume is getting away with it because we aren't making enough noise. Go read about it, and make some noise!


Digby! Digby! Digby!

In The Big Argument Digby writes,
I realize that there has been a full generation of brainwashing about how the government is always bad and that everyone will get rich, rich, rich if the government just gets off their backs. But I have a sense that the force of this argument is getting stale. The assault on social security may just be the thing that opens people's minds to what their philosophy really means. And it may just open a window to allow the idea back in to the minds of the citizens that government programs can be an affirmative good. Social Security works. It's more efficient, more fair and more inexpensive than any of the alternatives. People apparently instinctively know this. Since the Republicans decided to bring this to the forefront we should take credit for it and piggyback our new progressive ideas on its back. It's been so long since anyone had the nerve to do it, that it sounds downright fresh.

[. . .] Just as in the 1930's the Republicans of today simply don't believe in the idea of a moral and decent society. Their policy is to align themselves with powerful moneyed forces to tilt the playing field in their favor and let everybody else fend for themselves. That's the essence of the argument and one that I think we can win if we care to wage it.
Digby finds words from FDR that do sound fresh and inspiring. There's more good stuff, so go read.

And in Mr. Positive, Digby writes,
I still maintain that whenever somebody says that we must present an alternative, we should say "We have presented the alternative. It's called "Social Security". It works very, very well and Democrats are damned proud to have created it."
And in Listening To Liberals Digby writes,
And here is one liberal who doesn't believe that everything that comes out of the unregulated free market is good culturally. For instance, I think that right wing talk radio is the biggest cultural pollutant in our society. I can't conceive of anything more pernicious than hours and hours of eliminationist rhetoric, lies and propaganda being pumped into people's cars, offices and homes throughout the country. Somehow, I just can't get as worked up about fictional cable television shows that feature nudity and profanity when real live Americans spend the day listening to people talk about me in ways that sound an awful lot like they'd like to kill me.
All in one day!

Digby! Digby! Digby!


Social Security and 2018

President Bush was on the news talking about the "crisis" that Social Security faces in 2018. I haven't heard the truth about this repeated often enough, so here it is:

Everyone who makes $90,000 or less pays a big chunk of their income into the Social Security Trust Fund. This money was supposed to be saved to pay for our retirement.

Bush called this saved-up retirement money "the people's money" and used it to pay for huge tax cuts for the rich. So while OUR taxes were supposed to be building up a huge reserve for OUR retirement, Bush has been giving it to the rich.

It is projected that Social Security will stop bringing in extra revenue in approx. 2018. This is where the money that was supposed to be saved comes into play -- Bush spent it, and doesn't want to pay it back. THAT is why he says there is a crisis in 2018!

Bush says this is Social Security's problem! He calls it a "crisis" and says we need to cut benefits. I think it is Social Security's problem like it's the bank's problem if I can't come up with the mortgage payment, and I tell the bank they need to lay people off so they don't need my money.

Global Philanthropy Forum

Patrick O'Heffernan is blogging at the 2005 Global Philanthropy Forum

CNET: "The coming crackdown on blogging"

Declan McCullagh's latest is an interview with Bradley Smith, a Republican FEC commissioner, about the potential effects of being forced to apply McCain-Feingold campaign donation regulations to the Internet.

Here's the first paragraph:

"In just a few months, he warns, bloggers and news organizations could risk the wrath of the federal government if they improperly link to a campaign's Web site. Even forwarding a political candidate's press release to a mailing list, depending on the details, could be punished by fines."

Apparently (perhaps because of the Talon News/GOPUSA scandal), the regulatory issue has produced a partisan split--there was a 3-3 vote to not to appeal the Internet related portion of Judge Kollar-Kotelly's latest order. I'm not sure what the Democratic Party appointees' rationale for this vote was (they're not quoted), but, at least on the surface, the postulated outcome is fairly alarming... links to candidate websites being categorized as campaign donations, along with forwarding press releases to email lists (for example).

UPDATE:Ellen Weintraub, who is apparently acting as a spokesperson for the Democratic Party FEC appointees, has this to say about the issue: Bloggers, chill out already!

--Thomas Leavitt

Blog Reader Survey - Important to Blogs and to STF

This is a reminder repost - especially if you were unable to take the survey because the site went down.

Please take the blog reader survey. On question 16 please let them know that you came from "Seeing the Forest."

The really helps Seeing the Forest, and helps blogs in general.

From Henry at Blogads:
The survey should take about four minutes to complete. The results will help us communicate with advertisers, the press and the public about the huge and unique audience that blogs serve.

If your blog readers put your blog name in #16, we'll then happily provide you the full data broken out for your own readership in coming weeks.
Blog Reader Survey. "Seeing the Forest" at question 16.

Blog Reader Survey. "Seeing the Forest" at question 16.

Blog Reader Survey. "Seeing the Forest" at question 16.

Friday NOT Cat Blogging

P-Niss Blogging Friday from the farmer at corrente. Prepare yourself before reading. Probably not work-safe.

The President of the Republican Party -- Only

It's time Bush explained why he only talks to supporters.

Democrats are not welcome at Presidential events. Period. No questions, and especially no answers.

Are we citizens or subjects? It's time to start making some real noise about this. Don't go quietly. And, of course, watch your backs.


Fighting Back

Here is a comment I left over at Digby's blog: (Edited to make me look better.)

I come out of marketing and marketing people know that if you spend a lot of money to repeat something over and over it will effectively get many if not most people to think that whatever you are saying is true. That's why people think that one soap is better than another or Shell is better than the no-brand discount gas station, etc.

And the Right has spent a lot of money - billions - and built up the channels for repeating things over and over. It's really a very simple, basic thing if you think about it. They spend a lot of money to repeat a core ideology and people start to accept it. Duh!

So what do we do about it? We start to spend a lot of money to repeat over and over that Progressive solutions are better for regular people. And we learn how to do it with modern marketing methods. We learn how to craft a message specifically for this demographic or that demographic, etc. We learn how to craft our message into language that resonates emotionally, etc. We fund organizations that train Progressives in media techniques so they come across better on TV. We do all the things the Right is doing -- which are all the things modern corporations do to sell soap to you. It really is just like selling soap.

But I think the core is that we have to start repeating the UNDERLYING message, that Progressive values benefit regular people. THEN we tie narrow issues to those underlying values. That is the key thing the Right has learned about how to sell their issues. They start by selling the ideas that underly the issues. After people come to accept these underlying ideas THEN they tie it to the issues.

And all of this gets your candidates elected. So spending money on this is better and longer lasting than money spent on election cycle stuff.

Jews Need Not Apply

House Votes to Ease Ban on Hiring Bias,
Under current law, religious organizations that participate in federal job-training programs cannot discriminate in hiring or firing for jobs financed by taxpayers. The House bill would remove that prohibition, meaning that a church or synagogue could use a person's religious beliefs in determining employment for a federally financed job.


Bloggered Again Again

Blogger is acting up again. Can you tell?

Corporate Radio vs. "fringe" rock and pop

Mark Morford's latest column, All Hail The Death of Radio, is a long rant about the utter suckage of corporate radio. His usual brilliant dissection of the pathetic.

I sent him a note about KPIG.

Here's what KPIG says about themselves:


What is KPIG?

We're an anachronism - a throwback to the days when real DJs picked out
the music, and listeners expected something more from a radio station than
just a couple of hundred songs repeated over and over, with some "big
voice" guy yelling about how great it all is. We're also - to the
amazement of all of the radio "professionals" who make the rules we thumb
our noses at - very successful, though we try not to let it go to our


And, yes, they are successful: with a weak signal, they regularly challenge ClearChannel stations for top ratings in their local market.

this link

R&R labels it a "Triple A" station, which is defined thusly:


Radio Station Format Definitions:
Adult Album Alternative

"Triple-A" stations target an adult audience with a large variety of music
that hovers on the fringe of mainstream pop and rock, including Americana,
alternative rock, alternative country, blues, folk and world music. The
selections stay away from rap or any of the "hard stuff."

Typical artists heard on AAA stations include: Shawn Colvin, Eric Clapton,
Amiee Mann, David Gray, Bob Dylan, Cowboy Junkies, Dave Mathews Band, U2,
Tracy Chapman, R.E.M., Train, Blues Traveler, Cold Play, Depeche Mode,
Lucinda Williams, Josh Joplin Group.


Interesting... so, all these bands and singers are on "fringe" of
mainstream pop and rock?!? Tracy Chapman?, R.E.M., Bob Dylan?!?, Dave Mathews Band, U2?!?, Depeche Mode? Says a lot about corporate radio, doesn't it?

Incidentally, these aren't the bands that KPIG typically plays... 95% of the time, when I tune them in, I hear something I've never heard before... and sometimes, I even like it. Mark Morford says that this recently happened to him for the first time since 1996.

Corporate America's lack of imagination and risk-aversion is costing it a fortune... and improvershing our culture in the process - as KPIG's success demonstrates by contrast.

Sad, isn't it?

--Thomas Leavitt


The Congress will not investigate anything this administration does wrong. It is not in the interests of The Party to do so.

Senate Intelligence Chairman Opposes C.I.A. Abuse Inquiry:
"The Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee is opposing a request by the panel's top Democrat to investigate possible misconduct by the C.I.A. in the treatment of terrorism suspects, Congressional officials said Tuesday."

Nuke But No Sound

The Carpetbagger Report : If a congressman calls for a nuclear attack, and only blogs notice, does it really make a sound?

The STF Rule

At TalkLeft, Global Electronic Surveillance for Dummies,
The United States has fewer than 5,000 spies operating around the world, for example, but 30,000 eavesdroppers.
I left the following comment:
Remember the "Clipper chip" controversy, where the right-wingers stopped the Clinton administration from certifying a standard encryption chip that would be built into our phones and computers? They claimed that encryption would ENABLE the government to listen in! So now none of our phone calls or e-mails are encrypted and pretty much anyone can listen in.
The STF rule: If Republicans are accusing others, it means they are DOING it! They accused the Clinton administration of wanting to listen in on everyone's conversations. So today no one has encryption, with the result that anyone can listen in. (Explain again how putting encryption into phones and computers lets the government listen in? A lot of smart people actually bought into that one.)


Ask Rupert

This just in:
Anything you'd like to ask Rupert Murdoch?

NiemanWatchdog.org, a Web site of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, wants to know: Do you have any questions for Rupert Murdoch?

The American Society of Newspaper Editors has selected Murdoch as a speaker at its annual conference, to be held in Washington April 12-15. To help make the Q&A part as edifying as possible, NiemanWatchdog.org is soliciting questions for the controversial mogul who controls the News Corp, Fox Broadcasting Co., British Sky Broadcasting, more than 20 Fox TV stations, and newspapers, magazines and book publishing firms on several continents, among other holdings.

Questions should be posted on the NiemanWatchdog.org Web site by clicking here.

Before the speech, which is on April 13, the editors of NiemanWatchdog.org will pick what they feel are the dozen or so best questions, and make sure they get in the hands of editors who will be in the audience.

The Nieman Watchdog Project encourages the press to hold the powerful accountable by asking incisive questions. For more information, please visit http://niemanwatchdog.org.

The Bankruptcy Reform Bill

Go read What’s Wrong with the Bankruptcy Reform Bill? at Angry Bear.

A Lot Of Money Is Going To Be Lost

A lot of money is going to be lost. I mean, a LOT.

Speculators Seeing Gold in a Boom in the Prices for Homes,
In several metropolitan areas, from Miami to Riverside, Calif., where the real estate market is white hot, rapidly rising prices are luring a growing number of ordinary people into buying and selling residences they do not intend to occupy, despite warnings from some economists that prices cannot continue to rise as steeply as they have in the last few years.

[. . .] Like the day traders of the 1990's dot-com boom, people are investing in a market that seems to just go up.

[. . .] These buyers, some of whom lost money when the stock market crashed five years ago, believe real estate is a safer bet.

[. . .] Even in Manhattan, where average sales prices topped $1 million last year, investors are piling into the market, brokers say.

[. . .] They rent it out for $2,225 a month, about $1,000 less than their mortgage and maintenance costs. The couple hope to make up the shortfall when they sell the condo in a few years. "It seems that real estate always goes up," in the long term, Ms. Finley said.

[. . .] With more than 60,000 units in some phase of development in the Miami area, "the supply may be greater than the ultimate demand," said Michael Y. Cannon, managing director of Integra Realty Resources-South Florida, a market analyst. A similar situation in 1986 sent the market spiraling, and it took seven years to recover.

[. . .] For now, investors like the Lidskys are still buying. They intend to buy at least one more unit - their sixth in less than a year - in another condo.
Oh it's going to be bad. Really, really bad.

I'm taking another break

I won't be posting for awhile while I'm thinking things over. In the past I've always come back eventually, but I'm not promising anything.

I really dread the next four years. I expect the worst from Bush -- specifically, war fever plus McCarthyism. There have been a number of positive changes in the Democratic party, but Democrats as a group still don't seem prepared for what's going to happen, and it may be too little, too late.

At the beginning of my blogging career I was happy just to vent, but over the last year or so I've tried to figure out a way to make something of my political writing. That really hasn't happened -- I still seem to be speaking to the same small audience of people who basically already agree with me, without really getting my message out the generic Democrats or the big-time bloggers -- much less the party leadership.

I will always be angry about the crappy 2004 campaign, the overpaid consultants, and the unresponsive and bureaucratic Democratic Party (and Kerry campaign) -- and especially, the New Dems who are only now finally realizing that perhaps their destruction of the left wing of the Democratic party left them vulnerable to attack. Lieberman's hot wet kiss with Bush at the State of the Union speech was just the killing blow.

I noticed that Martin Peretz has just offered the Democrats some helpful advice. The man who gave us Michael Kelly, Charles Krauthammer, Mickey Kaus, and Andrew Sullivan. The neocon who stayed behind to fight a rear-guard battle against the enemy and subvert him -- i.e., us. The fifth columnist.

The media is hopeless, and we need something completely new -- a new national newspaper, new national TV and cable networks, and a new national radio network. Radio is only halfway there, and the others don't exist at all. It would all cost about half a billion, and while people tell me that the money is out there, I don't see much happening.

Right now there is no career track for openly liberal, openly Democratic media people. You can sit back and watch all of them fudging, refusing to burn bridges, and primping their moderation cred -- hoping for that invitation to go on TV, or maybe even to write for the Times eventually, like the liberal Kristoff.

I might also mention that there's a considerable pool of talented bloggers out here who've been self-financing all along while the dud consultants have been pulling down six-figure incomes for losing over and over again. After awhile, that kind of thing gets old, and I know of at least two well-respected bloggers who are just plain flat broke. Republican bloggers seem to get support, although they don't necessarily tell anyone about it.

I think that the academic and administrative roots of most Democratic leaders disable them for the hoodlum politics of today. They're used to describing reality as it is at a given moment, "managing" things, keeping the lid on, and judging people by their credentials. They're cool and civil and don't know how to respond to deliberate provocation, or to people whose goal is to shake things up and change things.

The Republicans, by contrast, hire semi-criminal entrepreneurs and give them a chance to show what they can do. And the Republicans win.

The whole "reality-based" slogan is utter crap. Democrats deal with the world as it is, and Republicans deal with the world as it can be made to be. That's why the Democrats are always blindsided, and why the Republicans always win. The Democrats are yesterday, and the Republicans are tomorrow. "The point is not to understand the world, but to change it".

And for those who don't understand it yet, "character" means, among other things, macho. The can-do hands-on do-what-you-gotta-do thing. The academic habit of discussing everything to death is not what you're looking for in the man in charge. (Macho -- Margaret Thatcher had it, Indira Gandhi had it, Golda Meir had it. It's not just a guy thing.)

The United States has been taken over by a cult -- the hardcore 30% who think that that nuclear war is a fun idea, that France is an enemy nation, that the Confederacy was perfectly wonderful, that Armageddon is coming soon and is something to pray for, and that the federal government should be starved to death. They're the bad guys, but the ones who you really have to blame are the ones who don't bother and don't care: the cynics, the apathetic, the non-voters, the game-players, the media careerists, and the self-described "moderates". By the time those guys get the idea, it will probably be too late.

The American people have spoken, and sometimes you end up feeling that the problem is really them.

P.S. I meant to say this the first time -- the absence of a liberal Democratic media career track also pulls Democratic political pros, and even Democratic politicians, to the right. They always have to think about what they do afterwards, so they don't want to burn any bridges either. Bill O'Reilly, Chris Matthews, Susan Estrich and George Stephanopolous are the worst examples I can think of, but there are tons of them.