Saturday, July 16, 2011

Palin's Propaganda Movie Does Not-So-Boffo Biz -- Even In Right-Wing Markets

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

We noticed last week that Sarah Palin was opening her propaganda movie, The Undefeated on the same day as the final Harry Potter movie. It's turning out about as well as you'd expect. Like Dolores Umbridge and the centaurs.

As Reuters reports, the movie is only being released in 10 theaters nationwide, all focused on right-wing precincts like Orange County and Dallas. And the folks who are showing up are certainly enthusiastic:
"Run, Sarah, run!" shouted Californian Sherman Roodzant, 64, as the final credits rolled on the 1:10 p.m. showing in a half-filled theater in Orange. Roodzant drove 150 miles (240 km) to see it and said it was worth every mile.

"It was awesome," Roodzant said. "It showed her life story and showed what a great American she is and what a great potential leader she is. It made me feel stronger toward her."

That kind of fervor is exactly what distributors are banking on. They saw it at the premiere last month in a small town in conservative-leaning Iowa.

"I couldn't believe the crowd reaction" in Iowa, said Trevor Drinkwater, CEO of ARC Entertainment, which is handling the film's distribution. "It is a biased crowd, but still."
And of course, they're outraged that the movie isn't showing in more theaters RIGHT NOW:
Gay Meador, 62, said she was "shocked and ashamed" that the Orange AMC theater was the only place where "The Undefeated" was showing in her area, let alone California.
Except, of course, for the little problem that, as Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic reports, most of the seats in the 10 theaters where it's showing are going empty:
I hurried through the teenage hordes, bypassed a concession stand that sold 1,020 calories of soda for $5.25, and entered theater number 30, hoping I'd have ample time before the previews to talk to some people. But inside, the theater was empty. I sat there alone for 20 minutes, at which point an usher stuck his head in the door, gave me a quizzical smile, and said, "How come you're not watching Harry Potter?" Then he left me by myself again, and without any good answer.
And those who have seen the film with, ah, more objective eyes seem to want the hour and a half of their lives back -- such as Marlow Stern at The Daily Beast:
When Palin is selected as John McCain's running mate in the 2008 presidential election, and the small-town girl is besieged on all sides, the film loses its grip entirely. In a classic film-propaganda tactic, personal attacks on Palin by media pundits correspond with shocking videos of avalanches, packs of lions feeding on zebras, people being buried alive in sand on the beach, and medieval knights with arrows in their backs. At times, the viewer feels like he or she is playing out the iconic scene in Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange, where criminal Alex DeLarge is strapped to a chair, eyes spread wide, and subjected to a series of violent images as a brainwashing technique.
Me? I'm going to see the Potter film this afternoon. In IMAX 3-D. The Palin film isn't showing anywhere in Seattle.

Gaxiola Escapes The Death Sentence In Flores Family Murders -- For Now

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Well, Albert Gaxiola may have been convicted of first-degree murder in the killings of Brisenia Flores and her father, Raul at the hands of Minuteman leader Shawna Forde, but unlike Forde and the gunman in the case, Jason Bush, it appears that Gaxiola will not be sent to death row -- at least for now (via Kim Smith at the Arizona Daily Star):
Albert Gaxiola will not be joining Shawna Forde and Jason Bush on death row for his involvement in the May 2009 death of Raul Junior Flores, but the jury could not reach a unanimous decision as to the death of 9-year-old Brisensia Flores.

The Pima County Attorney’s Office must now decide whether they want to empanel a new jury to comtemplate a possible death sentence for Brisenia’s death or let Pima County Superior Court Judge John Leonardo sentence Gaxiola to life with or without the possibility of release.

The jury deliberated around 11 hours before sentencing Gaxiola to life in prison for Junior Flores’ death, but were at a stalemate as to the sentence pertaining to Brisenia.
Gaxiola is also facing additional time for the attempted first-degree murder of Flores’ wife, Gina Gonzalez, and a variety of other charges.

He will be sentenced on those charges Aug. 15.
As Dave Ricker reports, Gaxiola was obviously pleased:
The jury of seven males and five females took a little over 11 hours before returning their verdicts to a surprised audience of onlookers in the courtroom of Judge John S. Leonardo. “I’m relieved,” said defense counsel Steven D. West, immediately following the reading of the verdict.

West said Gaxiola had similar feelings. “I think he was greatly relieved,” West said.
But that doesn't mean he's entirely off the hook. Prosecutors, as Ricker explains, now will consider whether to drop the effort to obtain a death sentence in Brisenia's case or to empanel a new jury:
A hearing on whether the death request will be withdrawn on the count involving the murder of Brisenia is set for July 29 at 10 a.m. If the death request is withdrawn then Leonardo will have the option of sentencing Gaxiola to natural life or whether he will have an opportunity to apply for a parole hearing after he has served 35 calendar years in prison. The 35-year threshold applies in Brisenia’s case because she was younger than 15-years-old.

A sentencing hearing has been set for Aug. 15 at 10:30 a.m. on the other six counts for which Gaxiola was convicted, as well as the murder count for which he will receive life in prison. It is up to Leonardo to determine if Gaxiola will be sentenced to natural life or whether he will have an opportunity to apply for a parole hearing after he has served 25 calendar years in prison.
I'm pretty interested in hearing what the final vote was -- particularly given the powerful statement given by Gina Gonzalez, the surviving victim. Ricker obtained a copy of the statement she read to the jury, and it's quite powerful:
Gonzalez is a very soft-spoken person so not all of her words could be heard from the back of the courtroom, thus she graciously provided a copy of the statement she read to the jury. It is reproduced below.
Dear Jurors,
I am so thankful and relieved you have taken the time to allow me to read my impact statement. As you can probably imagine, the murder of my husband and daughter on May 30, 2009, has changed my life forever.

I went to bed with my family as I normally would on any given night, not imagining I would never wake up from this never-ending nightmare.

The defendant and my family hung around together, we laughed, he played video games with my daughters, told them how beautiful they were, how well-behaved they were, how their hair always looked nice. The memory that sticks out most in my mind is when the defendant would throw Brisenia up in the air, catch her and make her laugh.

We were all friends. How could someone who loved my family plot their final destiny? How could someone who loved my family stand by and allow a child he made laugh be murdered?

Brisenia was a beautiful little girl. I can’t possibly understand what she could have done to deserve this. What could I have done to deserve this? What could my husband have done to deserve this? What did Alexandra, my oldest daughter, do to deserve the loss of her little sister, who was her best friend and her father, who she misses very much?

I am still in denial about the whole thing. I can’t believe someone I loved and trusted could have done something like this. For the longest time, I never thought the defendant would have been capable of doing something like this...almost wiping out my entire family.

It saddened me to know that Brisenia’s face had to be reconstructed for her funeral. It was very hard to see my child in the casket. It was also hard to see my husband in the casket. But it was more difficult to comprehend that I may know the person who did this to them. I continue to have a hard time re-directing my grieving for both my husband and daughter. It’s all so overwhelming!

Who put Junior’s name on the bullet and didn’t care what happened to my daughter and me?

The defendant knew my history with Junior. He knew we had been together since he was 15 years old. When my husband was murdered, we were two-and-a-half months short of being married 13 years. We had built our lives together and we were looking forward to growing old together. He had a great sense of humor, was a great cook and he loved his little girls very much.

It’s hard for me to understand how this all happened. I have so many questions that will remain unanswered. I just need to know “Why? Even though knowing why still wouldn’t be good enough. It still won’t bring them back.

My life is ruined. I now know that evil lives among us and it comes in many forms. It can even befriend you, gain your trust and kill your family.

Thank you for your time.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Grover Norquist Tries Put All Blame On Obama For The Economic Mess. Grade: FAIL. CNN's Morgan: 'It's Complete Hogwash'

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

CNN's Piers Morgan likes to cast himself as an outsider, but he is in many ways a classic Villager, since he shares the Beltway's relentless fetish with "bipartisanship" and "centrism".

Of course, this has for many years just been a cover for allowing right-wingers to lie, distort, smear and bully relentlessly, all in the name of "bipartisanship", while demanding that liberals apologize abjectly for any pushback deemed too uncivil. It's allowed GOP operatives like Grover Norquist to manipulate the media narrative so that anything other than right-wing orthodoxy is derided and dismissed -- even when right-wing orthodoxy is just certifiably insane.

Thus we had Norquist on Morgan's CNN show the other day, playing the same game -- but this time, it became clear that right-wing insanity on the debt ceiling is becoming too much even for Villagers to handle. This time, Morgan -- in a rare display of principle -- actually tried to call Norquist out on the right's ongoing and egregious violations of the Village's standards for fairness and bipartisanship in this debate, particularly their insistence on blaming Obama and Democrats for an economic mess created by conservative misgovernance.

Morgan tried to get Norquist to say just how much responsibility Republicans might have for our current economic miseries, and couldn't get an honest answer. Instead, Norquist veered into a classic piece of misdirection from the guy who once was quoted saying that "bipartisanship is a form of date rape":
NORQUIST: We need to get away from partisan politics.

MORGAN: Why don't we -- let's put it all in the mix.

NORQUIST: And solve the problem.

MORGAN: Let's put it all in the mix. All in the mix, everything taken into account, percentage of the current crisis down to Republican decisions versus Democrat. Give me a percentage.

NORQUIST: Well, OK, the Republicans have put forward a budget under Ryan cut $6 trillion out of the Obama budget. Obama has accepted none of that so he's 100 percent responsible.

MORGAN: So President Obama is 100 percent responsible for our current financial crisis.

NORQUIST: For the failure -- for the failure to get our -- get out spending down.

MORGAN: Isn't your answer exactly what the problem is? For you to sit there and just look me straight in the eye down this camera and say President Obama is 100 percent responsible for the financial crisis in America, it's obviously complete hogwash.

And that kind of partisan opinion is what is preventing any kind of sensible deal, a strategy being achieved, isn't it?
All Norquist could answer was to say that, yeah, Bush spent too much, but Obama has just put the pedal to the metal, blah blah blah. Never any acknowledgment that the meltdown occurred on Bush's watch, and as a result of Bush's policies, which were in fact broadly supported by conservative Republicans like Norquist throughout his tenure and which were never opposed by any conservative faction with any pull. Policies which, in fact, Republicans now propose as the solution to the same economic disaster they actually created.

It was a classic display of right-wing insanity. And it's only going to get worse.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Lou Dobbs Thinks President Obama Is 'Beneath Contempt' For Warning That Debt-Ceiling Vote Will Hit Social Security Payments

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

The usual cast of right-wing pundits was all worked up yesterday on Fox about President Obama's simple observation that if House Republicans refuse to raise the debt ceiling, he won't be able to guarantee that he can write Social Security payment checks come Aug. 3.

He's fearmongering! Scaring old people! How disgraceful!

This, of course, from the people who brought you "death panels."

Moreover, it's coming from the same people who then turn around and try to make seniors fearful that Obama is going to take away their Medicare coverage.

The apotheosis of this miscreancy was Lou Dobbs on Bill O'Reilly's show last night, unleashing a relentlessly vicious assessment of every Obama step, culminating in his complaint that Obama's remarks were "so low as to be contemptible" and indeed were "beneath contempt".

Of course, Lou Dobbs knows "beneath contempt": That pretty aptly describes his nasty and ultimately derailed career at CNN, when no lie directed at Latino immigrants was too disgusting or vicious to transmit to his audience of millions. It's why he's been such a good fit at Fox News.

It's doubtful, though, that Dobbs can recognize it when he sees it.

Now The FBI Is Looking Into Murdoch Media's Phone-hacking Activities In The USA

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Gee, I wonder if this will be discussed on any of the Fox News shows:
Responding to allegations from several Washington lawmakers, the FBI has opened an investigation into whether Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. attempted to hack into the telephones of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the families of those who died.

According to federal law enforcement sources, the decision by the FBI's field office in New York to launch the criminal probe came after several members of Congress raised concerns in letters to FBI headquarters, questioning whether reporters for the media empire may have tried to compromise Sept. 11 victims just as they reportedly hacked into the phones of numerous individuals in England.

"We are doing this based on their requests," said an FBI source, who asked not to be identified because the investigation is just getting underway. "But after reviewing the letters and their allegations, and after consultation with the U.S. Attorney's Office in New York, we are proceeding."

At the Department of Justice, officials also acknowledged they are "reviewing" the allegations by Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and others that Sept. 11 victims and families may have been put at risk by News Corp.

"If these allegations are proven true," King wrote in his letter to FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, "the conduct would merit felony charges for attempting to violate various federal statutes related to corruption of public officials and prohibitions against wiretapping. Any person found guilty of this purported conduct should receive the harshest sanctions available under law."
Maybe Bill O'Reilly can invite King -- a frequent guest -- onto his show to discuss this, eh?

The New York Times
has more, as does the U.K. Telegraph.

Question of the Day: Will Darrell Issa investigate?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

'The Five': Fox's Fill-in For Beck's Hour Features The Network's Idea Of 'Fair And Balanced'

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

It seems Fox's plan for filling the 5 pm EDT slot once held by Glenn Beck is to trot out some of its pundits and see which of them floats to the top. With, of course, a lone Democrat along for comic relief/punching bag duty.

The show is called "The Five," and it debuted Monday with a lineup that pretty much tells you Fox's idea of a "fair and balanced" debate: four right-wingers and a lone Fox Democrat, in this case Bob Beckel, whose function as usual is to mealy-mouth the liberal position and give a lukewarm defense of the targeted liberals du jour. He was joined by a cast of right-wingers ranging from the usual smarmy Establishment type long favored at Fox (Dana Perino) to the haplessly juvenile frat/sorority types (Andrea Tantaros and Greg Gutfeld) to the simply execrable (Eric Bolling).

This segment -- featuring a discussion of whether or not Media Matters should be permitted to maintain its tax-exempt status because it takes an obvious liberal position, while the permeation of the Beltway with right-wing think tanks and Tea Party apparatchiks bothers them not one whit -- was pretty representative of the quality of discussion to be had on the show. Which is to say, only a technician's half-step away from being something I might run across late at night on my local access cable TV.

It's all part of Fox's sad and pathetic attacks on Media Matters, which Karoli posted about yesterday.

The hypocrisy here is profound: Fox and its hosts, after all, are fond of declaring that their critics -- who merely criticize them -- are out to "silence" them and shut them down. But these attacks on MM are in fact quite explicitly intended to silence the organization and shut it down.

Kenneth Gladney's Supposed 'Victimhood' At Hands Of 'SEIU Thugs' Exposed As A Fraud: Jury Acquits Pair

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

We've been saying all along -- practically since it happened, in fact -- that the right's claims that Tea Partier Kenneth Gladney, a black man, was victimized by SEIU "thugs" during a health-care protest was dubious at best, and Gladney's subsequent claims (particularly that this was a "hate crime") even more ludicrous.

Now it seems that a Missouri jury agrees:
CLAYTON, MO –(KMOX)–Almost two years after the national uproar over health care reform, a jury has acquitted two labor union activists accused of assaulting a man selling conservative buttons outside a Cogressman Russ Carnahan town hall forum.

Service Employees International Union members Elston McCowan and Perry Molens had been accused of misdemeanor assault in the August, 2009 tussle with button salesman Kenneth Gladney. The fight caught national attention at a time when there was rampant speculation the union had been dispatched to tamp down opposition to President Obama’s health care reform.

Jurors heard conflicting testimony in the two-day trial over who actually started the fight, and they viewed video tape showing the end and aftermath of the brawl — but no video showed who threw the first punch.
Of course, the wingnutosphere -- particularly those like Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit (aka the World's Dumbest Blogger), who heavily promoted the claims in the first place -- is outraged, outraged we tell you.

But as Adam Shriver at St. Louis Activist Hub observes:
The conspiracy pushed relentlessly for the past two years by Dana Loesch, Jim Hoft, Andrew Breitbart, Fox News, and the tea party has been shown at long last to be a complete fraud. Two innocent men have been harassed and threatened for two years as a result of a tea party smear campaign with only one objective: to make unions look evil.
Shriver covered the trial, and pointedly observed that Gladney's own testimony doomed the prosecution:
Gladney's testimony was the most damaging to the prosecution's case. For starters, Gladney appeared in a neck brace, which brought back memories of him showing up at a tea party rally in a wheel chair despite the fact that he was running around with no obvious discomfort immediately after the altercation took place. The defense lawyer said that Gladney's neck brace, which he was wearing because of surgery for a herniated disc, had nothing to do with the altercation, and Gladney did not challenge him on that point, so I assume it's true. But this opened up a criticism from the defense lawyer who asked Gladney why he showed up at the tea party rally in a wheelchair. Gladney said, basically, that it was hot and he was on medication and "they didn't have folding chairs or lawn chairs." Ouch.

... A more important problem for Gladney was that his previous descriptions of what happened did not match his current testimony. He previously had claimed that Elston McCowan, a black minister, had called him the n-word. In today's testimony, he now claimed that Perry Molens, a white man, also called him the n-word, which would be a strange detail to leave out of all of his previous interviews. More importantly, he had previously claimed that 4 different people "attacked" him, yet now he clams only two.

He also claimed that he "never said a word" to McCowan, which I'm pretty sure is at odds with his previous interviews. And finally, his story of the altercation provided no explanation of why Elston McCowan was seen lying on the ground at the beginning of the video And all of this was despite the fact that he told the defense attorney that his memory today was as good or better as immediately after the incident happened.
And as Riverfront Times noted:
The defense also hammered Gladney on why he was seen walking around virtually unscathed in the immediate aftermath of the fight only to show up in a wheelchair two days later at a Tea Party rally.
Shriver also completely demolishes Hoft's new conspiracy theory about Gladney with an impressive array of facts. This guarantees, of course, that it will continue to enjoy a significant half-life of several more years as one of the Right's classic Zombie Lies.

Eric Boehlert is (as always) on the money:
As I said, the incident was regrettable and I'm sure everyone involved, if they had a chance to go back, would make sure the night did not unfold the same way again. But the idea that the mini-altercation was some sort of on-command union attack directed from the Oval Office and that it represented a looming wave of left-wing violence in this country? That was always a sick joke. It was a sick joke played at the expense of Gladney, and at the expense of two union members who were crucified by the right-wing press and called every conceivable name. All without a shred of evidence to support the union-bashing denunciations.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Fox's 'News Watch' Program Discusses Everything BUT The Murdoch Phone-hacking Scandal

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

I don't know how many of you have been watching the Murdoch phone-hacking scandal as it grows and digging up the tidbits, but if you have, you already know that the only place not to bother looking is at any of the Murdoch-owned properties in the USA, including the Wall Street Journal and even more particularly Fox News.

This reached hilarious depths this weekend on Fox's own media-analysis show, wherein they discussed everything even vaguely media-related EXCEPT the Murdoch scandal. The big focus was on the Casey Anthony trial and the coverage around it -- and even on that, the discussion was disingenuous and dishonest.

Media Matters has more
This weekend, Fox News Watch, Fox News Channel's media criticism show, covered the following issues: The media's coverage of the Casey Anthony trial verdict; MSNBC's suspension of Mark Halperin for making vulgar comments about the president; the media's role in the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case; the cancellation of In the Arena, Eliot Spitzer's CNN television show; and Vice President Joe Biden's new Twitter account.

The glaring omission from this list is any mention of the shuttering of the Rupert Murdoch-owned News of the World, billed as the largest English-language newspaper in the world, which published its last edition today. The paper is folding following allegations that it hacked the voicemails of a slain teen girl in the United Kingdom, an action which potentially impeded the police investigation and gave the girl's family false hope that she was still alive. There are also allegations that family members of soldiers who died in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and families of victims of the 2005 subway bombings have been phone hacked.
Apparently, there were some brief allusions to it onstage during the commercial breaks:
CAL THOMAS: Anybody want to bring up the subject we're not talking about today for the -- for the [online] streamers?

JAMES PINKERTON: Sure. Go ahead, Cal!

THOMAS: No, go ahead, Jim.


THOMAS: I'm not going to touch it.

JUDY MILLER (FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR): With a ten foot [inaudible].
And the scandal news got even bigger today, with the possibility of prosecution for News Corp officials in the United States looming as well:
But Murdoch may soon have bigger problems on his hands. Legal experts told the AP today that his company could face criminal prosecution in the U.S. for his U.K. papers’ alleged bribery of British police officers, which would be a violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). According to the the Department of Justice, “The FCPA prohibits payments made in order to assist the firm in obtaining or retaining business.”

Thus the papers’ use of bribery to obtain information which helped sell newspapers could fall under the act’s purview. And even though the bribery occurred entirely in Britian, NewsCorp is an American company, incorporated in Delaware, and held accountable for its foreign subsidiary’s actions. Even if the corporation wasn’t directly involved in bribery, it could be found in violation of the law for turning a “blind eye.”

The legal experts told the AP they would be surprised if the Securities and Exchange Commission and the DoJ have not already opened investigations into the matter and said the decision to shutter News of the World was potentially an attempt to limit Murdoch and NewsCorp’s legal exposure.
As Will Bunch explains, Murdoch's depredations in the USA have actually been more serious and damaging than what's been uncovered by the scandal.

Ellen at Newshounds
has six good reasons to demand an investigation into the company's activities here. And you can go to Media Matters for a petition demanding such action.

Meanwhile, as something of an absurd endnote, did anyone notice that the Fox News crew tut-tutted those generic "media" figures who decided ahead of time that Casey Anthony was guilty and had convicted her in the media, most notably Nancy Grace.

But the same was true -- in spades -- at Fox News, where the running assumption all along was that Anthony would be convicted, deservedly so. Indeed, check out the fifteen minutes of coverage on Fox just prior to the announcement of the verdict on Monday.

Funny that the Fox media-analysis crew didn't bother to mention that these people were wrong, wrong, wrong. Because at Fox, being wrong isn't a bug. It's a feature.