Keith Olbermann Misses The Point Of Fox News’ Latest Ad

Fox News just hit 100 months as the top cable news channel, and they’re doing a victory lap of sorts with some ads touting their success.

Leave it to MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann to rain on the parade.

The full-page ads from Fox News feature Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Greta Van Susteren, Bret Baier and Shepard Smith with the slogan “the most powerful name in news.” They ran yesterday in the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.

Olbermann saw it as an opportunity to knock the network, giving the PR department (actually, it was the marketing department that would be the culprit though) the bronze Worst for leaving out the #2 cable news host, Glenn Beck. “Hey don’t give me that, ‘they don’t claim he’s news,’” he said. “They don’t claim O’Reilly’s news, or Hannity. Murdoch himself said that. They left Beck out. Now he’s going to start crying again.”

Well – don’t shed a tear yet, Glenn. We hear this ad was the first in a series of full-page ads, with the next featuring Megyn Kelly, Shep Smith, Neil Cavuto and Beck. In other words, the ad yesterday was the 6-11pmET line-up – the next one will be the 1-6pmET line-up. Fox & Friends will get their own, as will the 9am-1pmET team of Bill Hemmer, Martha MacCallum, Jon Scott and Jane Skinner. It’s not like every hour isn’t dominating cable news anyway – now everyone gets their bragging rights!

Here’s the Worst clip:

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Barack Obama Will Not Testify In Rod Blagojevich Trial

The defense in United States v. Rod Blagojevich just received the devastating news from the federal judge in the case that their request to subpoena President Barack Obama to testify in favor of the former governor has been denied. For media insiders and lovers of the political circus, it’s a sad day in America.

According to the AP, US District Judge James Zagel did not see sufficient evidence that proved the President was relevant enough to the case to be forced to testify. The Rod Blagojevich legal team presented several pages of evidence based on taped conversations still not released to the public in which a number of staffers, union officials, and supporters close to the president suggested that Obama had preferences as to who filled the seat. The most explosive accusation in the subpoena was that an Obama staffer had offered Blagojevich “fundraising” in exchange for the appointment of a certain senate candidate to the seat— all of which we know because the defense team failed to adequately hide the redacted portions of the subpoena request.

There is no indication that the involuntary breaking of court protocol had anything to do with the decision, although it comes at an inopportune time as former Blagojevich aide Alonzo Monk plead guilty today, again, to attempting to trade legislation for campaign contributions with a horce-racing insider.

While, by nature of Blagojevich’s personality alone, the trial will be nothing short of a spectacle, the lack of a presidential presence does strike a blow to the potential entertainment value, especially if cable news broadcasters were able to get a hold of trial footage and the president’s testimony. With Obama out of the picture, so is a significant chunk of a potential news cycle, along with it’s blockbuster ratings/website hits and, in turn, revenue.

This sentiment has been most succinctly captured by National Review’s “The Corner,” where Daniel Foster takes all his anger at being deprived of an Obama testimony out on “noted curmudgeon” James Zagel:

The killjoy Chicago federal judge presiding over ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s corruption trial has decided to spoil my day by denying Blago’s request to subpoena President Obama as a witness.

“The testimony of the president is not material to this case,” U.S. District Judge and noted curmudgeon James Zagel said today in issuing the ruling.


U.S. Soldiers In Afghanistan Are A Little Embarrassed By Lady Gaga Video

The Afghanistan remake of Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” video that went viral yesterday and sparked a million Don’t Ask Don’t Tell jokes was meant to be an inside joke among a few friends. This the latest from reputable mug shot website The Smoking Gun, which caught up with the video’s director, Aaron Melcher (below), who refused to answer questions other than making it clear no one involved in the video wants it to continue rolling in the news cycle.

The Smoking Gun notes that their attempts to talk to Melcher, the soldier clad in Gaga-esque yellow police tape, failed, other than his admission that the video was never intended for public consumption and a clear request that “nobody in the video would like any further media coverage.” The Smoking Gun then follows this report with seven more pages of media coverage, including unsourced photos of the soldiers in their regular gear contrasted with still shots from the video, including some Facebook statements that contradict the request:

When he first uploaded “Telephone: The Afghanistan Re-make,” Melcher told Facebook friends to “feel free to share it with the world.” He added, “it’s the hotness.” Melcher and several of his fellow soldiers have carefully monitored the spiraling number of views their video has received. On Wednesday, [fellow solider Joshua] Pilon posted a brief update on his Facebook wall: “5,000 views…I’m going to be Famous!!!” In a post on his Facebook page, [James] Conley wrote of the video, “this is what people do with they free time in Afghanistan. Its crazy out here. And yeah im in it too.”

Sounds like making a transcontinental Youtube hit was all fun and games until the Lamestream Media had to go and make fun of them, although it seems the work has been met with almost universal praise. It’s pretty easy to see why they would be a little bashful about it, but creating a fun-filled work of art in your spare time when your day job is fighting in Afghanistan is an impressive and newsworthy feat. And in case you missed it, here’s the work in question below:


Washington Post: Neither Obama Nor Society Should Define His Race

The Washington Post’s Elizabeth Chang is concerned that Barack Obama has let society define him. With his recent declaration of race as exclusively African-American on his US Census form, Chang believes the President is reacting to how society perceives him, though she also highlights the importance of racial “accuracy” on official forms. Which begs the question: with as fluid a concept as race, who defines accuracy if not social convention?

Her concerns stem from a comment the President made while filling out his form that he is African-American because “that is how I am treated,” rather than because of who he is. She believes this is a sign that he is misrepresenting himself to adhere to social pressures: “If the most powerful person in this country says that because society thinks he looks black, he is black, it sends a message that biracial children have to identify with the side they most resemble.” In the same breath, however, she argues that it is as much an issue of racial accuracy as one of defying social pressures:

“Aren’t people supposed to fill out their census forms accurately? Why else are we doing it? If everyone put down on the form how they ‘identified,’ I don’t know what kind of count we’d wind up with, but clearly it would not reflect the racial makeup of the United States.”

But by trying to enforce accuracy in the way the President defines himself, she is applying as much social pressure as anyone who has “treated” the President as black in the past. Obama’s case makes it more difficult to point out why her argument for him being biracial is equally pressuring and arbitrary, especially in light of the fact that she is pushing her notion of race as “almost useless” on the President, as well. Achieving a fairly universally recognized definition of racial accuracy with him, given the background of his parents, is easy: his mother was white; his father, black; he is biracial.

However, those lines are not so clearly cut with many others in the country– for example, those of Latin American backgrounds where generations of unrecorded miscegenation have made it nearly impossible to determine the racial makeup of a family. The Census does not identify “Latin American” as a race, but an ethnicity, so is it disingenuous for a person of that ethnic background to check “African American” if they have a suspicion of said background with little physical evidence? And what to do about people like Paula Abdul, where the term “biracial” only accounts for about a fourth of their identities?

The lines are simply too blurred to defend a universal metric for racial accuracy, so the forces of society become arbiters by default. While it would be enforced by the government, since the Census is under their jurisdiction, there is no clear scientific way to determine race, and the billions of dollars it would take to trace the background of every individual’s family is probably not worth the effort.

Chang concludes: “if we let society determine what we are, we will never change society.” She is absolutely right. But by involving herself in the racial and ethnic self-identification of another America, she is doing the work of society by determining the identity of another at a time in history when this form of identity in our country is especially elusive.


Roger Ebert Trashes 3-D Movies in Newsweek Article

Roger Ebert is one of the most beloved film writers of all time and, recently, as he’s bravely battled the effects of cancer and its treatment, the esteem people have for him has only gotten greater. However, at the same time, he’s also been showing another side to his persona; a crotchety old man who refuses to acknowledge that video games could ever be considered an artform. While his views on video games are pretty indefensible (the computer animators who design the entire world and the writers who plot out the entire game aren’t artists?), there’s one area where his Luddite sensibilities are right on the money. In an article in the current Newsweek, Ebert claims that 3-D movies are nothing but a trashy gimmick whose only real purpose is to steal extra money from audiences and this writer, at least, thinks he’s 100% right.

The article comes with the simple headline “Why I Hate 3-D (And You Should Too)” and serves as a list of all the reasons that this trend of stretching every single movie into the third dimension is an awful idea. Some of the points are simple, like the fact that the 3-D glasses will always make the images look dimmer. Anyone who doubts that should have tried taking their glasses off for a few minutes during Avatar, the movie that is widely considered the best example of 3-D filmmaking. The “bioluminescent” world of Pandora was 10 times more beautiful without the glasses.

Even if the color issue is resolved, the fact remains that the movie studios are only pushing towards 3-D as a way to rip off audiences by adding an extra charge of $5 or more. Consider the recent Clash of the Titans remake. The movie was not made in 3-D. It was filmed to be projected in 2-D and then hastily converted once Avatar proved to be the giant blue cash cow that it was. Unsurprisingly, the 3-D effects that were shoehorned in got terrible reviews, but the studios still charged the ridiculous extra costs. Ebert’s article is strongest when he’s pointing out this exorbitant nonsense.

