Top Secret Intergalactic Communication
From: Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas
To: Supreme Chancellor Rick Perry, AKA Darth Sidious
The future of The Empire is at risk. Please advise.
Top Secret Intergalactic Communication
From: Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas
To: Supreme Chancellor Rick Perry, AKA Darth Sidious
The future of The Empire is at risk. Please advise.
About six weeks ago, George W. Bush’s spokesbot Dana Perino claimed in a FoxNews interview that there had never been a terrorist attack on American soil while Bush was the President. I thought at the time it must have been a massive case of the stupidicitis, in which she simply misspoke.
Now comes “Mr. 9-11” Rudy Guliani, who claimed the exact same thing last Friday on Good Morning America:
In political messaging, one person misspeaking is a mistake. Two misspeaking is a concerted coordinated trend, and thinking, patriotic Americans should call them on their lies every time they attempt them. Those who seek to re-write this history only serve to so utterly mask the roots of our life-threatening challenges that they themselves put Americans at further grave risk.
And what of the so-called “reporters” interviewing these liars? Best I can tell from the video clips, neither Perino’s or Guliani’s false claims were at all challenged by their interviewers. Of course, Perino’s interview was on FoxNews, which is to political news coverage what pro wrestling is to sports – it’s not real, they just want you to think it is.
Republicans, get it through your thick skulls: no matter how anxious you are for President Obama to fail, 9-11 happened, with Bush and your beloved Dick Cheney at the helm. And what about those anthrax attacks? Did Bush ever get to the bottom of that? Nope. But whether they originated from a foreign or domestic enemy, they too were terrorist attacks, which is what the Bush administration called them at the time, on American soil during Bush’s tenure.
And, by the way, just in case the lies spread to other fronts, here are some other things that actually did happen during the Bush administration, much to the inconvenience of Republican history re-writers everywhere.
— New Orleans was partially destroyed, and FEMA’s response under Bush made more people die.
–America went to war under false pretenses, while the Bush White House implied repeatedly that Iraq had something to do with the 9-11 attack, and people died.
–The White House, under Bush, turned a budget deficit Bill Clinton erased into an ocean of red ink.
–America, under Bush, failed to capture Osama bin Laden, “dead or alive.”
–The economy, under Bush, completely tanked
As Sarah Palin brings her book tour to Texas today, Letters From Texas thought this might be as good a time as any to remind you pesky commie pinko reporters about The Official Sarah Palin Book Tour Media Guidelines:
1. if you’re a foreign reporter, you’re not invited.
2. if you’re a reporter who doesn’t speak English, don’t bother showing up.
3. if you dare speak to Sarah Palin, you are commanded to address her as “Governor.”
4. on the above issue of speaking to Sarah Palin, you won’t be speaking to Sarah Palin. In the event that you want to try to speak to Sarah Palin anyway, your request for an interview must first go to her publicist.
5. if you’re recording audio…oh wait – you’re not allowed to record audio.
6. if you want to shoot video, you’re only allowed to shoot the first 10 minutes of the event, without audio.
You think I’m kidding don’t you? Guess again.
Somebody who dishes it out to others as often as I do should be able to take a shot every once in a while, and here’s a pretty good one.
Yes, I know it’s the newest and coolest thing for a newsroom to get a Twitter account and tweet your station’s headlines as they occur.
Yes, it’s completely understandable that the natural progression of that might be to live-broadcast your station’s news tweets from the biggest video-enabled billboard in town.
However, you might want to think through the details of that before you get too far along in your big plan.
I taught a “how to deal with reporters” class over the weekend, to students attending a Texas Democratic Party campaign training camp (great bunch of folks, by the way – if they’re who will be working in Democratic campaigns next year, I’m guessing we’re in pretty good shape). Part of the curriculum is explaining the rules of engagement when dealing journalists. It’s not very exciting stuff, but it’s pretty important, if you’re a campaign staffer, candidate, or reporter.
Personally, I’m used to this stuff and still get tripped up from time to time. And it certainly doesn’t come naturally, so it’s important material to learn. I’m also constantly amazed at the mistakes people make. This weekend was an interesting time to go over that material too, since there are a couple of things in the news right now in which people who should know better attempted to engage, and didn’t fare well because they were off-track on the basic rules of engagement.
The first is an example here in Texas, in which following up on a Texas Tribune poll, a spokesperson for one of the candidates in the poll objected on several grounds (some of which may well be valid grounds for objection). He apparently called Tribune boss Evan Smith and, let’s just say, a frank and earnest exchange of ideas was shared. It is unclear whether Evan was playing the part of Frank or Ernest.
Evan wrote a blog piece on the Trib site about the exchange, about which the campaign spokesperson promptly commented, both repeating his earlier complaints, and adding one more: that Evan wrote at all about their phone call, “…in a conversation which was never specified as being on the record.”
Spokespeople of the world: seriously, if you’re going to call yourself a “spokesperson,” you might want to start out that big career by understanding that all conversations with journalists are automatically deemed to be on the record, unless otherwise agreed to by both people in the conversation. In this case, a small mistake of little lasting consequence to the campaign, the Trib, or Earthlings in general, but anybody can see how that little misunderstanding might get dicey in other contexts.
But here’s the whopper in this week’s news on the “clueless on the rules of engagement” front: Sarah Palin. Palin, as a former statewide officeholder and Republican nominee for Vice President of the United States, damn well should know better.
The former Governor of Alaska, professional quitter, and current wackadoodle of Earth, came out with her new book, and is now doing the usual book tour thing, in order to stuff her bank account. Turns out there’s a teensy weensy little problem with the book: some of the stuff in it apparently isn’t true.
The Associated Press wrote about some of the misrepresentations in the book. Why would they do such a dastardly thing? Well, I would gently suggest to Palin defenders that this is what the Associated Press does for a living. That hasn’t really changed much for the last 164 years.
Despite this fundamental truth, Palin has gone on the attack, accusing the AP of engaging in “opposition research.” Says Palin:
We’ve heard 11 writers are engaged in this opposition research, er, ‘fact checking’ research! Imagine that – 11 AP reporters dedicating time and resources to tearing up the book….”
With all due respect, Ms. Palin – WTF did you think the Associated Press’ job is, if not to research claims and report the truth? I understand that your sworn duty as a person who stands to make a lot of money with your book is to create controversy, thus boosting book sales, but sheesh – you sure make yourself look dumb.
Meanwhile, I was asked to weigh in on the Palin book on Dallas radio station KRLD late last week. Not having 11 researchers at my disposal, I opted to merely call Palin an ass. That was kind of fun.
This morning the staff of the Texas Tribune flipped the switch and went live with their much-anticipated new Texas political news portal. It is, at first glance, everything the Trib’s Evan Smith has said all along it would be, and more.
I can practically smell the innovation. I can practically hear Smith and Ross Ramsey (the other Trib boss) preaching to the staff that “we’re not going to do it like everybody else does it,” and preaching it in words fired so quickly that only the caffeine-addicted can keep up. One can practically hear the “oh crap!’s” of major daily newspaper editors and publishers as they sit down at their computers with their coffee this morning, seeing the massive amount of news and information running circles around the products of their own papers’ newsrooms, in many cases produced by the same journalists who months ago were under-valued writers at those newspapers.
Months ago, political Texans were all asking each other, “what do you think about this Tribune thing?” I said from the start that I thought the start-up would be a good thing, which would not only aggregate some of the best Texas political writers’ work and give them the freedom to do more of it, but also force everybody else in traditional media to step up their game. And every time I said it with great confidence, I wondered if it was true.
Now that I see the site live, I know it is. There’s more useful news and information on today’s front page alone, on the opening day, than one would get from the sum total of every political newsclip from every major daily newspaper in Texas for a week or two. And, oh yeah, the Trib also has all those major dailys’ newsclips on their site too.
There are, no doubt, challenges ahead for the Trib. Foremost among them is the lingering worry that, once the dust settles and the “newness” wears off, the business model might not work. Equally challenging is how they’ll keep up the pace of producing a massive amount of content day-after-day. Afterall, writing and delivering the news isn’t a sprint – it’s a long distance run.
Also challenging, and instructive, will be how they handle the task of picking themselves up and brushing themselves off, following the inevitable mistakes and snafus to which startup companies always seem prone. I already see one possible pitfall – they’ve managed to contract with a polling outfit many find questionable. I might be mistaken, but isn’t this the same outfit which contracted with newspapers for years not because they were good, but because they were cheap – and even so, one-by-one newspapers abandoned the arrangements because of quality issues? I guess time will tell whether the polls are worthy of the Trib, but on this front they’ll have to prove it to me.
I also wonder some of the same things they may not yet know at the Trib, because they probably haven’t re-invented it yet – like how a publication which isn’t a “newspaper of record” will cover urgent breaking news. Like how they’ll make things right when they get it wrong. Like how they’ll avoid blurring the lines between news and analysis such that they don’t draw excessive fire, while at the same time not being afraid to present solid analysis.
What I’m not skeptical about is the Tribune’s ability to adjust, improve, and evolve such that the product is high quality, the interest remains high, and folks are armed with more news and information than they have been for years. I know the people involved, and if the Trib leadership can avoid burning them out (sometimes a big trick among start-ups), they’ll keep producing and innovating.
Texas politics is the greatest full contact sport in America. The Tribune’s roll-out appears at first glance to be a product worthy of the sport. And remind me I said that, after the first time they totally burn somebody I like.
In a recent trip to the massive Letters From Texas Worldwide Headquarters warehouse, international shipping center, and outlet store the other day to review the archives, and also to mull over heartlessly laying off everybody and outsourcing all of it to India, I was somewhat surprised at the frequency with which I have poked fun at Texas Monthly magazine.
But it’s time to give the publication the credit it deserves. In fact, it’s about five weeks overdue.
Five weeks ago, I walked into a little diner in the Big Bend region for lunch, and after eating a cheeseburger, commented to the waitress how great the burger was. With significant bitterness and no hesitation, she replied, “well I think so too, but apparently those asses at Texas Monthly don’t have any taste, because the Gage Hotel [just down the road] made the list of best burgers in Texas, for their damn buffalo burger, but they didn’t even try ours and we didn’t make the list.”
Well fair enough, I thought, I’ll test the theory. On the same trip I went over to the Gage and ordered their buffalo burger (which, notably, was on sale all month, in honor of the TM award). TM was right – it was better.
But, so what if Texas Monthly hadn’t been right? Because the diner waitress’ remark had been so grumpy, it stuck in my mind, which is probably why I noticed over the following weeks that one can step into countless restaurants in any region of Texas and frequently see, nicely framed and proudly displayed near the front door, Texas Monthly issues from years past in which the restaurant was mentioned. Those establishments know that a mention in TM indicates at least credibility, and at most, superior quality.
It’s the same on the TM political front. Setting aside how challenging it must be for Patti Hart and Paul Burka to cover what is fundamentally breaking news in a monthly publication, whether you love it or hate it, it’s obvious that their coverage has serious impact. Every political utterance from TM’s direction is instantly followed by standing ovations from the beneficiaries, and a great gnashing of teeth from the victims.
There’s a prevailing theory in science that mere observation changes that which is being observed. An anthropology team cannot expect to parachute into the tribal village in the Amazon jungle with video cameras rolling, and expect the natives to go about their business as if nothing different is happening. The mere observation becomes a game-changer.
Love ’em or hate ’em, that’s what Texas Monthly is to Texas. What is said about politics in Texas Monthly becomes the point from which the political debate continues. If the magazine says your burgers are better, more people are going to buy your burgers, whether they’re actually better or not. We can wish that the coverage was different, but we can’t accurately argue that it doesn’t make a difference.
It really has shockingly little to do with whether we think they’re right or wrong – it has to do with their institutional and cultural credibility. And on the political front, a culture in which both the left and the right continually lament the growing lack of political journalism, longstanding impact is a pretty good deal. We can argue all we want that the coverage should be better, and we often do, but the mere fact that we bother to argue about it proves the point that the publication has an impact that matters.
So, Texas Monthly, keep firing curveballs over home plate. Because as long as you’re doing what you do, we – politicos and waitresses alike – will at least have something to swing at.
I went to Quality Seafood this evening, sat at the bar, and ordered a beer and a dozen on the half-shell. They had the TV at the bar tuned into CNN, and since the place was packed and so loud you couldn’t hear the oysters’ tiny death screams, the TV was muted and viewers only got the visuals. It was instructive.
But as of 9:15 Central Time, I could find nothing on CNN.com about the U.S. service men or women killed in the Philippines.
Wouldn’t it be great to live in a country which valued the lives and personal stories of those soldiers who were killed overseas, and considered their passing to be news- and interest-worthy enough to carry the network’s ratings?
Wouldn’t it feel good to have a cable news channel which claims to be the worldwide leader in news, which chooses to do a bit of leading and news-reporting, instead of investing a full hour on the lurid life and times of the carnival freakshow Michael Jackson eventually became? Has it even occurred to them, or anybody else in the broadcast news industry, that attention might well be paid, for example, to educating viewers on rainforest devastation, explain why it’s happening, and educate us on why it matters? Wouldn’t it have been cool to devote that full hour of air time to something meaningful?
Incidentally, in the unlikely event that a CNN executive gives a damn and wanders to this site because of some fluke of a Google search, he or she might note that I found that the New York Times is reporting that the two soldiers who were killed in the Philippines were apparently killed by a roadside bomb.
At the time, the Reuters dispatch picked up by the Times doesn’t even mention the soldiers’ names. I guess they’re not important – like Michael Jackson or Mackenzie Phillips are. Maybe they’ll add the names later as the story develops. But I bet CNN doesn’t devote an hour to ’em.
Some Democrats invest a lot of emotion in hating Fox News for what they are. Perhaps we should spend a little time despising CNN for the shadows-of-their-former-selves they have become.
And perhaps Americans, who ultimately cause the financial health, or lack thereof, of any news organization-of-record, might invest a little thought into how much societal rubber-necking we do, and how seldom we demand an education on current events from our so-called worldwide leaders in news.
I bet I’m not the only one who has noticed that right wing Americans have gone nuts lately.
I started noticing it before the election last year, when barely-under-the-surface racial slurs relating to Obama were spread, mostly anonymously, through the Internet.
Those who thought things would settle down after the election were sorely mistaken. Slurs have been substituted with a level of policy attacks, distortions, and outright lies, the likes of which I cannot remember.
It seemed to start with a thousand different versions of “Bush’s bank bailout is good, but Obama’s economic bailout isn’t.”
Then, suddenly, Republicans were citing a study from MIT that said the cap-and-trade legislation would cost every American over $3,000. The study’s author promptly explained why that was a outrageous lie.
Most of the recent lies surround the debate over health insurance reform. First, they said The Evil Gu’ment was going to institute “death panels” to decide who lives and who dies. When that was quickly discredited, they introduced the concept of the “death book,” which I guess they wanted to claim set the guidelines for the “death panels.” Of course, not true.
Then they said the “public option” would put private insurance plans out of business. This one confounds me the most. These are the same people who have been saying for years that private business is more efficient than government, yet suddenly if government gets into the insurance business, private businesses won’t be able to compete? When reporters started pushing back on that one, at least one Republican in Congress then claimed that the reform bill would just outlaw private insurance plans altogether.
They also threw into the mix the lie that Obama’s plan would cover undocumented aliens. That’s always a favorite; is there any debate which Republicans can’t figure out a way to throw in “the illegals” somewhere?
Fresh from the holiday weekend, we now hear from the right wing that Obama’s plan to address the school children of America (just like several former Presidents have done before – and remind me, wasn’t Bush reading to school children in a classroom as 9-11 broke?) is an evil insidious plot to convert them to his diabolical socialist agenda. Some parents threaten to keep their kids home from school just to avoid this travesty of justice, and many risk-averse school districts have decided to duck, and not carry the speech in their classrooms at all. Heaven forbid that some gullible child should buy into Obama’s stupid idea that studying hard and staying in school might be a good plan. That’s bound to turn some innocent child into a pregnant commie pinko hairy-legged tree-hugging drug addict with body odor.
This would all be laughable, except that its dead serious. I call it the Aunt Mimi syndrome.
Aunt Mimi was a former in-law of mine, and she believed. Every. Single. Thing. She. Read. Trouble is, Aunt Mimi only read the National Enquirer. Therefore, Aunt Mimi believed a lot of crazy-ass stuff, which simply wasn’t true.
“It’s a proven fact!” she would screech, whenever anybody tried to push back on her latest whacked-out claim and explain to her that aliens from outer space had not, in fact, secretly invaded the planet.
There are a lot of Aunt Mimi’s out there. And all that must happen in order for them to believe a lie, is for them to hear it on TV, or read it in a newspaper, from somebody who seemed like he aught to know. And while there’s nothing evil about all those Aunt Mimi’s (they’re just repeating what they’ve been told), they can do a ton of damage. If anything, the Aunt Mimi’s of the world are among the victims. Those who start the lies, and those who fail to effectively call the liars out for them, are the evil-doers.
With their lies and distortions, the Republican leadership, in the words of a Washington Post business columnist, has turned from being the loyal opposition, to political terrorists.
And how ironic that I point to a journalist to define the situation, because I believe journalists are at the core of the problem.
Democrats, bless their shriveled sad little hearts, are doing their best to fight back against the lies. But if this were a football game, they’d be the only players on the field who aren’t on steroids: they can’t win, because they’re not cheating. Since they believe their policy arguments aught to at least be first cousins to the truth, they can’t hope to compete against the cheaters whose arguments depend on lies.
But journalists set themselves up a few hundred years ago to be the final arbiter of fairness and truth, and these so-called journalists are still stuck in an old pattern – one which assumes that everybody in the story is playing sort-of fair.
These reporters were taught in J-school that the definition of a balanced story is to give equal footing to each opposing view in the story. This 1950’s model doesn’t account for 2009’s liars. The only thing it accomplishes is that it gives the lies, and the liars, equal footing and credibility with those who aren’t lying.
