Mention the word 'Thanksgiving' to anyone and various responses will come up. Whether the first thing to enter one's head may be Pilgrims, family get-togethers, the Macy's Parade, football, early morning sales on "Black Friday," or even that disgustingly funny faux movie trailer in Grindhouse, the first thought that likely comes up is turkey. It's all about the turkey.
In honor of that spirit, this entry will be about a different type of turkey. Namely, the biggest buffoon covered by LTR in the past year or so. And with it the presentation of a not-so prestigious honor, the first annual "Turkey of the Year."
Of course, criteria had to be laid out for the first ever presentation of this prize. The Turkey nominating committee felt that consideration be limited only to those who were written about on this very space over the past year or so. Readers will recognize the usual suspects, and be surprised at others. But in formulating a list of finalists, and the inevitable winner, the nominating committee scoured a year's worth of blog entries, in the ultimate online turkey hunt.
So without further ado, here are the nominees...
Chad Castagana. Okay, who is Chad Castagana? He's a 39-year old nut from California who took it upon himself last November to fight the war of terror by mailing letters laced with white powder to current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, David Letterman, Keith Olbermann, Jon Stewart and others. Of course, the white substance turned out not to be Anthrax, but rather powdered soap.The FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force tracked him down, arrested and later indicted him on fourteen counts of sending false threats via the U.S. Mail.
Of note is that while sending out the nastygrams, he also purchased a $15 money order, made out to "Friends of Katherine Harris." Castagana lived with his 78-year old mother, is a sci-fi geek, worshipped Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin, rarely interacted with neighbors, and had an dirty old van parked in the driveway with the phrase "death to all liberals" scrawled in the grime of the back window. Ironically, or not surprisingly, he had no driver's licence to legally drive his dirty old van. Oh, and he was a freeper, too, and he even posted about the mailings on the site, even having the chutzpah to mock MSNBC's reaction to the nastygram sent to Olbermann. And they call us unhinged. Sheesh! Currently, Castagana is out on $350,000 bail and awaiting trial, and is also prohibited from using the U.S. Mail for anything.
Bruce Tinsley. Ever wonder why the right-wing comic strip "Mallard Fillmore" just isn't very funny? Well, you try writing gags when you're plastered off your ass! Tinsley, the creator of the strip, was arrested in Columbus, Indiana last December and charged with drunk driving, his second alcohol-related arrest in less than four months. He had a blood-alcohol level of 0.14, almost twice the legal limit. Ironically, he once published a strip where he claimed that, in order to avoid a DUI ticket, a driver could pretend to be related to Ted Kennedy. So not only does he suck as cartooning, he's not very good at dispensing legal advice.
KSFO. The nasty right-wing hosts of this hardcore right-wing radio station in San Francisco have never had a problem slinging shit toward their 'enemies.' Hosts such as Melanie Morgan, Lee Rogers, Tom Brenner and Brian Sussman often spew Klan-style racist rhetoric, bash muslims, and endlessly tear into liberals. Well, a Bay Area blogger named Spocko decided to take them on, posting audio clips and transcripts of the hosts programs online and sparking a letter-writing campaign directed at some of the station's highest-profile advertisers. The on-air hosts went even more nuts than they were already, with Morgan firing off an email to over a million conservatives as the hosts began harassing Spocko on-air. Ironically, this is the same Melanie Morgan who in 2004 tried to lean on movie theater owners in an effort to ban Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11. The station's owner, ABC/Disney, also fought back, sending a cease-and-desist order to Spocko and his ISP over posting the transcripts and files. The ISP, fearful of legal action by the Mouse That Roared, shut him down, but the audio files circulated around the web and Spocko found another ISP. The gang at Disney and KSFO are the most hypocritical of turkeys, and evidently never learned that people who live by the sword are likely to fall victim to it.
Disney. And here's a two-fer. I'll give the owners of ABC a slide over that "Air America Blacklist" thing, since that turned out to be about nothing. But they don't get off so easy for that ridiculous Path to 9/11 flick that nobody watched. And for hiring racist wacky radio guy Glenn Beck for a commentary position on Good Morning America. So, what position was this Muslim-bashing moron hired for? Yep, you guessed it - cultural commentator. They also get chided for programming next to no liberal talk on any of their radio stations (recently taken over by Citadel), save for top-rated KGO in San Francisco and a few weekend slots on some of their other stations.
Jon Elliott. He may never live this down, but perhaps this will teach him not to jump to conclusions and claim a freak accident that happened to one of his coworkers as a 'hate crime.' On the flipside...