“7. THEATERS SLAP ON A SURCHARGE OF $5 TO $7.50 FOR 3-D.
Yet when you see a 2-D film in a 3-D-ready theater, the 3-D projectors are also outfitted for 2-D films: it uses the same projector but doesn’t charge extra. See the Catch-22? Are surcharges here to stay, or will they be dropped after the projectors are paid off? What do you think? I think 3-D is a form of extortion for parents whose children are tutored by advertising and product placement to “want” 3-D. In my review of Clash of the Titans, I added a footnote: “Explain to your kids that the movie was not filmed in 3-D and is only being shown in 3-D in order to charge you an extra $5 a ticket. I saw it in 2-D, and let me tell you, it looked terrific.” And it did. The “3-D” was hastily added in postproduction to ride on the coattails of Avatar. The fake-3-D Titans even got bad reviews from 3-D cheerleaders. Jeffrey Katzenberg, whose DreamWorks has moved wholeheartedly into 3-D, called it “cheeseball,” adding: “You just snookered the movie audience.” He told Variety he was afraid quickie, fake-3-D conversions would kill the goose that was being counted on for golden eggs.

Consider Tim Burton, who was forced by marketing executives to create a faux-3-D film that was then sold as Alice in Wonderland: An IMAX 3D Experience (although remember that the new IMAX theaters are not true IMAX). Yes, it had huge grosses. But its 3-D effects were minimal and unnecessary; a scam to justify the surcharge.

Even Cameron plans to rerelease Titanic in 3-D, and it’s worth recalling his 3-D documentary, Ghosts of the Abyss, which he personally photographed from the grave of the Titanic. Titanic 3-D will not be true 3-D, but Cameron is likely to do “fake 3-D” better than others have. My argument would nevertheless be: Titanic is wonderful just as it stands, so why add a distraction? Obviously, to return to the No. 2 cash cow in movie history and squeeze out more milk.”

There’s one point in the article that I have to protest. At the beginning, Ebert lists Jackass 3-D, the upcoming movie from the gross-out MTV pranksters, as an example of the 3-D excess. I disagree. Jackass 3-D is the exact kind of movie that should be in 3-D. It’s a gimmick movie that would fit perfectly with a gimmick format. Very few movies belong in 3-D. Only the silly ones with objects being thrust at the camera work because, as much as James Cameron and crew claim the 3-D techniques of today are more advanced than the cardboard glasses days of the 50s, they aren’t different enough to be anything more than a gag that belongs in 2 or 3 movies a year. Tops.

So, please, read Ebert’s article. The 3-D fad won’t go away anytime soon if people keep happily forking over there hard earned cash every time the studios send a fake, up-converted movie into theaters. I for one refuse to pay for another dumb 3-D epic.

Except for Tron: Legacy. That movie looks bad ass.


Wired Reveals Identity Of Man Who Found And Sold iPhone To Gizmodo

Brian J. Hogan, welcome to the national spotlight! Wired magazine’s blog “Threat Level” has now identified the individual who found/stole the next generation iPhone and sold it to Gizmodo, sparking a rather large dust-up between Gawker Media and Apple.

Writing for Wired, Brian X. Chen and Kim Zetter report:

Brian J. Hogan, a 21-year-old resident of Redwood City, California, says although he was paid by tech site Gizmodo, he believed the payment was for allowing the site exclusive access to review the phone. Gizmodo emphasized to him “that there was nothing wrong in sharing the phone with the tech press,” according to his attorney Jeffrey Bornstein.

Wired.com identified Hogan as the finder of the prototype by following clues on social network sites, and then confirmed his identity with a source involved in the iPhone find.

Hogan has been interviewed by law enforcement investigators but has not been charged with a crime. His attorney says he is willing to cooperate with authorities.

It’s generally considered theft under California law if one “finds lost property under circumstances that give him knowledge of or means of inquiry as to the true owner” and yet appropriates the property for his own use “without first making reasonable and just efforts to find the owner and to restore the property to him.”

The person who found the phone “is very definitely one of the people who is being looked at as a suspect in theft,” San Mateo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Stephen Wagstaffe told Wired.com Wednesday. “Assuming there’s ultimately a crime here. That’s what we’re still gauging, is this a crime, is it a theft?”

The post also reports that owners of the bar told reporters “that Hogan didn’t notify anyone who worked at the bar about the phone,” and add that “he regrets his mistake in not doing more to return the phone.”


The Daily Obsession: Presidential Poisoning

When former first lady Laura Bush announced she was releasing a memoir, the last accusation anyone expected to find in it was poisoning. Bush is said to claim in the new book that she, her husband, and a number of aides were poisoned while at a summit in Germany, but politely told the hosts that they had merely contracted a virus.

The First Lady explains that the fear was that terrorists had gotten to the President’s food, and that she believed she would die. It’s a spectacular story “out of a James Bond movie” that cable news talking heads couldn’t get enough of yesterday.

Here’s today’s Daily Obsession: