Here's the latest, from a batch of media-related queries. The problem is the polling questions are so poorly worded that the Rasmussen results, in the end, tell us almost nothing about how Americans feel about the press. At least not anything interesting about how they feel about the press.
From Rasmussen [emphasis added]:
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 67% of likely U.S. voters believe the news media have too much power and influence over government decisions, up six points from October. Just eight percent (8%) think the media have too little power and influence, and 19% think their level of power is about right.
But what does that mean? i.e. If a telephone pollster called my house and read off a script asking me if I thought the media had too much power and influence over government decisions, my immediate reaction would be, "What does that mean?" I've read the question innumerable times now, and I still don't have the faintest idea of what the question is about or what kind of information it's trying to obtain from voters.
Does it mean that the media literally dictate what the government does? ("Build this road! Pass this bill!") Does it mean corporately owned media are too closely aligned with governmental interests? Does it mean that government officials rely on the media to gather information, and the media therefore have influence over decisions? Although even there, I'm still not clear how the media would "have power" over "government decisions." And are we talking about the news media or all media?
And good Lord, what are "government decisions"? Is that just an incredibly clumsy phrase for "policy" or "legislation"? Or something. And which government? Town hall? Congress? The Pentagon, which, after all, is part of the "government"?
I don't know why Rasmussen consistently goes out into the field with poorly worded questions that make no sense. I do have a hunch, though: Rasmussen does it in order to garner a big reaction number (67 percent!) that conservatives can then spin online to mean whatever they want it to mean.
So in that narrow regard, this poll is a success. In terms of public polling, though, it seems rather pointless.
Eighty advertisers have reportedly dropped their ads from Glenn Beck's Fox News program since he called President Obama a "racist" who has a "deep-seated hatred of white people." Here are his January 14 sponsors, in the order they appeared:
From Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA)'s January 13 letter to The Wall Street Journal's John Fund:
I was puzzled during the last couple of weeks to be asked why I was supporting something called "universal voter registration," which supposedly would allow all sorts of undesirable people to register to vote. I was puzzled because I have had absolutely no involvement in such a proposal.
I asked my staff to check the source of the rumor, and we discovered that it is you. Apparently last fall, you invented a story that Senator Schumer and I planned to introduce such legislation. I've since learned that Senator Schumer is working on legislation regarding voting, but I am told that it does not remotely resemble your version of it. But more importantly to me is that I have had no involvement with this whatsoever, with Senator Schumer or anybody else.
You simply made this up with regard to me. I must tell you that I was not surprised, because this sort of fictionalized attack on political opponenets has sadly become characteristic of many of the right. And once you lied about me in this regard, several of your right-wing colleagues in the media, including Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and the Washington Times, repeated it.
I should note that, again not surprisingly, you made no effort to check with me or anybody who works with me to find out if what you said was true. You made your assertion with no factual basis and without any effort to verify it. To me, that qualifies as a lie.
So I now write not simply to tell you that you are entirely wrong in your assertion about me but, in the absense of your being able to show any basis on which you made such a statement, to ask that you acknowledge that fact.
Rush got a lot of flak for his comments yesterday politicizing the Haitian earthquake, but when a woman phoned into his show today to confront him about it he had an explanation at the ready. It turns out that Rush wasn't using a tragic natural disaster with a death toll in the tens of thousands to attack President Obama, he was using a tragic natural disaster with a death toll in the tens of thousands to "tweak" the media.
From the January 14 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show:
LIMBAUGH: I play the media like a violin, like a Stradivarius, and I love tweaking them, I love irritating them, and I love upsetting them. And all I do is take words uttered by liberals and apply them to current events. It was Harry Reid who looked at Obama and said he's a light-skinned guy that doesn't speak--
And then I proceeded to suggest that Obama's going to be giving aid to both light-skinned and dark-skinned negroes in Haiti, and I--and it's just designed to get the reaction I got. And it worked. The people that listen to this program laugh and chuckle every day at this stuff because we're just needling the--needling the media. And they talk about me all the time and I can create it any time I want.
Let's give Rush the benefit of the doubt and assume, in spite of ample evidence that he focused his narration regarding the earthquake on Obama, that his primary intent was to use his finely tuned sense of satire to bait the media and thereby provide a commentary on their supposed propensity to blow his statements out of proportion. Well, what an achievement, and what a time to make that point.
Rush had opined earlier in his broadcast that in their coverage of the earthquake the media are "making it about them." An hour or two later, Rush reframed his remarks from yesterday to show us that he's making it about himself.
The super-sleuths at Big Government think that President Obama is trying to pull a fast one and steal a cool $1.4 million from the government. But, as is often the case with Breitbart and his minions, they have no idea what they're talking about.
Big Government contributor SusanAnne Hiller wants to know what has happened to the $1.4 million Obama won as part of his Nobel Peace Prize. The president said he'd donate the money to charity, but thus far there's been no indication that the money has been donated, and Hiller suspects Obama might be in violation of the Foreign Gifts and Decorations Act, which, as she points out, prohibits employees of the federal government from receiving gifts from a foreign government. Writes Hiller:
While I have seen many dissections of how this code should be interpreted, as well as its history, there has been silence on it from the White House. And, there have been no further inquiries as to what Obama will do or has done with the prize money. I think it is fair to follow up-even if the 60 days have not passed-because the money, according to US law, should have been immediately turned over.
There are two things to point out here.
First, the Foreign Gifts and Decorations Act does not apply in this situation. The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire blog addressed this very issue, and explained that even though the Nobel Committee is appointed by the Norwegian parliament, they remain an independent entity. So it is impossible for Obama to break that particular law.
Second, even though the president has already promised to donate the money to charity, ethics lawyers who've studied the issue say that he would likely be able to keep the money if he wanted to. Once again, from Washington Wire:
Most government employees are prohibited from accepting more than a certain amount of "outside earned income" from moonlighting in another job. They are also prohibited from accepting "honorarium" for articles or speeches. But a prize is not "earned" income and a 1992 advisory opinion from the Office of Government Ethics says that it isn't an honorarium either.
Furthermore, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are not covered under that statute. "He is expressly exempt from all of these rules," said Ken Gross, a lawyer who specializes in federal ethics and campaign laws and has worked for both Republicans and Democrats.
So sorry, Big Government, looks like case of the missing Nobel Prize money was closed before it was even opened. Better luck next time, Sherlocks.
Here's Bill O'Reilly last night dismissing "one poll" finding that a majority of Americans approved of the way President Obama handled last month's attempted terrorist attack:
O'REILLY: Well, there's no doubt the poll numbers are not good news, doctor. And I think there's a terrorism component here as well, that President Obama's reaction to the underwear guy was kind of slow. Janet Napolitano, Homeland Security czar misspoke. And there's a perception growing among people who are not committed to President Obama, Independents, maybe conservative Democrats as well, that the guy is just not handling the job properly. Am I wrong?
CAROLINE HELDMAN, PH.D., POLITICS PROFESSOR: Well, first off, I think it's important to note that a majority of Americans did like the way that he handled the terrorist possibility on.
O'REILLY: There's one poll says that. There is one poll. That's fair. That's -- but I don't believe that for a second, but go ahead.
And here's a new poll released today ... from Fox News:
How's O'Reilly going to dismiss this one?
From the Jan/Feb '10 issue of Glenn Beck's Fusion magazine (subscription required):
So, what exactly led to the moment at the Rubicon? Why did Rome fall?
Perhaps the malaise began 150 years earlier when Rome's biggest external threat, Carthage, was defeated in the Second Punic War. While most Roman citizens were ecstatic, many were concerned that, without a common enemy holding the Republic together, a sense of apathy would set in. They were right. Over time, by the consent of the masses, Rome began to destroy itself from within. The citizens ceased to care what the Senate was doing, so long as their needs were being taken care of. The Senate began a policy of expansion, conquering new lands and looting gold and silver for the Treasury. In the early days of the Republic, the tax rate was about 1-3 percent. By 167 B.C., Romans were no longer obliged to pay taxes, as the burden could be carried by others.
There was enough revenue coming in from conquered lands to pay for everyone. As a result, a new brand of crony-corporatist, known as the publicani, emerged. The publicani were also known as tax farmers, who were in the business of collecting taxes abroad for a profit. The tax rate was progressive, with the publicani deciding who would pay what taxes. Corruption ran rampant.
