It’s Always Sunny in West Virginia

I’m told that the story about the background behind that West Virginia television commercial is post-worthy. And I agree.

In case you’re curious, here’s what the hub-bub is. They filmed this commercial for West Virginia voters where these three guys are sitting around kvetching about how this congressional candidate is in President Obama’s back pocket. I’m not embedding it because I don’t want to give the GOOP any free advertising to reach our four regular readers. So they got ahold of the casting call for the commercial, which by the way was shot in Philadelphia. Here it is:

Wardrobe:
– We are going for a ‘Hicky’ Blue Collar look. These characters are from West Virginia so think coal miner/trucker looks
– Each character should bring a several options and stay away from all black or all white or thin stripes (thicker stripes and plaid are good)
– Clothing Suggestions:
• Jeans
• Work boots
• Flannel shirt
• Denim shirt
• Dickie’s type jacket with t-shirt underneath
• Down filled vest
• John Deer hats (not brand new, preferably beat up)
• Trucker hats (not brand new, preferably beat up)
• No Thin Stripes

“Hicky.”

The reason this is post-worthy is because it suggest two things: First, West Virginia, this is what Republigoats think of you. They think you’re a bunch of hicks. They buy into the stereotype. I’m surprised the list didn’t include something about banging your sister. So, if you live in West Virginia and you vote for the GOOP, you’re specifically supporting a party that thinks that you personally are a slack-jawed moron who needs to be pandered to. Is that what you wanna vote for?

Second, though, I think this suggests something regarding the Citizens United case and the subsequent failure on the part of Congress to require full disclosure for such advertising: It might not be so bad after all. Stuff comes out about these ads anyway. The true nature of the GOOP will be revealed anyway. If they can’t get disclosure one way, it will happen another. Someone leaks casting call instructions, or a memo, or an e-mail. Political espionage marches on in the valiant tradition of Richard M. Noxin. God bless America!

Burned IV.

By the way, Keith Olbermann wants you to know that, if you’d like, you can help the Cranicks of Obion County, Tenn. Just send them your hard-earned cash to the following address:

The You’re A Sucker Foundation
101 Ha-Ha Fuck You Sucker Lane
Obion County, TN 12FUCKYOUSUCKER

This Cranick family, they’re going to become zillionaires over this thing. Gotta hand it to this Gene Cranick, he heard opportunity knocking, and so he went out and rubbed his penis on its leg.

There was, finally, a passing comment in last night’s interview with Todd Cranick, Gene’s son I reckon, to the assault on South Fulton Fire Chief David Wilds by Timothy Cranick, who we now know is Todd’s little brother. It was only a passing reference, though. Keith was all like, so, Todd, do you think it’s okay that thanks to this story I’ve inflated and conflated with the anal rape that The “Tea Party” is giving America with a fork, do you think it’s okay now that people are threatening fire fighters? And Todd was all like, now I know what my little brother did wasn’t right. Did our big-headed man bother to provide any context to that comment?

Nope. But he did at last acknowledge that Obion County has a sheriff’s department. Are you reading us, Keith?

If you are, dude, then either stop covering this bullshit story or douse your straw-man in flames and light him on fire. I do not like the position you’ve put me in. You’ve got me nodding my head at Glenn Beck for Gaia’s sake.

Burned III.

Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow.

Wow.

It really is quite an experience, watching two guys on TV you kind of respect talking authoritatively for some reason about something they have no idea whatsoever about. It’s hilarious.

Olbermann tonight had on Jonathan Turley, a Constitutional scholar who is often a powerful presence on Countdown, on TRMS and on other programs including The Randi Rhodes Show on the radio. Never before have I seen two guys get so much wrong between commercial breaks.

First was Keith’s leading premise, wrong, wrong, wrong: Leading from a statement from the International Association of Firefighters, here’s Keith:

And here’s the latest crux right there: What if South Fulton or Obion County decided public safety should be entirely optional? What about a subscription police force?

Once again, Keith proves that he doesn’t know the FIRST THING about MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT.

Keith. Every county government in the United States of America has a police force. They are usually called a “sheriff.” And, if you’d taken a moment to look on the Google, you’d see clearly that, yes, Obion County has a sheriff’s office, too.

So your ridiculous straw-man is, guess what? Ridiculous. There is not, nor will there ever be, a-la-carte police service anywhere in Obion County, Tenn. South Fulton has a police department, paid for by and restricted to the jurisdiction of the city of South Fulton. Obion County has a sheriff”s department, paid for by and restricted to the jurisdiction of the residents of the unincorporated areas of the county.

See how that works?

This is an important distinction to grasp in order to understand this story in Tennessee. There is a city government, and there is a county government, and each government has its own taxing authority and its own jurisdiction. In the case of police protection, the county is patrolled by sheriffs’ deputies. The city is patrolled by city policemen.

In the case of fire protection, the city is covered by the South Fulton Fire Department. The county is covered by Duck and Cover. As I previously mentioned, Obion County Commissioners in 2008 had a plan in front of them to establish a county-wide system for fire protection, but they passed on it.

So, let’s review: The city of South Fulton has both a police and a fire department. The county of Obion has a sheriff’s department and bupkis. Okay?

(I am bashing you over the head with this point because, remarkably through this entire exchange between Olbermannn and Turley, NEITHER ONE of them acknowledges the present existence of such an entity of a “sheriff’s department.” You should have seen me yelling at my TV as I paced around in my kitchen this evening. Holy cow.)

Unfortunately, this is a distinction that Keith and several other liberal talkers I’ve heard on the matter can’t get straight or don’t think matters. Turley says something about contract negotiations. Olbermann segues.

On the subject of contract negotiations: I recall from my, you know, one little tiny law course in college that mutuality is the essence of the contract, and government is supposed to be a contract among the citizens, if Obion County can opt out of elemental responsibilities to me, can I just opt out of some of my taxes?

That’s not what happened. As we’ve established: Obion County does not have an active fire force. Obion County has never taken on the responsibility of fire response. It has never offered fire protection to its residents. Obion County had the opportunity to do so and it opted not to. The entity we’re discussing here is not Obion County. It is the incorporated municipality of South Fulton. And, on the subject of “contracts,” Gene Cranick did not have one with the city of South Fulton.

And still no mention from Keith of the reported attack on South Fulton Fire Chief David Wilds later that day and subsequent arrest. Isn’t that something?

Look, I’m not arguing that the fire department should have let the guy’s house burn down. Turley did have a point in this exchange, that at the very least the moral thing to do would have been to extinguish the fire nonetheless. All I’m saying is jeez louise, can we at least get the story right?

Burned II.

As I think on it more and more, I can’t help but admire what an utterly sloppy piece of journalism was offered by Mr. Olbermann regarding the case of the Cranicks in Obion County, Tenn., referred to recently on this Web log.

I watch Keith, not as often these days as I used to, and I enjoy his show. I think he’s created an interesting format for a television program, and I will always give the man praise for being the sole broadcaster at the time for calling out Donald Rumsfeldballs on his horse shit.

But Keith reminded me the other night that he’s never been in a newsroom. Once upon a time, the guy giving you the news on the TV had an actual background in news journalism. Ed Bliss, Eric Sevaraid, Walter Cronkite, all started in newspapers. Ed Murrow and Fred Friendly, they were radio guys. Betcha at least a few of those guys had to sit through a dreadful city council meeting once in a while.

There are skills and insights that are developed in a newsroom that you just don’t get anywhere else. I entered news journalism at probably the worst time to get in that there could be, at a time when that pursuit would be so devalued as it has been in the last few decades. Journalism is seen now as a “soft” skill, a practice that anyone can pursue. But I can tell you what, a little bit of time spent covering boring local politics would have served Keith pretty well this week. His coverage of this story was an absolute blunder.

And another thing. Besides Keith’s completely ignoring the local political dynamic, he completely ignored another aspect of the story: Liability. Since Cranick hadn’t paid his subscription, he had no contract with the South Fulton Fire Department for services. As such, there’s also no waiver of liability. If those firemen had tried to quench the flames and something had gone wrong, you don’t think this Cranick character would be calling a lawyer first thing in the morning?

Look, it’s sad that this guy lost his house and his pets and all. But if liberals are going to walk around being all smarmy and saying that “you don’t get to have your own facts” and all that, then we have to get the damned story right. Sadly, most liberals I’ve heard or read on this story have been all over the damned place (I had to turn off Randi Rhodes when she was talking about it she had her facts so convuluted).

Burned.

I didn’t catch Olbermann’s #1 story on the TV last night, neither at 8 p.m. nor 10 p.m. Something more pressing was on.
Okay, it was “House” and then “Weeds.”

But each time, I did catch the end part, of a man sitting in front of a burnt down house, and Keith scowling. Only later did I view the entire story online, and halfway through it, I had to stop and roll my eyes.

The story is of the Cranicks of rural Obion County, Tenn. Gene Cranick’s grandson was burning some garbage, and the fire got out of hand, but the fire department of South Fulton, Tenn., would not douse it because Cranick had not paid a $75 subscription fee. They FD did douse the fire on an adjoining property because they guy had paid.

Olbermann leaped on this thing like he was a starving tiger.

A look now into the America envisioned by the Tea Party. A home catches fire. Firefighters arrive on the scene, and watch the place burn down. All because the home owner did not pay an extra fee. Our number one story. Pay to spray, just a preview of what would come in a kind of a la carte government. In a moment, the man victimized by this policy, where its already in effect, will speak out.

But the story he told here seemed utterly incomplete.

I’ve spent years in a former career covering government at the municipal level for newspapers. This is a common theme between cities and surrounding rural areas. A city might, for example, offer to annex a township, a move that enhances the city’s tax base and offers the township an energized way to provide services. Often, the township’s elected officers will fold up their arms at this offer and mumble about not needin’ no city gov’mnt no how.

It’s interesting to see how Olbermann is capable of leaving vital details out of a story just like any of these other cable news hacks. For instance, he lightly refers to a white paper of some kind, which details what departments provide what in and around the county. He doesn’t tell you that resource was a 2008 proposal to create a county-wide fire department, which, as reported by Mother Jones, the County Commission voted not to fund.

So, yeah. This is a story about an epic failure caused by a cynical, short-sighted government—just not the government who’s blamed so harshly in Keith’s piece last night. It was not, as it was presented, a simple tale of cold-hearted libertarianism gone amok. It was a confluence of local political issues that I guarantee you are probably being debated at your next city council meeting in your own community.

As an aside, I also love that Olbermann failed to mention that, later in the day one Timothy A. Cranick—related, I assume—was arrested and charged with felony aggravated assault after he allegedly “cold-cocked” the fire chief. That wouldn’t tend to make your interview subject very sympathetic now, would it, Keith?

We don’t need to hype a ridiculous story like this one to draw attention to the ongoing effort in this country to dismantle the commons. The effort is real and ongoing, and there are plenty of concrete examples to point to. Keith mighta thunk this was good television, but one thing it wasn’t was good journalism.

There really is a difference.

A Good Rule of Thumb for Voters

I’d like to offer up a simple piece of advice for voters, especially for “undecided” voters, as we enter the run-up to November. This is an alarmingly simple rule to follow, and I think that if you’d apply it, you’d see it as a fantastic way to weed out a good number of candidates.

Here we go.

If a candidate avoids a reasonable press request, do not vote for the candidate.

Now. I stuck the word “reasonable” in there. This is because there are, certainly, unreasonable press requests. I think that guys who make their living chasing celebrities down the street earn a living making unreasonable press requests. For instance, while I think Bob Etheridge’s behavior in this instance was strange as hell, I also think that a couple of kids in the street with an iPhone is not an entirely reasonable press request.

I mean, for instance, if the candidate flakes on an already promised request to appear on “Meet the Press.” Sorry, but if your candidate, like Rand Paul and now this Christine O’Donnell person, don’t have the fortitude to mix it up with the dopey David Gregory, they don’t merit your vote. When Sharron Angle pulls this nonsense, telling reporters specifically that they will make themselves available for questions and then she bolts for her vehicle, Sharron Angle does not deserve your vote. And, then there’s Jan Brewer. Sweet merciful crap, how can you vote for Jan Brewer?

For elected officials, kids, dealing with the press is part of the job. Now, allegedly, the press is there as sort of a stand-in for you and me. They’re supposed to be there challenging these a-holes and asking them questions and making them honest if possible. That doesn’t happen as often as it should, and that dogged aspect of journalism is in sorry decline. Therefore, there is even LESS of an excuse to dodge the press like these idiots are intent on doing.

Let’s add it up, undecideds. If a candidate for political office dodges a reasonable press request, not only is that candidate a big pussy, but that candidate is not going to work for you once he gets into office. Do not vote for that candidate.

Go Take On The Day

The Federal Communications Commission was founded in 1934 with the express purpose of making sure that people could reasonably listen to the radio. Soon thereafter, the agency decided that it could also police the airways for naughty language, which many American seem to feel is physically harmful to them.

As pointed out comically by the late great George Carlin, the FCC had at one point ruled that there were seven words that you were not allowed to say on the air. The agency has also ruled that you cannot reveal a lady’s nipple during the Super Bowl, although a court later reversed that finding. They have also ruled that you cannot refer on the radio to a man playing a piano with his penis, and that nor can you use the phrase “big black lesbian filled with lust” (see Stern, Howard). Bafflingly, the FCC has said that it’s okay to say “fucking” on the air in some instances, so long as you say something like “That’s fucking great” and so long as you don’t say “Hey, Bob and Rita are over in the corner fucking.” Although, if I were a broadcaster, I probably wouldn’t try it.

So the FCC is a fickle bitch when it comes to naughty words (“I don’t mind ‘fuck’ and ‘shit’ but P AND C ARE OUT! P AND C ARE OUT!”). They can’t get off their asses and keep the Internet in the commons, but boy, if you say naughty words on the radio or on the TV, they’ll come out with all guns blazing!

But there is one word that is so egregious, so explosive, so utterly awful, that even the FCC doesn’t have to enforce it. And that word was recently uttered 11 times by “Doctor” Laura Kightlinger…I’m sorry, I mean Schlessinger (I bet that happens to Laura Kightlinger all the damned time)…on the radio. This is a word that starts with an “n” and that purports to refer to a certain segment of the American population due to the hue of their epidermis. Epidermii. Whatever.

No, the FCC doesn’t have to do anything about a broadcaster that uses a racial epithet. That person will either have to call it quits or he will have to publicly beg and plead with the Rev. Al Sharpton and will have to hire a minimum of two black people as sidekicks (see Imus, Don). And there is a REASON for this.

You see, “Doctor” Laura, once upon a time in American history, when a person was using the word that you so boldly pronounced ELEVEN TIMES on your air, that person was often MULTI-TASKING. For instance, the person would be saying that word while, oh, I dunno, while he was tying a noose around a person’s neck. Or, while he was saying that word, he might have been beating a person’s skull in with a billy club. Or whipping a guy’s back until it looks like ground chuck. Or chasing a guy with a pack of hounds.

This is why our marketplace of ideas abhors the word. We are a culture that believes that words are powerful, so powerful that we’ve asked our government to protect us from some of the finest among them. So don’t get all shocked when your utterance of the most brutal, most violent word in our culture causes an avalanche on your bony ass.

So when “Doctor” Laura whines that her First Amendment rights have somehow been violated, she takes whatever credibility she might have had, which was rather little—considering that her “Doctor” title comes from a master’s in physiology—and she poops it out and flushes it down the toidey. Her First Amendment rights were not violated in any way. In fact what really happened is that the marketplace—which as you recall is an abstract concept that conservatives enjoy performing oral sex upon—drove her to the edge of town with a bucket and a pistol before Uncle Sam even had the opportunity.

All of this, and, believe it or not, uttering that word is not even the most racist thing the good “doctor” said! No, she intimated that, since we have a black Preznit now, all this racist stuff should just go away! And she told her caller not to “NAACP” her?

What. A pig. Good riddance.

A Special Special Comment

For a long time, our man Keith did everything he could to wear out his signature bit, the “special comment.” I suspect that his handlers were impressed with the ratings they bore and egged him on, to the point where for a while he was making a nightly “quick comment.” Either at that point, or at the point where he dedicated an entire hour to a “special comment” on health care reform, or at the point where it was nearly successfully lampooned by Ben Afleck on Saturday Night Live, the thing really jumped the shark.

You’ve got to remember how awesome the original Special Comment was. We were in the throes of the stupidest war ever. And the Secretary of God-Damned Defense had just come out and said that anyone who disagreed with the administration’s stance on this stupid war was somehow um, morally or intellectually confused. Keith tore the living hell out of that, and a star was born.

Luckily, the K-Man has given the Special Comment a bit of a respite as of late, at least comparatively. That is the right move. That “Special Comment” logo should only be dragged out when you’ve written something truly inspiring about something that’s truly and legitimately pissed you off, brother. How to tell when that occurs? You’ll know it when you’ve written it.

Like last night. I was concerned when the man started by comparing this Shirley Sherrod thing to the Dreyfus Affair. But man what the hell happened after that was really something.

In case you missed it:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

He tears Fox “News” a new asshole of course, though he isn’t dishonest about the thing; he agrees that media in general failed on the Sherrod incident. He also rips into the White House, as they deserve. The killer is the ending, which I’m not giving away for you. It’s lovely.

And of course, Howard K. Kurtz is in the fucking Washington Post today inexplicably apologizing for Fox “News.” Kurtz claims that Fox “News” actually did its homework on this thing actually actually. Howie. Baby. We’ve seen the tape dude. Does Murdock sign your checks as well?

Nip It In The Bud, Bud

A lot of liberals are coming down pretty hard on the White House for its knee-jerk response to the Shirley Sherrod story. I agree with the criticism to a large extent. But I think the critiques do not consider a certain specific perspective.

This is a President who was a candidate who in both capacities has seen too often the deleterious effect of a negative story that sprouts legs and walks on its own. The Rev. Wright story. The health care reform town halls. ACORN. This is also a White House that may be running on fumes regarding its own momentum, and yet one with a still ambitious political agenda. It may very well be a White House that doesn’t want another damned story to sprout legs and start boogyin’.

Little did the Administration know that at mid-afternoon, the tide would change completely on this story, that the farmers Sherrod helped all those years ago would do the decent thing and come swiftly to her defense. Who could have guessed such a thing would have happened? By day’s end, all the air had been sucked out of that sucker and Ms. Sherrod was sitting pretty.

Yes, for sure, the White House’s reflex when it comes to this thing has become absurdly well-honed. The President’s staff would do better when this shit hits the fan to take a step back and consider the source. Andrew Breitbart is not a legitimate news source and he probably farts a lot, and a ten minute Google search might have saved them the embarrassment of having to resolve things with Ms. Sherrod now. (Because they do have to do that now.)

But. I can certainly understand the impulse.

By the way. Three cheers to The Washington Post for successfully burying this story’s lead all the way to friggin’ China in this morning’s edition. The story’s resolution; the full context of Sherrod’s story and the Spooners’ dash to her defense, should have led that story, you numb-nuts, instead of appearing way in the last paragraphs. Shame on ya.

Hemmed In

The Washington Post today offers yet another reason why media writer Howard Kurtz is, for the most part, useless.

Kurtz today spotlights comedian Bill Hemmer, who plays an “anchor” for Fox “News” and previously worked for the Cable “News” Network.

Kurtz attempts to provide insight into Hemmer’s role at Fox “News.” But Kurtz’ column simply lets Hemmer spout the Fox “News” party line bullshit and pretty much lets him get away with it. It ledes:

Bill Hemmer, a middle-of-the-road guy from the middle of the country, sees himself as the straightest of straight arrows when it comes to news.

“The opinion-makers on our channel have enormous talent,” he says in his Fox News office in midtown. “I deal in facts. I deal in evidence. And opinion, frankly, is not my comfort zone. Opinion news is something I’m not good at. It is in the DNA of certain individuals. I’m not one of them.”

Kurtz gives Hemmer a pass despite his and his network’s insistence on relying almost entirely on “conservative” (damn I have to use a lot of scare quotes when I write about these assholes) guests. He quothes:

“If the booking leans one way, it’s the responsibility and duty of me as the host, the presenter, the interviewer, to make sure the topic is evenly treated,” Hemmer says.

Ha-ha!

Later in the column, Kurtz writes, UNATTRIBUTED:

Despite the guest lineup, Hemmer, 45, takes a generally balanced approach, a style he honed in his native Cincinnati and during 10 years at CNN. After joining Fox as a daytime anchor in 2005, he was paired in the morning with rising star Megyn Kelly; when Kelly got her own 1 p.m. show in February, Martha MacCallum became Hemmer’s co-host.

Later, Kurtz gets down on his damned knees. Note again the lack of attribution:

With his infectious grin and golly-gee demeanor, Hemmer exudes boyish enthusiasm both on and off the air. He is quick to sing the praises of his network, his colleagues, Chairman Roger Ailes (a fellow Ohioan), even the Sixth Avenue lobby for its mix of visitors. Has he ever said anything on the air that he regrets? “Knock wood, I think I’ve been lucky to, as my mother would say, be careful before you speak,” says Hemmer, his eyes occasionally wandering to his four television monitors in what he admits is a Pavlovian response.

Yep. Bill Hemmer reports right down the middle, all right:

A turning point, in Hemmer’s view, came during the health care debate in the summer of 2009: “We covered those town-hall meetings with greater vigor than our competition, and we were rewarded with viewers. It was better television.”

Another view is that Fox seized upon the footage of angry constituents shouting at Democratic members of Congress because it undermined the president’s health-care push. Hemmer begs to differ. “I don’t think it was anger toward the Obama administration,” he says. “It was an honest insecurity on the part of average Americans.”

Hemmer also feels strongly about federal spending, a constant topic on the show. “The deficit is staggering,” he says. His lead-off commentator is often Fox business anchor Stuart Varney, who rarely misses an opportunity to criticize the administration’s fiscal policies…

Yep, he’s one fair and balanced dude all right.

A few days ago, I made light of the fact that Glenn Beck, who is one of that network’s most popular opinion leaders, is not aware somehow that C-SPAN is basically a child of the ’80s (a quick Internet search reveals that the first C-SPAN transmission was a floor speech by Congressman Al Gore on March 19, 1979). But I think Beck’s tremendous error belies a grander problem with Beck, his network, and by association, Hemmer. This is a network that is culturally ignorant of even the most basic knowledge regarding current events, civics, and history. A guy who is unaware that in 1964 TV cameras in the legislature were more than a decade away should not be a major opinion leader in America, and the network that doesn’t pull his broadcast off the air immediately should not have “news” anywhere in its moniker.

But this is what happens when you decide that media is just another fucking commodity to be bought sold and traded.