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At least one source is already calling the early box office for Sicko "healthy" ($1.3 million in 441 theaters on Friday).

UPDATE-2: Weekend total: $4.5 million to finish at No. 9. nationwide (full story here via

An aside: these numbers are approximately five-times weaker than the opening for Fahrenheit 9/11--but still very strong for a documentary.

Considering the pre-opening publicity for the film, which began in earnest a month ago, the high profile of the filmmaker, and the plethora of positive reviews, no one should be surprised at the initial interest in Michael Moore's latest offering.

Having said that, my hunch is, in the end, Sicko will fall well short of expectations (however, even if my prediction comes to pass and the picture goes South, don't hold your breath for much critical press coverage).

The feature-length documentary is receiving a big push from the studio and a first-class ride from the film-reviewing fraternity, many of whom are big fans of Michael Moore's politics and like-minded in their basic assumptions about America, big business and evil Republicans.

However, my prediction is that Sicko will not have legs. Once the usual suspects see the film (and go back and watch it again a few times for the team),* who else is really going to care about this film?

In general, American filmgoers are not fans of the documentary genre. In terms of style, if you have seen one Michael Moore film, you have seen them all. Why would Joe Sixpack and family spend thirty-some dollars to go see a serially angry and malcontented demagogue deliver a heavy-handed and patronizing harangue dripping with sarcasm and a depressingly redundant deep-seated cynicism?

In the bluntest terms, it is unlikely that the work will ever appeal to anyone other than the axis of American liberalism (Hollywood, the mainstream media and academia). One great irony is that the biggest fans of this film will be an elite echelon of Americans who actually enjoy the best health care in the world. Even more ironic, there are actually very few of these ostensibly compassionate humanitarians who will be willing to give up their own premium personal care to stand in line in some national health system so that the "unfortunate" might have more access. In the most practical sense, they are as much against "leveling" as William F. Buckley.

In the end, the hype around Sicko will prove to be another self-indulgent exercise of the American Left. Without seeing the picture, I can already tell you that it is a frontrunner for an Academy Award. Barring a late entry from Al Gore, Michael Moore should have a clear path to another statuette. On the other hand, Moore, who too often listens to his own press and the retinue of fools who encourage his antics, is still not a major player in American politics. He is a major player in Hollywood--but he carries very little weight (no pun intended) in fly-over country.

*UPDATE-1: This exhortation from the Daily Kos explains some of what is happening in re the weekend numbers:

Quoting Kos poster "hopesprings":

So if you want to see SICKO stick around and move into more and better venues, go see it this weekend. If you want all of America to be able to see it easily, go see it. See it again. And tell your friends to see it.

Will the campaign generate enough momentum to attract a wider audience? We'll see. But I stand by hunch.
Category: Media and Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
From the homepage of Congressman Mike Pence (R) Indiana:

Prohibits FCC From Reviving Fairness Doctrine

Read the full press release on Congressman Pence's website here.

What Happened?

Pence's amendment to the 2008 Financial Services Appropriations bill prohibiting funds from being used by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to impose the Fairness Doctrine passed the House of Representatives yesterday by a vote of 309-115.

Is this a big deal?

Not really. The story did not make a big splash. I heard about it on Washington Journal this morning. Having searched the Post and the Times and then Google, the most prominent mention of the amendment I can find is in the Hill. You may read the well-crafted and informative article here.

As the Hill points out, the bill speaks to the 2008 budget, and "there is little danger of the FCC restricting conservative radio while George W. Bush is president."

According to Pence, he intends to "introduce the Broadcaster Freedom Act to ensure that the victory we experienced on the House floor today extends to future generations."

I am less optimistic about that legislation.

Needless to say, the overwhelming vote for the Pence-Hensarling-Flake Amendment may not tell us much, as it was an opportunity to appeal to talk radio listeners without consequences. However, it is instructive to note that over 100 Democrats voted for the bill, which tells me they don't need a weather man to tell which way the wind is blowing in their home districts.

As I said a few days ago in this piece (you may review the entire post here), I am not greatly alarmed by the Democratic saber-rattling on this issue.