To make matters worse, in the middle of the Second Century B.C., two brothers with great political ambition came to power. The Gracci brothers emerged from the Populares Party. They understood that they could gain enormous amounts of political power by making grand promises and using propaganda and charisma to woo the Roman citizens. They promised grain at prices below market and, eventually, for free. They promised to redistribute land, and they put into place sweeping "New Deal" like social reforms, which increased the welfare state. Essentially, you name it, they probably promised it. As a result of these progressive reforms, farmers rushed to live in the cities for their free grain and slaves were freed in order to qualify for the dole.
Roman Emperors, such as Diocletian, began grasping at straws: regulating industry and trade, nationalizing businesses and fixing prices and wages. However, despite all the concerns from the more rational members of the Senate, Rome continued to collapse. Cicero had even warned, "The budget should be balanced. Public debt should be reduced. The arrogance of officialdom should be tempered, and assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed, lest Rome becomes bankrupt."
So there you have it, the breakdown of the Roman Republic (and maybe the breakdown of the American Republic) in a nutshell. We've modeled our government after Rome, we looked at the writings of Roman philosophers like Cicero and Cato to create our Constitution, we got terms like "senate" and "citizen" from Latin. We even designed our nation's capital after Roman architecture. And, in a way, Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Franklin and others gave us the ultimate "mulligan" when they founded America. But they also warned us of what happened to Rome and urged us not to go in the same direction. And what did we do? Like sheep and cowards, we didn't listen, didn't learn from past mistakes and, eager for security and temporary quick fixes, have been voting ourselves back into bondage ever since.
American, wake up! We don't want to be Rome! Let's not forget that this shining city on a hill ultimately burned down with Nero fiddling away!
As our leaders in Washington stand at the bank of the Rubicon, ready to cross, we must remember Cassius's wise words in Julius Caesar when he said, "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves that we are underlings."
(Click on top image to enlarge)
Media message from the right wing: If you don't give the Tea Party "fair coverage," then you will be banned from covering its convention.
And who says the conservative movement doesn't hold journalism in contempt?
As we noted this morning, next month's Tea Party convention featuring Sarah Palin will essentially be closed to the press. Unless, that is, you work for Rupert Murdoch (Fox News and WSJ), or a fringe, far-right site like Townhall, WND, or Breitbart. According to Tea Party planners, those are the only "journalists" who will be allowed in next month.
Considering that Palin is now on Fox News' payroll, the cabler's exclusive status at the Palin convention presents a rather Manwich-sized conflict of interest, no?
Meanwhile, Politico's Michael Calderone adds more context:
Event organizer Judson Phillips told POLITICO that the first priority is to have a working convention, and that press is a secondary concern. Initially, he said, the "game plan was to deny media access."
But with limited space, he said, the organizers "picked some groups that we had some contact with."
When asked if ideology was part of the criteria in choosing, Phillips said "no." Also, I specifically asked why the Journal was selected as opposed to other news outlets that applied, including POLITICO.
Calderone reported that a WSJ spokesman didn't have a comment regarding whether the newspaper would cover the convention, given how every other mainstream news outlet had been banned. If the Journal actually accepts the credentials under the current conditions, then I don't think there will be any doubt left about whether or not Murdoch's newspaper really operates as a professional, nonpartisan entity.
UPDATED: What do editors at the conservative Weekly Standard and National Review have to say about this situation? As working journalists, are they OK with the Tea Party excluding journalists? And how do they feel about being banned by organizers? Doesn't feel so good, does it?
As Media Matters documented, Fox News' three top-rated programs for 2009 -- The O'Reilly Factor, Hannity, and Glenn Beck -- devoted a combined total last night of less than 7 minutes of coverage to the earthquake in Haiti. By contrast, the content of MSNBC's three top-rated shows underscored the significance of the Haiti disaster; Countdown, The Rachel Maddow Show, and Hardball devoted a total of more than two hours to the earthquake.
Nevertheless, during last night's programming, Fox News repeatedly ran a promotion of their coverage of the earthquake in Haiti where the announcer asserted: "After a devastating earthquake kills thousands and leaves a country stranded, Fox News has the very latest information as events unfold. Stay with Fox News for the latest reports and up to the minute coverage of the horror in Haiti."
From the January 13 edition of Fox News' Hannity: