Archive for the 'the_media' Category

Rosen’s Simple Fix for Sunday TV

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

Jay Rosen thinks the Sunday politics shows on TV could be improved: My Simple Fix for the Messed Up Sunday Shows:

The beauty of this idea is that it turns the biggest weakness of political television–the fact that time is expensive, and so complicated distortions, or simple distortions about complicated matters, are rational tactics for advantage-seeking pols–into a kind of strength.  The format beckons them to evade, deny, elide, demagogue and confuse…. but then they pay for it later if they give into temptation and make that choice.  So imagine the midweek fact check from last week as a short segment wrapping up the show the following week. Now you have an incentive system that’s at least pointed in the right direction.

This assumes, of course, that the Sunday chat shows are interested in fostering truth for its own sake. I get the feeling that news divisions at the networks have been moving in a different direction for a while now. But maybe calling people on their B.S. would be good for some ratings?

I actually don’t think more than a handful of people actually watch those shows. But since that handful includes lots of bloggers and politicians, maybe putting Rosen’s truth incentive in place would still have some sort of impact, at least among bloggers and/or politicians?

Jon v. Sean

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Again! Again with the Daily Show clip!

So, do you want to punch Sean Hannity in the nose?

How about now?

Obama [heart] E.T.

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

From, which sort of looks like a newspaper. Remember when we had those? Anyway: Official disclosure of extraterrestrial life is imminent.

For several months, senior administration officials have been quietly deliberating behind closed doors how much to disclose to the world about extraterrestrial life.

You heard it here first.

Jon Leaves It There

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

Oops; I almost forgot my pledge to make consist of nothing but reposted videos. Here you go: The Daily Show fact-checks CNN’s fact-checking operation:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
CNN Leaves It There
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Ron Paul Interview

Audiovisual Commentary on the Birther Conspiracy

Friday, September 25th, 2009

It’s the all-YouTube, all-the-time version of

This really is pretty fun. Well, scary. Fun and scary.

It’s a twofer!

Benen on Global Warming Deniers in the Mainstream (Conservative) Press

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

I normally skip about half of Steve Benen’s articles at The Washington Monthly’s Political Animal blog; he’s a little too convinced of the rightness of his position for my taste, and suffers in comparison to Kevin Drum, who used to be the main blogger there. I still go there for Hilzoy, though, and once in a while Benen has an item I like. Like this one:  Deniers.

If the left and right disagreed on how best to address policy challenges, that would at least open the door to constructive dialog. But we’re still stuck in a political environment in which prominent conservative voices at high-profile conservative outlets a) don’t recognize the difference between climate and weather; b) find meaningless anecdotes compelling evidence of global trends; and c) are entirely comfortable delaying necessary solutions while an already-completed debate continues.

Shawn Johnson, R.I.P.

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

I know it’s kind of sick, but I did laugh at this:

As usual with the Onion, it’s not just the idea. It’s how they follow through on it.

Fox News Says Something Fair and Balanced

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

From the “Man Bites Dog” department:

I’m (obviously) not much of a Fox News watcher. Those of you who are: Is this typical behavior for Shepard Smith?

Hannity, Olbermann, Scylla on Waterboarding

Saturday, May 2nd, 2009

Sean Hannity says waterboarding is not torture, and is an appropriate tool for the US government to employ against suspected terrorists. In case you haven’t noticed, Sean Hannity is also something of a jackass.

Charles Grodin was challenging Hannity on the issue on Fox last week, and asked whether he would consent to be waterboarded.

“Sure,” Hannity said. “I’ll do it for charity … I’ll do it for the troops’ families.”

It wasn’t exactly clear how serious the conversation was, since Grodin joked, “Are you busy on Sunday?” and Hannity laughed.

“I’ll let you do it,” Hannity said.

“I wouldn’t do it,” Grodin said. “I’ll hand you a towel when you come out of the shower.”

Olbermann’s offer was quick. Besides the $1,000 per second, Olbermann said he’d double it if Hannity acknowledges he feared for his life and admits that waterboarding is torture.

More, if you’re interested, in this AP article: Olbermann presses Hannity on his waterboard offer.

For the record, I think Keith Olbermann is also something of a jackass, albeit a different kind of jackass than Hannity.

If you get tired of waiting for Hannity to follow through on his offer, there are plenty of other firsthand accounts of waterboarding online. One of the more interesting ones I’ve read lately is by Scylla, a politically conservative user of The Straight Dope: I waterboard!

Greg Miller on the CIA’s Failure to Evaluate Torture

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

Just when I’d pretty much decided that the LA Times was useless, they run a front-page article today by Greg Miller that hits the sweet spot of my current obsession with torture justification: CIA reportedly declined to closely evaluate harsh interrogations.

McClatchy: Torture Used to Find Iraq – al Qaeda Link

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

McClatchy’s Jonathan S. Landay reminds us of what it was like when we had real journalists. From Report: Abusive tactics used to seek Iraq-al Qaida link:

“There were two reasons why these interrogations were so persistent, and why extreme methods were used,” the former senior intelligence official said on condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity.

“The main one is that everyone was worried about some kind of follow-up attack (after 9/11). But for most of 2002 and into 2003, Cheney and Rumsfeld, especially, were also demanding proof of the links between al Qaida and Iraq that (former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed) Chalabi and others had told them were there.”

It was during this period that CIA interrogators waterboarded two alleged top al Qaida detainees repeatedly – Abu Zubaydah at least 83 times in August 2002 and Khalid Sheik Muhammed 183 times in March 2003 – according to a newly released Justice Department document.

I’m all for looking forward, and not spending political capital on partisan fighting. But looking forward, I don’t want to live in a country that lets torturers who committed Spanish Inquisition-style barbarity in pursuit of political cover for their lame policy choices get off scott-free.

Tomasky on Gingrich on David Hamilton on Jesus vs. Allah

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

With a title like this, how could I not read it? How they lie: a case study. Michael Tomasky, writing in the Guardian, goes on about something Newt Gingrich said in an interview in Christianity Today. Here’s the Gingrich quote:

You have Obama nominating Judge Hamilton, who said in her ruling that saying the words Jesus Christ in a prayer is a sign of inappropriate behavior, but saying Allah would be OK. You’ll find most Republican senators voting against a judge who is confused about whether you can say Jesus Christ in a prayer, particularly one who is pro-Muslim being able to say Allah.

And yeah, as far as it goes, it appears Gingrich is playing fast and loose with the facts. Judge Hamilton is a man, David Hamilton, so Gingrich referring to him as her is either a sloppy error or a cleverly chosen lie intended to push the buttons of the readers of Christianity Today. Given that there has been extensive press coverage of Hamilton’s nomination, Obama’s first to the federal judiciary, I think the “sloppy error” theory doesn’t really hold water.

Tomasky tells a sob story of having to google his way through “four or five pages” of returned results, and links to a story at (Judicial Nominee Says Prayers to Allah Okay, But Not to Jesus), saying, “This one apparently set things going.” That article is pretty bad, it’s true; it says this, for example:

Hamilton has ideal liberal credentials. He is a former ACLU lawyer and was a fundraiser for the corrupt group known as ACORN. This organization engages in fraudulent voter registration campaigns and is deeply involved in housing and poverty issues. Obama was an attorney for ACORN when he worked as a “community organizer” in Chicago. ACORN will be gathering data for the 2010 Census.

This lawyer is so radical that the liberal ABA rated him as “not qualified” when Bill Clinton nominated him for a district court post in 1994.

A few minutes’ googling on my part tells me that that characterization is pretty out there. There’s no mention of either the ACLU or ACORN in any of the three online bios of Hamilton that I’ve read. Hamilton is widely respected, has the support of Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), and is generally being talked about has having been chosen by Obama as his first nominee precisely because he’s a respected centrist.

Tomasky doesn’t really get into that. What he does get into is the question of whether or not Hamilton explicitly said mentions of Allah were okay.

So here’s where the lie comes in. Hamilton did indeed rule that Jesus Christ must not be mentioned in legislative prayers. But what did he say about Allah? It practically goes without saying that the decision doesn’t so much as mention Allah. So this is what his wing-nut critics are doing: They’re using the fact that he proscribes mentions of Jesus but does not specifically proscribe mentions of Allah to assert that he thinks mentions of Allah would be perfectly, as it were, kosher.

Um, no, actuallly. It’s kind of funny, what with all the agonies he suffered paging through Google results, that Tomasky didn’t come across this Ed Whelan item from NRO (Seventh Circuit Nominee David Hamilton: “Allah” Yes, “Jesus” No). It’s dated March 26, the same day as the blog entry that Tomasky did link to. Whelan quotes from a post-judgment ruling in which Hamilton said that mentions of “Allah” would be okay, given the larger context that the Indiana House of Representatives does not seem to be engaged in advancing Islam at the expense of other religions in the same way that the found-to-be-unconstitutional behavior was advancing Christianity.

What do I take away from this? That short of doing some in-depth research myself (which is far easier today than it has ever been before, and probably isn’t worth whining about), I really can’t trust partisans of either the right or the left not to be dicks who mislead me intentionally in order to further their respective agendas.

More than ever, quality of sources matters. Just because it’s easy to find information that supports your pre-existing bias doesn’t mean it’s right to restrict yourself to such information. For one thing, it makes it really easy for unscrupulous people to manipulate your perceptions.

In Which CW 11, YouTube, and Improv Everywhere Demonstrate What’s Wrong with Intellectual Property Law

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

From the droll subversives at Improv Everywhere: CW 11 Files Copyright Claim. Basically, they faked a scene-gone-bad on April 1, uploading a video to YouTube that showed them crashing a funeral. Which would have been in really poor taste, obviously, but it’s the sort of poor taste the group has shown in the past, so it was at least somewhat credible on the face of it. But it was April 1, and as everyone knows, everything on the Web should be assumed to be false on that day until proven otherwise. (Personally, I just ignore the Web completely on April 1, except to grumble about the unfunnyness of perpetrating pranks that require essentially zero effort. But I digress.)

I wouldn’t have bothered posting about this, except for what happened next: a local TV news crew at CW 11 was apparently taken in by the prank, and aired the group’s YouTube video while the bubblehead talked over it about how the group had perpetrated a hoax-gone-bad. So then Agent Todd posted the video of the “news” segment on YouTube. And then Tribune, the owner of the newscast, sent a copyright violation notice to YouTube and had the video pulled. Writes Agent Todd:

So it’s OK for them to air content that we shot and own, but it’s not OK for me to upload their footage of the content they took from me? It’s “fair use” for the news to take a video off of YouTube and broadcast it, but it’s not “fair use” for a citizen to expose their poor reporting on his own content?

Of course, it has occurred to me that the whole story about the CW 11 news team covering the video could itself be a prank. True, the April 1 window has closed, but that never stopped Improv Everywhere before. And shortly after the above thought occurred to me, it occurred to me that actually, I don’t really care. And shortly after that, I stopped writing this item.

Rush Loses the Torture Argument on His Own Show

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009


Dyson, Owen, and Romm on Climate

Friday, March 27th, 2009

A trio of pieces to keep you (and me) saturated with tendentious climate change discussion:

The Civil Heretic – from this weekend’s New York Times Magazine, a lengthy profile of Freeman Dyson, and in particular, his contrarian views on anthropogenic climate change. I’m still reading it, but am enjoying it a lot. More after I’ve finished it, probably.