Crybaby conservative bloggers. When Randi Rhodes had her freak accident last month, Elliott inadvertently blamed it on an attack by some crazed right-winger. Meanwhile the whiny right were shocked, feeling that their ilk is capable of walking on water and could do no wrong. They felt they were the victim of a brutal attack. When it was all founded to be untrue, they demanded apologies, as if they ever gave a shit about Rhodes in the first place. Hold on, let me call the whaaaambulance first. Here's three words for the Bozells, Malkins, Maloneys, et. al. of the world: Get a grip.
Me. I'll reserve a spot at the turkey table for myself, Baroosk at Talking Radio, ZappoDave at Daily Kos Bonescrat at Democratic Underground and everyone else that forwarded the Randi Rumor. Yeah, we screwed up on that one. And unlike the crazy conservatives, I can admit when I'm wrong.
Don Imus. 2007 was a pretty crappy year for the craggy morning radio talker. One could almost blame his handlers at CBS for encouraging him to be more controversial. But his inert nastiness is what eventually did him in, resulting in the end of his big TV deal at MSNBC, his lucrative roster of sponsors, his syndicated network and eventually his job. Now he has to rebuild everything from scratch. How rough is it? His new TV deal is with something called RFD-TV, a farm-oriented channel nobody has ever heard of and one that obviously does not have much penetration in the mostly urban east coast markets that are his stronghold.
Entercom. Clear Channel often gets a bad rap when it comes to dropping progressive talk from their stations, but Entercom, a company that heavily donates almost exclusively to Democrats, has dropped the format from all but two of their stations. This year, they flipped their New Orleans station to a time shifted refeed of WWL, a station that already simulcasts on both a 50,000 watt AM and a big signaled FM, and stations in Sacramento and Memphis to sports. Only Buffalo and Rochester remain.
Mark Green. Last spring, Manhattan real estate mogul Stephen Green rode to the rescue and purchased Air America Radio out of bankruptcy. Opting to take a hands-off role, he installed his brother, New York politician Mark Green as president. While Green has injected some life into the network, some of the network's moves have alienated their devoted listeners. The hiring of Lionel was a shot at gaining legitimacy in the radio industry, and for that, it made sense on paper. In the process, though, they treated the much-loved Sam Seder like garbage, banishing him to Sunday afternoons before sheepishly appointing him as the network's chief blogger. Mark Maron vowed never to work for Air America again, but has softened on that stance as of late. Others, such as the devoted Mark Riley were eventually cast aside altogether.
While the network obviously strove toward much-needed industry credibility, the new shows added to the schedule didn't elicit much enthusiasm. The Air Americans was a four-hour weeknight juggernaut with no direction or planning, no chance of being picked up by any affiliate, and lasted only a few short pointless months. Weekends saw strange niche shows about vegetarianism and atheism that garnered guffaws from the media. And of course, Green got his own show. Since taking over, the network has become a little too green, pun intended. Reportedly, upon the much-ballyhooed 'relaunch' of Air America last spring, Green was so pissed off about the sluggish response to Lionel's arrival that he took many of the heavily-hyped VIP interviews for himself, which resulted in some hosts' shows being interrupted for taped interviews conducted by Green, who obviously was trying to leave his mark on the network in rather strange ways. Talk about a trainwreck!
Richard Greene. Sure, he seems like a nice guy, and he's certainly a polished professional. But he seems a bit out of his element hosting Clout, a nighttime show on Air America. Particularly since the only bumper music he ever plays is "Every Breath You Take" by The Police. Over and over again. For this, he definitely deserves to be considered for "Turkey of the Year."
Steve Graham. This Pittsburgh, Kansas native gave us all a look at who really listens to right-wing talk radio. For the past seven years, Graham, 55, has been living in his car parked in the backyard of a house he and his wife, La Donna Graham, own. His irritated neighbors complain that Graham plays loud music, often spouts obsenity-laced tirades and uses his yard as a toilet. Graham's got a home-like setup in his blue 1989 Buick Century, equipped with a 13" TV, an oscillating fan and a portable radio, with an extension cord running to the house. The radio especially works well. "I get better reception there than I do in there," he said, pointing at the house. "I listen to Rush (Limbaugh) every day, just about."
The so-called Cable News Networks. An unpopular war is being fought in Iraq. The dollar is sinking like a cinder block. Oil is almost $100 a barrel. The housing market has collapsed. Chinese-made toys are poisoning our children. The Arctic is melting. The White House is lying. With all that is going on in the world, it would be somewhat of a stretch to call CNN, FOX Noise and MSNBC 'news' channels, since more airtime was seemingly devoted to Anna Nicole Smith's death, Paris Hilton's jail time, Britney Spears' trainwreck of a life and scores of that cable news staple - missing blondes than to much more deserving and important stories. And speaking of fluff news...
Ben Mankiewicz. Until a few months ago, Ben Mankiewicz served as Cenk Uyger's sidekick on Air America's The Young Turks. He currently has a classy gig hosting weekends on television's Turner Classic Movies channel. The Mankiewicz name is legendary in Hollywood and in the media. Grandfather Herman wrote the classic Citizen Kane. His great uncle Joseph was an Oscar-winning writer and director. Cousin Tom wrote quite a few James Bond flicks and was a go-to script doctor for many years. His father Frank was Robert F. Kennedy's press secretary. Brother Josh is an NBC News reporter. So with all of this going for him, why the hell is he currently slumming as a gossip monger on the icky TMZ TV show? Certainly he's better than this?
Brian Maloney. Yeah, you were waiting for this one, right? Yes, the Radio Tranquilizer will likely be a presence on a list o' turkeys for a long time coming. The question is, how does one narrow the antics of this walking trainwreck down to one offense against thinking people? Could it be that over the past year he's been completely neutered, selling out what little soul he had in order to settle in as semi-official ass-kisser to Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity? Or could it be that in almost all of his entries he goes on nasty, insane tirades about how nasty and insane liberals are? Well, just this morning, I noticed his latest entry, where he claims that liberals are waging a war against Thanksgiving. I think that's good enough reason for his inclusion here. That, and his blog is basically the equivalent of ten pounds of elephant shit in a five pound bag. Too bad he's not the Turkey of the Year. There were much fatter fowl this year.
With all the choices presented, the task of naming a Turkey of the Year was rather tough. The field was narrowed down to three finalists:
3. Clear Channel middle management. This one was too obvious. The San Antonio-based conglomerate has been trying to atone for their many crimes of years past, which rightly proved them to be a hardcore Republican outfit seeking to make radio even blander with cookie-cutter formats, programming on the cheap, overly partisan talk radio and a loss of local appeal in many of their markets. In recent years, they've tried to clean up their act, as they received some of the worst P.R. in the history of broadcasting, becoming a poster child for all that's wrong with big media.
In their defense, they've been trying to clean up their act. They've become more attentive in their local markets. And they also shook up their talk radio formats a bit, surprisingly flipping a few of their weaker AM stations to the progressive talk format. Unfortunately, this little bit of goodwill gave them a black eye when some of their management clusters began dropping the format, often in the sloppiest of ways.
While format decisions usually do not come from San Antonio, they are often delegated to regional managers. One regional manager ordered the format removed from stations in Madison, Columbus, Cincinnati, and Akron. A mass outcry and local staff revolt kept the format on WXXM in Madison, but in the other three markets, the stations flipped formats, and all three currently have only a small fraction of the listeners they had when they carried the format. WSAI in Cincinnati has already changed formats a second time since then.
And the regional manager who oversees San Diego ordered KLSD, which has seen both ratings and revenue success (some rumors claim $1.5 million annually) to become the market's third sports station. Company-owned stations in Boston, New Haven, All format flips were met with a large outcry, rallies, petitions and disdain, pissing away a large amount of goodwill that Clear Channel had accrued in the past few years.
2. John Simson. You may be asking yourself, who is John Simson? He's enough of a total turkey to have been oh-so-close to taking the top spot. This failed singer/songwriter-turned empty suit is currently the head of SoundExchange, an organization charged with collecting performance fees for the Recording Industry Association of America that supposedly are paid out to the artists who create the music. At least in theory. One would guess that more of this money goes into the gas tank of Simson's Mercedes than in the hands of the recording artists. And with gas prices on the rise, no wonder Simson and his music mafia goons tried to shake down internet radio. Earlier this year, SoundExchange threatened to impose a ridiculous royalty fee for webcasters, one that would be feasible only for the likes of Yahoo! and Microsoft. It would put smaller independent webcasters like Radio Paradise and Soma.FM out of business. And shut down unique services such as Pandora and AccuRadio. Hobby webcasters, who saw webcasting as a way to let their voices be heard without the massive expense of a terrestrial radio signal, would find the door slammed shut in their faces. To put it in layman's terms, establishing a webcast outlet that plays music is easier to launch than one that doesn't. In short, he tried to strong-arm one of the remaining hopes of independent broadcast media.
The recording industry has adapted poorly to the internet era. And they're so panicked by that realization that their attempts to fit in have been rather crass. Whether it be shutting down webcasting, screwing their artists, suing 85-year olds for allegedly downloading 2Pac songs off Kazaa and for passing off mindless junk like the Pussycat Dolls as 'music,' the RIAA has taken all the fun out of the medium. They claim that people who pay $12 bucks for a 14-song CD with only 3 or 4 good ones is not buying a CD, but merely purchasing the right to listen to it. No wonder why high-profile artists like Radiohead and Trent Reznor decided to skip the music cartel altogether and take their latest works directly to the fans via their websites.
Well, this little extortion scam backfired, as Simson and company eventually backed off his fiery rhetoric, particularly since Congress threatened to intervene. Now, they're shifting their war to terrestrial broadcasters, as they shake down the Clear Channels of the world for gas money. Ironic in that it's usually the record labels who bribe station programmers with money, prizes, vacations, hookers, blow, etc. to play their latest piece of shit release.
Now, I'm not saying the artists and the labels who distribute them should go pound sand. They have a right to be compensated for their work. But not at the expense of insulting and pissing off their fans. They simply need to stop looking at their customers as 'the enemy.' And they need to stop trying to shoot themselves in the foot.
And finally, the moment you've all been waiting for. The one entity who symbolizes everything that a turkey should be. The 2007 Turkey of the Year is...
FOX 'News' Channel. Who else? Let us count the ways...
1. Following the Congressional election last November, which saw Democrats winning huge, FOX Noise's VP of news (if such a thing as 'news' exists there) sent an internal memo to staffers and reporters, telling them how to do their job the right way. Included were instructions to hype how terrorists must be thrilled with the prospect of a Democrat-controlled Congress. Gee, no wonder why they began seeking out a "freelance fact writer" (sic) a few weeks later. In an unrelated incident around the same time, the network paid a $2 million ransom to free two of their reporters from a Palestinian terrorist group, which likely used the money to buy more weapons and "to hit the Zionists." And yes, paying ransom money to terrorist organizations is illegal U.S. anti-terrorist legislation.
2. As right-wingers were obviously jealous over the success of the satirical news shows from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert on Comedy Central, FOX Nuisance decided the time was right to create their own 'fair and balanced' version. They hunted high and low for a right-wing producer and found one in Joel Surnow, creator of the hit FOX comedy 24, and Rush Limbaugh's Dominican Republic cruising buddy. After months of planning, casting and a horrifying pilot that envisioned Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter as President and Vice President, the 1/2Hour News Hour debuted on a Sunday night in February. Reviews were brutal for this laughless 'comedy' show. Still, FOX persevered, and produced enough episodes for an extended run, initially pulling in a few more viewers than their typical Sunday night fare, proving that they could actually find a hundred thousand people who will laugh at any joke that has the word "Hillary" in it. But ratings sank like a rock when the already stale jokes got even more so, and the network realized that Geraldo reruns were cheaper to produce and got roughly the same result. This turkey was was sent to the chopping block last August.
3. Fox Nuisance needed that 'fact writer' more than ever after some ridiculous sleight of hand on some of their on-screen graphics that, among other things, labeled disgraced Republicans such as Mark Foley as 'Democrats," and claimed Scooter Libby as 'not guilty.' Ironically, these exploits proved to be funnier than the ill-fated comedy show.
4. It seems that FOX News, while pandering hard to Bible-banging conservatives, works hard at attracting viewers the old fashioned way, with ample amounts of T & A, in essence becoming the news channel for sexually frustrated Republicans. Which would mean all of them. And they attack our morality. Sheesh!
5. Not content with whitewashing the so-called 'news' content on television, they were caught red-handed creating their own little fantasy world via Wikipedia. And if that doesn't work (and it didn't), they could always sic their own pit bulls on their alleged 'enemies.' Just so long as it isn't Geraldo Rivera.
6. There's also that ridiculous "War on Christmas" thing.
7. For all their antics, it was no surprise that the Democratic Party decided to finally give FOX the middle finger and cancel a presidential candidate debate that was scheduled to air last summer.
So, for Roger Ailes, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, John Gibson and the usual gang of idiots, you all get top honors this year. Yes, for all you do, this Turkey's for you! FOX 'News' Channel, the 2007 Turkey of the Year.