Quoting myself:

Such a move would incite a massive popular revolt that would dwarf the grassroots rebellion engendered over immigration. There has never been a more democratic apparatus in American political culture than talk radio, and fly-over country loves and appreciates this conduit to the centers of national power. Perhaps it is true that America grows more apathetic everyday--but an enormous portion of the remaining fighters and patriots listen to talk radio. Red-blooded, Red-State America can be mobilized in a single afternoon.

Dianne Feinstein and Hillary Clinton are foolhardy, indeed, for introducing this hot button subject into the arena. On the other hand, we should not look a gift issue in the mouth. If they want to threaten the conservative base with this scenario--let's kick it around.

Looks to me like Mike Pence and company are wisely kicking it.
I have ridiculed Good Morning America mercilessly over the course of my brief career as a blogger. No apologies; they have deserved every word of derision--and more. But, fair is fair, and this morning the GMA crew shocked me with their spin on the Elizabeth Edwards story.

This morning's program featured a live interview with Mrs. Edwards. Before Chris Cuomo began his questioning of the candidate's wife, he introduced a critical analysis piece by Jake Tapper as preface. Perhaps cynical or "unfriendly" is a more precise characterization of the report.

The phrases "political stunt" and "Coulter cash" kept coming up. The report questioned the timing of the clash with Coulter (we are up against a contributions accounting deadline) and the hypocrisy of denouncing Coulter but also unabashedly making use of her comments to raise desperately needed "cash" for the campaign.

These are obvious points--and dead on. But you can understand my surprise that they saw the light of day on GMA to be used against a Democratic politician.

You may read the Tapper piece here and also view the subsequent interview.

The line of questioning did not get any easier for Mrs. Edwards. After an obligatory and awkward compliment ("Mrs. Edwards, you are looking robust, today"), Cuomo played a longer clip of the Coulter comments on GMA that initiated this round of name-calling.

The original GMA (6-26) segment here via YouTube.

Note: I am posting the 7:23 full version (not the fifteen second clip that made the rounds). Ms. Coulter alludes to a Bill Maher comment in which he suggested that we would all be better off if Dick Cheney died in a terrorist attack. For what it is worth, you will note that Chris Cuomo did not seem to sense that Ms. Coulter had stepped over the line.

Cuomo to Edwards: "Hearing the quote in context, are you still angry?"

Mrs. Edwards responded with a litany of clichés and indirect answers.

A verbal mosaic (my interpretation of Mrs. Edwards's comments):

--Yes (I am still angry).
--Coulter is evil and she must be confronted
--I don't know or care what Bill Maher said; I am talking about Coulter
--What about the 9-11 widows?
--What about Hillary's "chubby legs"?
--We must stop Ann Coulter--not for us, but for the children

Cuomo: "Is this a political stunt?"

Mrs. Edwards:

--not self-interested, completely altruistic
--must make bold stand for future of America

Cuomo: "Was this a ploy to raise money on the eve of an important fundraising deadline?"

Mrs. Edwards:

--nothing to do with money
--had no idea it might help in polls or fundraising
--only for the children
--Just like I spoke out against racism in the South, I am speaking out against a similar evil

Wow! I was shocked. What had I witnessed?

Later: GMA ran a long puff piece on Hillary Clinton's female staffers: "Hillary Land." It was all cute stories, laughs and pictures of Hillary holding babies.

Now I was less impressed with GMA. Am I too cynical? If so, I cannot help myself. But it dawned on me suddenly why GMA was grilling Mrs. Edwards like she was the wife of a GOP candidate. Could it be that there is room for only one uber-mother in this campaign?
Category: Media and Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I recently received this gem from Tocqueville:

Don Luskin at the blog "The Conspiracy to Keep You Poor and Stupid" (among the best out there) reminds us of this idiotic Paul Krugman (a redundancy) quote (it's hard to pick just one), which would hover near the top of any list of the greatest idiotic quotes of all time (the collection of which is perhaps a worthwhile project and we already know where to look):

"I predict that in the years ahead Enron, not Sept. 11, will come to be seen as the greater turning point in U.S. society."

--Paul Krugman, January 29, 2002

Wow! How does a lame clown like that get to be a lead columnist at a newspaper that claims some authority? Don't you just love the New York Times? If it weren't there to prove that it exists, I would never credit a mere report of its existence.

