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An update on Juan Williams’ firing

Juan Williams' steepest descent to Fox News

I found this article from the NYTimes on Peter Daou’s Twitter stream.  It’s about the fallout from Juan Williams’ firing:

Of the thousands of complaints that have saturated NPR in the wake of Juan Williams’s firing earlier this week, some of the most telling have been from callers describing themselves as long-time “viewers” of NPR who warn that they are going to “stop watching.”

Stop laughing.  It’s rude.

But wait!  There’s more:

In an interview on Friday, Vivian Schiller, NPR’s chief executive, defended the decision to dismiss Mr. Williams and said it was not the product of political or financial pressures.

His contract was terminated, she said, because “he had several times in the past violated our news code of ethics with things that he had said on other people’s air.”

On one such occasion last year, Mr. Williams said on Fox that Michelle Obama has “got this ‘Stokely Carmichael in a designer dress’ thing going,” an allusion to a leader of the black power movement of the 1960s.

In each instance, Ms. Schiller said, “We called him on it, we had a discussion, we asked him not to do it again.” NPR’s ethics code states that journalists “should not express views” in other outlets, like TV shows, that “they would not air in their role as an NPR journalist.”

People deserve second chances, Ms. Schiller said, but “we made the decision here because, at a certain point, if someone keeps not following your guidance, you have to make a break. And that’s what we did.”

By the way, Juan Williams filled in for Bill O’Reilly on Friday.  So, it’s too late to take him back even if NPR wanted to.  But why would they want to?:

Jennifer Houlihan, a spokeswoman for New York Public Radio, said the issue “was not hurting” pledges. “We’re hitting or surpassing our goal at this point,” she said.

Oo!  Oo!  Fire Mara next time.  I’ll double the donation I used to give.  Better yet, stop being sycophantic Obama toelickers and I might even start watching listening again.  Yeah!  Purge the whole organization of Obots.  Concentrate on reporting the news like you used to do when you didn’t kiss conservative or “creative class” ass.

Do something different, like, oh, I don’t know, how about journalism?

More on Mara: Eric Boehlert says he never said NPR should fire Mara Liasson and neither has Media Matters.  Boehlert says that NPR should address the Code of Ethics conflict that Mara has with Fox.  I agree.

Of course, I think Mara has already done significant damage to NPR’s brand and getting rid of her would be only one step in a long painful road to recovery.  It has to take on the Obots in its ranks too before I come back.  But, Ok, give her a warning and a choice: stay off of Fox if you want to make absolutely sure you don’t violate NPRs code of ethics or find another job.  Seems fair to me.  I would have fired her by now but maybe all she really needs is a 6 months performance plan and a hard ass editor with a big red sharpie.  She might even leave on her own.

Liberals open minds, brains fall out over Juan Willams’ firing.

I shouldn’t be surprised over the lefty reaction to Juan Williams’ firing.  Ok, I’m not surprised.  Some people seem to think this is a free speech issue.  It’s not.  Allow me to insert my humble opinion as a former dedicated NPR listener.

Juan Williams parked himself on NPR during the Bush years.  That’s when I really started to notice him on NPR.  It was about that time that Congress appointed some Republican operative to the head of the corporation for public broadcasting and severely cut the budgets of CPB programming.  Eventually, NPR was pretty much on its own, getting underwriting from companies that specialize in ‘Wealth Management”.  The tenor of the reporting changed and Juan Williams was one of the leaders of that change.

In order to not offend the Republicans who might be listening in, the reports became more “on the one hand, on the other hand”.  Both sides were presented equally as if there was nothing at all wrong with any batshit crazy thing a movement conservative might say.  Mara Liasson and Steve Inskeep joined in.  Some of the interviews of Democrats became downright hostile.  I can remember one that Inskeep did with Rahm Emannuel that was inexplicably aggressive and nasty and I don’t even like Rahm.  In other words, NPR became just like every other media outlet: afraid to tell the truth without couching it in terms that conservatives wouldn’t find offensive.

Over time, instead of getting a quality news program that I had listened to for over 20 years, NPR became dependent on its donors – those wealth management people.  The reporting definitely suffered.  I used to write NPR diaries at DailyKos documenting the sad demise of NPR.  Juan, Mara and Steve lead the way, along with a generous dollop of Cokie “Tokyo Rose” Roberts.  The Village had gotten a grip on Morning Edition and All things Considered and it began to specialize in High Broderism.

Fast forward to 2010.  Now we are in the midst of a fall fund raiser and maybe the corporate donations aren’t as abundant as they used to be.  And maybe listeners aren’t ponying up either.  Then Juan Williams agrees with O’Reilly that muslims going all jihad is the greatest threat to this country.  Are you going to donate to NPR after you hear that?  Because O’Reilly is clearly looney toons and if Juan is agreeing with him, that means that Williams might also bring that perspective to NPR.  Listeners can come to two possible explanations for Wiliiams’ statements: 1.) he shares some of conservative O’Reilly’s bigoted beliefs about muslims or 2.) he has no problem pandering to the viewers’ base emotional responses for money.  If I am a listener of NPR, I pride myself that I am also NOT a listener of Bill O’Reilly, no matter how soft and squishy the reporting has become.  I start to make calls to the NPR member station and threaten to withhold my contribution.  (Actually, I’ve done this in the past over Mara and Steve).

The head of NPR, Vivian Whatshername, has had enough.  Juan is hurting the NPR brand name and threatening the credibility of the station. Is he a secret conservative shill who lets his sympathies for Fox viewers cloud his reporting on NPR?  If he isn’t fired, would any listener contributors believe anything Williams has to say after this point?   He was warned several times before about this.  He crossed the line.  He has to go.

Here’s my take on this: no matter how far NPR has fallen from its zenith in the nineties, it still has a reputation to maintain as a genuine news organization.  Journalism is what it does.  Once that mission is threatened by the possibility that some of your staff are not above demogoguery and pandering, the whole enterprise is threatened.  Money and budgets disappear as do the rest of your staff.  Juan undermines NPR’s news credibility.

Now, some of you may argue, unsuccessfully IMHO, that NPR violated Williams’ free speech when it terminated his contract.  That’s nonsense.  Williams can say anything he damn well pleases.  He landed on his feet and will get 2 million bucks for selling his soul hook, line and sinker to Fox.  He will now become just another emasculated “liberal” on Fox.  What NPR did was protect itself from accusations of extremist conservative bias.

Yep, there’s still a lot of cleaning up to do on aisle nine at NPR.  Their journalistic standards have fallen significantly since they decided to throw away excellence in reporting in order to make the conservatives comfy.  But that’s not the mission of a news organization.  They are supposed to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable”.  It wasn’t NPR’s liberal reporters that gave them the reputation of being liberal in its heyday.  It was that NPR was so effective at reporting the truth with high standards and integrity.  And as we all know from Stephen Colbert, “the truth as a strong liberal bias”.  That is why Republicans tried so hard to bring CPB down during the Bush era.  When you hear the truth, extremist conservatism ala Fox starts to sound really stupid.  So, I applaud NPR for taking this step.  They did the right thing in order to start on the long road to recovery.

If Juan were working for any other outfit other than a news organization, I’d probably agree with the people who felt he was being singled out for sharing unpopular views.  This is not the case here.  The guy just has no integrity when it came to journalism and it was going to reflect badly on NPR.  He had to go.

Thursday News: Downwind

That's right, lower that gas mask

We didn’t start the fire but we wouldn’t mind being downwind of one of the biggest marijuana bonfires the world has ever known.  134 tons of confiscated weed were set ablaze in Mexico yesterday.  We’re a little puzzled over the draconian steps to eradicate the pot before it makes its way across the border.  What this country needs right now is some tasty weed or a batch of brownies.  What a waste.

New Jersey Cablevision customers are downwind of a nasty dispute between their cable provider and News Corp, the company that shoves Fox down our throats.  For the last 5 days, Cablevision customers have been without Fox programming including Glee, House, and some major league baseball and football games.  I can’t find any evidence that Fox News was pulled, however, which is a shame.  News Corp is doubling the subscription fees for retransmission of Fox programming for Cablevision.  That’s $150,000,000 for Cablevision alone.  It looks like Cablevision customers who just get the broadband service were also affected.  They were unable to download programming from Hulu for a period of time but that seems to be restored.

News Corp is going up against Dish at the end of the month.  As a Dish customer, I’d like to encourage management to take a hard line with News Corp.  Take it all off the Dish lineup, including Fox News.  It’s extortion but maybe this latest move is a good thing. The more we can contain the Fox News contagion, the better.  I’ll download Glee from iTunes.  But more than that, this is just another example of a corporation thinking that the average Joe has unlimited disposable income.  We don’t.  The fees for every damn little thing are skyrocketing.  Enough already.  Try to make due with the billions you already have.

On the mortgages/foreclosure fiasco, the rule of law appears to be downwind of some very sketchy bank tactics for seizing what might not be theirs and throwing families out of their houses.  Atrios has been doing a really good job finding more and more evidence of bankster fraud.  In the latest article on the mess, Battle Lines Forming in Clash over Foreclosures, the New York Times reports:

Now those missing and possibly fraudulent documents are at the center of a potentially seismic legal clash that pits big lenders against homeowners and their advocates concerned that the lenders’ rush to foreclose flouts private property rights.

That clash — expected to be played out in courtrooms across the country and scrutinized by law enforcement officials investigating possible wrongdoing by big lenders — leaped to the forefront of the mortgage crisis this week as big lenders began lifting their freezes on foreclosures and insisted the worst was behind them.

Federal officials meeting in Washington on Wednesday indicated that a government review of the problems would not be complete until the end of the year.

“The misbehavior is clear: they lied to the courts,” she said. “The fact that they are saying no one was harmed, they are missing the point. They did actual harm to the court system, to the rule of law. We don’t say, ‘You can perjure yourself on the stand because the jury will come to the right verdict anyway.’ That’s what they are saying.”

Robert Willens, a tax expert, said that documentation issues had created potentially severe tax problems for investors in mortgage securities and that “there is enough of a question here that the courts might well have to resolve the issue.”

Ah, yes, the poor investor will have to sort through all of the tax issues.  So sad.  It’s so much worse for investors than the families that lose everything including the roof over their heads just because the documentation is screwed up.  I guess it never occurred to anyone that lowering the principle on some of the loans would allow some homeowners to stay in their houses and pay their mortgages.  At least the investors would get *something* for their investments.  Or investors could take it up with the banks who always seem to be in the middle of all these messes.  But banks seem to make money off of of foreclosures.  Hmmm, if I had been a congressman, I might have made foreclosure a lot less attractive for banks and avoided much of this mess.  Oh, well!  Not my problem.

It does appear to be a problem for those congresspersons, however, who appear to be downwind of voter anger over Congress’s complacency with the economy.  In A National Election, Like it or Not, E.J. Dionne reports on the experience of Democratic Congresswoman Mary Jo Kilroy from Ohio, who mistakenly keeps trying to tell her voters about the “accomplishments” of the last two years.  For some stupid reason, the voters aren’t paying any attention to the half assed Lily Ledbetter law or Health Care Reform or the financial bailout:

Kilroy recalls encountering a voter who told her: “I’ve voted for you throughout your career, but I’m not voting for you this year because I don’t have a job.”

She spoke to her constituent about what Congress had accomplished, and also about how the tied-up-in-knots U.S. Senate had blocked other House initiatives.

To which the voter replied: “Do you think I care they’re stuck in the Senate? I don’t have a job.”

Stivers, who lost to Kilroy in 2008 by just 2,312 votes, has had much happier doorstep experiences. “People were mad at George Bush two years ago and they were going to take it out on anyone with an ‘R’ after their name,” he said. This time, they’re eager to talk about — you guessed it — “the debt and jobs.”

Yep, it’s a mystery.

As Greg Sargent reports in The Enthusiasm Gap Remains just Awful for Dems:

But still, the enthusiasm deficit remains enormous, even though Dems have tried everything to turn this around: They’ve chanted Bush’s name in unison for months. They’ve raised the specter of foreign money rigging our elections. They’ve floated the possibility of GOP investigations that will make the 1990s look like a latter-day Era of Good Feelings. And they’ve relentlessly elevated the craziest of Tea Party crazies to iconic status. Yet Dems still aren’t goosed up about this election in anywhere near the numbers they need to be — mainly because the GOP enthusiasm levels are essentially steroidal at this point.

It’s like that Far Side cartoon where Einstein can’t figure out the famous relativity equation until his cleaning lady starts straightening up his desk.  “All squared away” The Democrats have tried everything but the stuff that actually works.  Denigrating the stupid hicks who join the Tea Party doesn’t work, Greg.  And I know a lot of Democrats don’t want to hear this but if the closest you’re going to get to having a liberal in the White House is Hillary Clinton, then you might just want to elect Hillary Clinton.  There’s no way in God’s green earth that Kucinich is ever going to get there.  Get squared away already.

Here’s a hint, Mary Jo and all you Democratic Congresspeople:  Congress didn’t do enough for the working class.  The best you can do is say, “I’m sorry.  I get it now. I’ll put pressure on Obama to kill the Catfood Commission.  Please don’t vote for Republicans.  They’ll only make it worse, er, faster than we will.”

Ed Potosnak can balance an equation and gets my vote.

And that goes for all the rest of you Democrats sending stupid emails to me, assuming I’m some low information, irrationally angry voter who doesn’t know what the heck is going on.  The destruction that ongoing layoffs have had on my friends and family is devastating.  I really don’t want to hear about some half assed health care reform bill or some lame Ledbetter bill that doesn’t guarantee me equal pay- now, this very moment without any legal hassles.  I want to hear about how you’re going to save my retirement and my job.  I guess it’s just irrational to want to be able to maintain my base caloric and shelter requirements.  As it happens, I have a Democrat , Ed Potasnak, to vote for this November but I’m not supporting a party that seems incapable of getting its act together when it had every possible advantage in the past two years.

And finally, Juan Williams is downwind of someone at NPR who has some scruples. Last night, NPR fired him.  After years of being the not-so-secret conservative mole at NPR, Juan finally took things too far on his other gig at Fox:

NPR has terminated its contract with Juan Williams, one of its senior news analysts, after he made comments about Muslims on the Fox News Channel.

NPR said in a statement that it gave Mr. Williams notice of his termination on Wednesday night.

The move came after Mr. Williams, who is also a Fox News political analyst, appeared on the “The O’Reilly Factor” on Monday. On the show, the host, Bill O’Reilly, asked him to respond to the notion that the United States was facing a “Muslim dilemma.” Mr. O’Reilly said, “The cold truth is that in the world today jihad, aided and abetted by some Muslim nations, is the biggest threat on the planet.”

Mr. Williams said he concurred with Mr. O’Reilly.

He continued: “I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”

I’ve been disappointed with NPR since the Bush administration when it went from National Public Radio to Nice Polite Republicans.  The consensus reality/perception bending by Williams, Mara Liason and Steve Inskeep got to be too much for me to take in the mornings.  It was nauseating to hear it on the program I had listened to faithfully since I was in college.  I’m glad that Williams got the boot because his remarks were designed to mislead viewers like my mother into believing that Muslims are going to go all jihad on helpless Americans.  The purpose of those remarks are to terrify people who will short circuit their risk assessment thought processes.  And studies have shown (damn, where is that reference?) that voters who are fearful of their own mortality will vote for conservative politicians who promise to protect them.  Those viewers of Juan Williams on Fox will not think about how most Muslim Americans have families and jobs and don’t have time to do terrorist activities.  They’ve got PTA meetings and shopping to do.  Besides, they’re so small in number, how the heck are they going to get away?  It’s a big country. Don’t get me started.  I have to deprogram my mom of this stuff every time I see her.

Yeah, Juan Williams is one of the bad guys and he’s been sitting on NPR like some big ugly insect that the NPR listeners are just supposed to ignore.  We’re supposed to believe that Williams was an unbiased journalist who just coincidentally has this other job on Fox News where he’s allowed to spew nonsense and deceive people.  But none of that could ever possibly spill over into Morning Edition.  Riiiiight.

Now, get rid of Liason and Inskeep and I’ll come back.  Maybe I’ll even write a check.

If the Dems want to get back on their feet, they need to kick the moles out of NPR

Tokyo Rose

So, the Wurlitzer is on full crank and the Villagers are all a-twitter about how the Democrats took the country too far left.  Of course, that’s what they would say.  They’re THE VILLAGERS.  They are paid to keep the status quo nice and comfy for themselves and their friends. I’m going to let the Democrats in on a little secret:

No one on the left pays any attention to them anymore.

Yep. It’s true.  The Washington Post and the NYTimes could be spending the money they pay those courtiers on beefing up their international news bureaus.  People might actually start reading their papers again.

Frankly, my Dems, we don’t give a damn what David Brooks or David Broder says anymore.  We only pay attention to Joe Klein because his stupid musings are so easy to debunk and his name is, well, amenable to juvenile mockery.  Paul Krugman *used* to be our goto guy but he’s lost the plot recently and thinks that propping up Obama is more important than actually Change!™ing things.

But people have to still get their news from somewhere.  I gave up TV news of all kinds last year.  I don’t watch network or cable “news” of any kind.  I got sensitized to the propaganda and now, whenever I hear the prepared talking points with just the right psychological spin, I break out in hives and can’t breathe.  No, now I’m forced to surf the net both domestically and internationally and sift through the information with the skills of a professional data miner looking for nuggets of truth among the truthiness.

Not everyone has the time to do this.  So, verily I say unto you Democrats who are wringing your hands that your message is failing to get out among all of the “Americans are really center right people” and “Obama is a socialist” BS, don’t forget about NPR and the Public Broadcasting System.  I used to be a faithful listener and donater to NPR news programming for nigh on 20 years, ever since I was in college.  But during the Bush years, the place got so infested with GOP moles and taken over by the “both sides of the story are equal” folks that I don’t listen anymore.  Planet Money was pretty good for the first couple of months until their sponsors became the same kinds of companies they were reporting on.  My morning and evening commutes are now podcast only hours.

One thing you guys failed to do, (ok, one of the THREE things you failed to do right after 1.)failing to elect the true Democrat and 2.) handing the keys of your party apparatus to a bunch of neo-liberal jerks from Chicago who cut their teeth at Enron) was you failed to control the message.  Maybe you can’t restore the fairness doctrine right away, not that you shouldn’t at least try, but you didn’t make use of the tools you have.  You have the power of the purse.  You could get rid of the “Wealth Management” underwriters.  You could have kicked Steve Innskeep type guys to the curb and restored NPR to its former glory of reporting fairly and accurately instead of turning the place into a incubator for Juan Williams and Mara Liason who took their Tokyo Rose acts to Fox News.

In fact, why *didn’t* you do all of those things when you had a chance?  Republicans with your numbers would have done it.  Sometimes, I have to wonder about your personal safety in a room with sharp objects.

So, if you don’t want to lose your shirts and reputations this fall, and it looks like that’s where you’re headed if you don’t do something quick, you’d better shore up your messaging machine and push left as hard as you can.

Don’t say we didn’t warn you.


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Money Changes Everything- Brainstorming Session I

Hi guys, today is going to be a light posting day for me. The BFF’s birthday is coming up and I will be in Manhattan all day doing Broadway with him and “Brook”, the adolescent creature person. But in the meantime, I have a little proposition for you.

If youre like me, you watched the unravelling of the Big Orange Satan with great dismay. TPM jumped the rational shark recently. And Keith Olbermann turned into his own worst enemy. It’s my theory that money is at the root of these evils. All three of these operations are driven by advertising dollars. (Well, not DailyKos anymore, apparently)

Now, I’m not saying that money is bad or that we shouldn’t desire wealth especially if we’ve worked hard to earn it. No, what I’m saying is that when there is an incentive to make money, the behaviors and activities that generate money will tend to influence one’s preferences and tastes. I think that is what we are seeing here. For sure it is what drives MSNBC. Jack Welch was a formidable salesman and created the Rank and Yank performance review. In The Smartest Guys in the Room about the Enron scandal, you’ll see what happens to the corporate culture where this kind of attitude thrives. The business environment is nasty, brutish and short if you don’t rake in the bucks and super rewarding if you do. It’s an all or nothing thing. I always suspected that Keith Olbermann’s liberal passion was ephemeral. The minute ad revenue sags, he’s on his way out and when Obamamania hit, Welch must have seen a twofer- get rid of Hillary the Monster and pump up the bucks with Keith going nuts for Barry.

As long as there is money in the system, my friends, our free speech and ability to get our message out will be subject to market forces. Those who own the biggest microphones will be able to shout dissenters down and put our voices on mute.

When I first started this blog, I said I was looking for collaborators and one reader asked me in a private email what exactly I had in mind? I’m not sure yet. Let’s face it, if you want to create a safe place for political voices to go on the internet and you want it to be big enough to make an impact (and believe me, I’m not at all into quitting my full time job to do this for a living), money is a necessity. But money is a trap that keeps us tethered to our audience too tightly.

So, what is the best business model for Progressive Blogosphere 2.0? I think the closest model to what I think we might want to go with is a National Public Radio or Public Broadcasting System model. There would be one umbrella organization where a variety of political blogs could co-exist and the system would be funded by pledged contributions. I realize that even NPR and PBS has been tainted in recent years but it took longer for the rot to reach them and it ddn’t happen until their boards of directors were infiltrated by ideological Republicans. So, if we had such an umbrella organization, how would we set up our board of directors? And as for money, well, I do this blogging thing for free but I could imagine wanting to get a little filthy lucre when the private school tuition bills start to roll in. But how would one structure renumeration in order to minimize market forces so that even potentially unpopular voices have a chance to be heard?

That is the task I put before you today. Answer the following questions:

  1. Is there a need for an umbrella group for Progressive Blogosphere 2.0?
  2. How should it be structured?
  3. How do we compensate bloggers for their work without succombing to the stifling forces of the free market?

Have at it.  I am off to brave the madness of the NJ Transit- NYC subway system.

Random Thots- Monday, Jan.28

Random Thots

  • Breathless headline du jour: “Bill Clinton orders coffee black. African-American leaders see signs of latent racism.”
  • Paul Krugman says, “Focus, people! Focus!” Let’s hope that Hillary learned her lesson from Bill regarding health care and that John Edwards’ message gets more attention.
  • NPR is live blogging the SOTU tonight?! Damn! Is liveblogging still cool?
  • Paraphrasing Emmanuel on Morning Edition: “The rift between Obama and Clinton isn’t like JFK or LBJ. It’s not like when Ted Kennedy tried to shiv Jimmy Carter in 1980. Heck, it’s not even like George Bush vs John McCain in 2000. No, Hillary vs Obama is just a slight misunderstanding brought on by her loudmouth husband who we want to STFU. I’m not endorsing. I’m hiding under my desk.” In other words, typical Rahm.
  • Ahhh, but does NPR have a drinking game to go with their SOTU liveblogging? Betcha they don’t. Add your words, phrases and # of prescribed gulps in the comments.
  • SusanG is channeling the chaos? Ayayay! Must be pretty tumultuous behind the scenes.
  • Matt Stoller issues a warning. I have to agree with him. There is something very spooky here with so many people who are normally clear thinkers start jumping aboard the Obama bandwagon. The synergy of the media, some influential bloggers and others is directed primarily at taking down the Clintons not necessarily at putting Obama in the WH. I still think there are a lot of Republican operatives trolling the web, dominating comment threads at TPM and DailyKos and manipulating the discourse to make it look like Obama, not Clinton is the inevitable candidate. And when they finally have Clinton out of the way, Obama will be a sitting duck because he is a stump speech, an intelligent man and not much else. God help us.
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