Here’s the typical story in a nutshell, as most Aunt Mimi’s would take it away after reading it:
Republican Congressman Lumpy Snurd today said that if President Obama’s health reform package is implemented, the government will kill old people to save money. He also says the taxes of all Americans will be doubled, and civilization as we know it would end immediately.
“Gosh, that’s a bit of an overstatement,” replied well-meaning but ineffective Democratic Senator Elmer Kadiddlehopper. Kaddiddlehopper explained that the government would only issue flesh wounds to most elderly Americans, not kill them.
Journalism has taken a lot of hits for its lack of relevance lately. Let me issue one more: the new defintion of a balanced story should be for the watchdogs to do their job, and start calling a spade a spade.
Are you a reporter who wants to be more relevant? Here’s the new definition of a balanced story in which somebody with “credibility” lies:
The lies on Capitol Hill continued today, as Republican Congressman Lumpy Snurd today falsely said that if President Obama’s health reform package is implemented, the government will kill old people to save money. He also says the taxes of all Americans will be doubled, and life as we know it would end immediately.
Analysts said they believe that Congressman Snurd, with today’s statement, lost what little remained of his credibility, and no future utterance of Snurd’s will grace the pages of this publication ever again.
Journalists might object, saying “but I can’t write a straight news story in which I flat-out say what I know to be the truth!” Guess what, reporters…you can’t write a straight news story at all, when the people you’re talking with aren’t playing straight.
Who needs to dream up satire, when we have the crack staff down at the Austin American-Statesman’s website writing headlines like this? Gosh, I hope all my friends down in greater 78704 have survived this tragic ordeal. When will this hit CNN?
Local man killed in traffic accident involving bicycle, Smart Car
An Austin man was killed today when a Smart Car collided with a bicycle on Lamar Blvd.
Police say Nathan Winters, 23, was pronounced dead on the scene following the accident. The bicycle rider, however, escaped with only minor injuries and was treated at the scene and released.
Winters’ family said that in addition to Winters being the proud owner of the Smart Car, he was an active member in Greenpeace, PETA, Earth First, NORML, and the Travis County Libertarian Party.
While the motor vehicle was a total loss, the bicycle will only require minor cosmetic repairs, police said.
Texas Tribune hires all remaining Capitol reporters; Austin bloggers
The non-profit news start-up Texas Tribune announced today that they have hired every remaining reporter in the Capitol bureaus of all Texas’ major state newspaper, radio, and T.V. stations, bringing their total number of reporters to 248. They also announced the hiring of 58 liberal and conservative bloggers, and have have put on retainer every identifiable surviving relative of Walter Cronkite. Also announced was the hiring of Leslie Cochran, the famous Austin homeless man, who will write a regular fashion column for the online publication.
“I’m proud of the team we have amassed,” said Trib C.E.O. Evan Smith, who has also reportedly hired an auto mechanic, a space shuttle astronaut, and “The World’s Most Interesting Man” from the Dos Equis beer commercials.
In a related story, the Texas Press Association reported that the Tribune has already inadvertently succeeded in their goal of reinvigorating the news business in Texas. The association says it’s because Texas newspapers’ personnel costs have been slashed in half, due to the Tribune hiring everybody they ever met.
Gov. Perry continues ceremonial bill signings
Texas Governor Rick Perry continued to travel the state this week performing ceremonial bill signings. The governor’s latest event, held in Brownwood, included the ceremonial bill signing of H.B. 3995, which Perry conceded he never read, but which “some conservative guy somewhere” said was “a mighty fine piece of legislation.”
Perry, who frequently criticizes federal stimulus dollars, is paying his travel expenses with federal stimulus dollars. Officials in Washington confirmed that Perry’s travel efforts seem to be working in re-invigorating the entire Texas economy.
Meanwhile, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, who says she’s running against Perry in the Republican primary for Governor next year, continued traveling across the state this weekend as well, ceremonially saying little or nothing.
Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, rumored to be running for Hutchison’s Senate seat, is also traveling the state with his new bride, ceremonially reenacting their wedding ceremony in all major media markets.
Update: somebody briefly took the Smart Car piece seriously.
Me too. Worst of all, I often wonder what other important stories around the world are being pushed out of the public eye as a result of such saturation coverage. For example, much of the mainstream media has shamefully ignored the important saga of two Mexican midget wrestlers being killed by fake prostitutes.
Well Paul, Letters From Texas is more than happy to refresh your memory. Surprisingly, it appears in this case that you have no complaints about the furniture in the Senate.
(click on the photo to make it larger)
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