Thanks, Tocqueville.
Liberal candidates, columnists and bloggers all across America are asking two questions this morning:

One officially: why do so many media outlets give so much face time to the vituperative queen of calumny, Ann Coulter?

One unofficially: how can we best publicize and exploit the actions of Ann Coulter to our advantage?

As for the latter question, Elizabeth Edwards, wife of candidate for president, John Edwards, with the aid of Chris Matthews, knocked one out of the park last night on Hardball.

This morning the leftwing blogs are all abuzz with the big political score. Shakespeare's Sister here is typical with this headline: "Elizabeth Edwards Smacks Down Ann Coulter." And this encouragement: "Go get her, Elizabeth." On Coulter: "she really is a soulless beast."

An aside: Over at Shakespeare's Sister, evidently, they really hate hate speech, so much so that there is a warning to friendly commenters not to call Coulter a "tranny."

What Happened on Hardball?

In an extremely cheesy and clumsily orchestrated moment worthy of Jerry Springer, Elizabeth Edwards called in to the show to confront the longtime John Edwards tormentor (view the YouTube here).

Mrs. Edwards, are you there? A pause. Is she there? What will she say? Wow! This is great TV.

"Stop the personal attacks!" Mrs. Edwards says. All these personal attacks are ruining the country.

An aside: is Mrs. Edwards calling for a new standard by which candidates and prominent figures should be judged? If so, she is advocating a revolution. How much ad hominem will need to be stricken from the record in re George Bush? And the next GOP candidate?

Does Ann Coulter have a point?

It is incumbent on candidates of personal tragedy to avoid making said tragedy a central part of their campaign. Elizabeth Edwards is battling a form of incurable cancer. John and Elizabeth Edwards tragically lost a young son.

Are the Edwards's prone to converting their tragedies into political capital? As Coulter pointed out, they are currently using Coulter's comments on their website to raise money. Does this "unplanned" attack, of which Mrs. Edwards claims the candidate knew nothing, play well? I think it does. Is it a publicity stunt? Who knows.

An Aside: The assertion that the Edwards brain trust did not approve this call into Chris Mathews stretches my credulity.

Is Ann Coulter a soulless beast debasing our political dialogue?

Quoting myself, quoting myself, quoting myself (this actually goes back to March of 2006):

"I think [Ms. Coulter] is often uproariously funny and sometimes very insightful, but I also think she can be crude and mean-spirited. Although I give her credit for outwitting Katie Couric (in all seriousness, that was a bravura performance), I think Coulter is something akin to our Maureen Dowd (funny, attractive, possessing a rapier wit but lacking compassion and judgment). Ann Coulter, for me, will forever be the woman who judged John Roberts unfit for the Supreme Court and attempted to reinvent Joe McCarthy as a great American hero."

In a nutshell: Ann Coulter is serially inappropriate and often completely erroneous.

She drew sufficient ire from conservatives following the last run-in with Edwards. Back then I refused to sign the Conservative Bloggers Anti-Ann Coulter Online Petition for reasons you may review here.

Having said that, my guess is that conservatives, many of whom are still waking up to this blow-up (in general, we are not regular Hardball viewers or Ann Coulter watchers), will, in fact, rally around the right to say intemperate things and react against the staged-hit aspects of this particular encounter.
Category: Media and Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
"Let not your heart be troubled."

This is an oft-repeated Sean-Hannity-ism, which he offers up to frantic callers predicting the end of the world (or, worse, the end of GOP dominance in Washington).

However, these days it is Sean who is convinced that the sky is falling, and he has a whole host of prominent conservatives ringing the same note.

Why is Sean Hannity so frazzled? The Democrats are attempting to resurrect the "Fairness Doctrine," which would end conservative talk radio as we know it.

Sean, let not your heart be troubled.

I completely agree that the old "Fairness Doctrine" (which was definitely doctrinaire--but not at all fair) stifled conservative opposition. I agree that a return of the erroneously titled "Fairness Doctrine" would mean a mortal blow to free speech in this country. And I agree that the Democrats would re-enact the hated ancien regime in a heart beat--if they could.

But now the good news--they can't. Not now. Not for a long time. Maybe not ever.

Regardless of Trent Lott's intemperate remarks recently, it is nearly impossible to imagine a United States Senate so dominated by Democrats in which legislation to reinstitute the "Fairness Doctrine" could muster anywhere near the sixty votes needed to pass. And, while a more significant worry might be a Clinton-44 FCC re-regulating the airwaves, such an attempt to capture the conservative genie and return it back to the bottle would face a dubious judiciary chocked full of free-speech-supporting conservative appointees.

Most importantly, such a move would incite a massive popular revolt that would dwarf the grassroots rebellion engendered over immigration. There has never been a more democratic apparatus in American political culture than talk radio, and fly-over country loves and appreciates this conduit to the centers of national power. Perhaps it is true that America grows more apathetic everyday--but an enormous portion of the remaining fighters and patriots listen to talk radio. Red-blooded, Red-State America can be mobilized in a single afternoon. I pity the fool who takes them on.

Dianne Feinstein and Hillary Clinton are foolhardy, indeed, for introducing this red meat subject into the arena. On the other hand, we should not look a gift issue in the mouth. If they want to threaten the conservative base with this scenario--let's kick it around.
Category: Media and Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
A few notes on this story from yesterday, which has been worked hard on the blogosphere and talk radio:

The MSNBC headline: "Journalists dole out cash to politicians (quietly);
News organizations diverge on handling of political activism by staff."

The text of the article here.

My quick reactions:

1. A misleading lead. Although the lead offers one CNN reporter who contributed $500.00 to John Kerry in 2004 and one Forbes editor who gave $2000.00 to Republicans and one more Dow Jones editor who gives money to, we do not learn that Democratic giving outnumbers Republican 125 to 17 until the last sentence of the third graph. The lead and headline imply a sense of proportionality that the facts do not bear out.

2. Later on we learn that many of the great liberal-leaning news orgs (NYT and CBS, for example) absolutely ban political contributions. An obvious inference (although it is never stated explicitly): even with the liberals trying to tamp down the glaring disparity in political giving, THE DEMS STILL OUTNUMBER THE REPUBS 125 to 17.

3. Why have liberal-leaning news orgs soured on political giving? Not because there is anything wrong with supporting the candidates you really want to win. No. It is a matter of perception.

Quoting the article:

"First came the conservative outcry labeling the mainstream media as carrying a liberal bias. The growth of talk radio and cable slugfests gave voice to that claim. Finally, it became easier for the blogging public to look up the donors."

Why? They've been caught.

And this sublimely revealing response from the Times (within the story):

"Given the ease of Internet access to public records of campaign contributors, any political giving by a Times staff member would carry a great risk of feeding a false impression that the paper is taking sides."

The Times doesn't want to feed the false impression that a huge majority of their objective reporters are partisans. Priceless.

4. PR over substance. The simple answer for the knotty public relations problem confronting left-leaning news orgs seems to be concealing their biases by outlawing personal contributions to candidates. However, with all due respect to the Orwellian logic of the New York Times, this self-imposed ban will in no way reduce the prevalence of liberal reporters spinning the facts through the prism of their core beliefs and political agendas; it will merely give us one less tool with which to hold them up to critical evaluation.

5. After a decade of close scrutiny, I am surprised the liberal-leaning media did not shut down this embarrassing window into their inner workings long ago. I guess they just could not help themselves.

Note: Thanks to Tocqueville for pointing me to this story early on yesterday morning. My delay in weighing-in is my own fault. And, frankly, I have not followed all the blogging and commentary on this, but I can imagine that many observers have had similar reactions.

Previous Bosque Boys conversations concerning politics and media:

What Liberal Bias? (here)


The Genius and Humor of Fair and Balanced (I'll opine, you decide) (here).

From Michael (website here):

"C-SPAN Blacklists Savage's Speech!"


Michael Savage claims that C-SPAN censored him when they opted not to show his acceptance speech at a Talkers magazine award banquet, where he was honored with the "Freedom of Speech Award," which he describes as "the paramount award of the event."

Comparing the snub to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's closing down TV stations, Savage intimated that C-SPAN and Brian Lamb (CEO), along with his big media conspirators, are out to silence him.

He has suggested that his listeners write, call and email C-SPAN to voice their indignation with this brand of liberal McCarthyism. And Savage's fans have responded, inundating C-SPAN with abusive protests, some of which Brian Lamb featured on Washington Journal this morning (link here --6-15-07).

Savage is also trying to sell a DVD of the speech for $20.00 on his website. "See the video too hot for left-wing C-SPAN!" hawks one of his links. More information about the incident is promised on another link, although you must wade through offers to buy a "liberalism is a mental disorder" coffee mug and a "Savage Nation" ball cap before you arrive at the less-than-satisfying explanation.

Who is Michael Savage?

According to Talkers, Savage has over eight million listeners per week and is in third place overall behind Rush and Sean Hannity (view complete list from the magazine here).

From his own site:

"[Michael Savage is] an explosive conservative radio talk show host, who continues to dominate the airwaves with his brash commentary and unapologetic solutions. The 10 million listeners who tune into Savage each week can't be wrong!" (the full self-congratulatory, self-promoting bio here).

Is anyone actually buying this story?

The so-called Free Republic weighs in (link here):

"C-SPAN, which claims to be nonpartisan and nonideological, was there and carried most of the speeches. But for some reason, it blacklisted Savage's speech accepting the award.

"Why would a nonideological network do this? More liberal media bias, obviously. C-SPAN has now willingly made itself part of the liberal effort to suppress freedom of speech in this country."

Once again: WHAT!?!

The truth is, of course, Brian Lamb and C-SPAN have provided the most unrestricted forum for conservative intellectualism in the brief history of electronic media. All the while, they have provided a similar forum for liberal ideas, but with much less impact, as liberal thought already had numerous esteemed channels to disseminate messages.

I think and write about media and politics a lot. How do you categorize C-SPAN? Liberal? Alternative? Public? None of those really work. C-SPAN exists in a league unto itself. C-SPAN attempts to show all points of view without editorial comment. C-SPAN is fundamentally conservative in the ultimate Jeffersonian libertarian sense ("give the people light and they will find the way"), but the relatively unwatched mother lode of political information remains the only completely pure source of unvarnished news.

Brian Lamb is a national treasure, and his brainchild, C-SPAN, is the most positive development in American political culture during the last half-century.

What Actually Happened:

Brian's explanation this morning: Savage was not there. He sent a video acceptance speech to the Talkers banquet. C-SPAN elected not to show the video, but C-SPAN offered to come and tape a live speech or cover his radio show for airing at some future date.

Free Republic confirms this account of the events:

Michael Savage, Freedom Of Speech Award: NO SHOW (Savage Skips Own Award Ceremony) (link here):

Quoting a Free Republic post:

Again underscoring his ultra- reclusive nature, the "Savage Nation" host unexpectedly failed to appear at a ceremony where he was to pick up an industry honor.

Selected to receive this year's Freedom Of Speech Award at the New Media Seminar held over the weekend in New York City, Savage instead substituted a hastily- made YouTube- style home video.

Who is Michael Savage really?

I am tempted to hoist Savage on a few of his favorite petards: he is a bum; he's garbage. Sorry. Could not resist the temptation.

Actually, Savage is a person of great intelligence and talent. His comedic timing borders on genius. He is truly an independent voice (wild card is probably more accurate) in the conservative movement (broadly construed), and he is a brilliant communicator.

Unfortunately, he is a sloppy thinker and a boorish bully.

If you don't have enough sense to figure out that C-SPAN is not the enemy, you are not worthy of a single listener. In the past, I have listened to him casually for a chuckle (and sometimes even a belly laugh)--although never when my young sons are in the car with me.

An aside: Fodder for a future post. Should we judge talk radio hosts by how well they model behavior for my boys. That is, would we want our children interacting and debating like the person to whom we are listening on the radio? If the answer is no, perhaps we find another station.

Anyhow, no more Michael Savage on my dial. I am giving up this guilty pleasure.

Brian Lamb or Michael Savage?

Not a tough decision. Michael Savage is dead to me.