Economy vs. Environment – a New Yorker piece by David Owen that argues that responses to global warming are necessarily constrained by economic considerations. Likewise, still reading.

Paging Elizabeth Kolbert – by my man crush Joseph Romm, in which he fisks the aforementioned David Owen article. As I said, I’m not done reading Owen’s argument, but I’m willing to stipulate that Romm may be going over the top a bit in taking the fight to Owen. I dunno; I’ll see how I feel after digesting all three articles, and will post an update.

blog post subhead large

Friday, March 27th, 2009

The future arrives gradually. Unless you’re Rip Van Winkle, you don’t even notice. But once in a while there’s a signpost that says, “Yup. You’re living in the future.” I saw one this morning, and it arrived courtesy of the Los Angeles Times.

I get most of my news from the Web these days, but I like the ritual of reading the actual paper during breakfast. I know about the accumulating cutbacks in the editorial staff, and I’ve noticed changes: Fewer investigative pieces, more stories from wire services, shrinking (and then vanishing) sections. I know it’s happening, but it’s happening gradually.

But I think we’ve reached a tipping point:


Here’s a zoomed-in version:


My kids like to point out that I almost never actually laugh. When they tell a joke, the best they can usually hope for is that I’ll crack a smile. But I actually LOL’d when Linda showed me this page in the paper today.

As someone who previously worked in a professional publishing operation, though, this is actually fairly sad. It’s not that mistakes don’t happen; they always do. It’s not that they’ve had to cut back on the layers of proofreading that would have caught this early. It’s that this was a really glaring mistake. I think there’s a chance they knew about it before they went to press, but decided to print it like this anyway.

In an earlier era, the editorial folks would have said, “No way can you print it like this. We have to eat the cost of fixing it, or our reputation for competence will suffer horribly.” But if that conversation took place, apparently the editorial folks at the Times don’t have that kind of pull anymore.

Update: Kevin Roderick, writing in his LAO Blog (So much for those later deadlines), adds a little detail, courtesy of an email he received from someone who works on the Times’ Calendar section:

“We only have late deadlines Sunday through Wednesday nights. Thursday was our regular 3 pm deadline, which was delayed almost 40 minutes by the computer system crashing, which caused the Quick Takes problem.”

So, they ran out of time due to a computer system crash? And rather than delaying, they just sent the story anyway? That makes it sound like it may have been a known-when-it-went-out-the-door problem, rather than a not-noticed-until-it-was-gone problem, as I speculated in my original post. Which, again, is kind of depressing.

I haven’t seen any official acknowledgment or explanation so far. Here’s the text of a query I sent to Jamie Gold, the LA Times’ readers’ representative, last night.

I was one of a number of people who noticed the unfortunate proofreading error in Friday’s print edition, when the “Quick Takes” sidebar on D2 had all its placeholder headings (“tag briefs subhead large”, etc.) left in place, rather than being replaced by the actual headlines. I posted about it on my blog, at

As someone who has worked in the editorial operation at a number of trade magazines, I sympathize with the pain of having an error like that go out. I’m only too aware of how easy it is for such mistakes to happen. And really, it’s one of those things that is more humorous (at least from the outside) than anything else.

Except for an aspect of it that I can’t help wondering about (and that I talked about in my blog post): To what extent might this error be related to the widely reported cutbacks in editorial staff that your paper has made in the last few years? As a long-time subscriber, I’m concerned by the possibility that the erosion of the newspaper business model resulting from things like craigslist is going to lead to more staff cuts and more mistakes like this, as well as other, more significant reductions in editorial quality.

I hope the Times will publish some account of what happened, what steps, if any, are being taken to prevent a re-occurrence, and most importantly, what a subscriber like myself, who is concerned about the effects of editorial cutbacks, should think about the incident’s significance.

I looked in today’s paper for some mention, but couldn’t find anything. Has the issue already been addressed publicly? Will it be?


Later update: Jamie Gold, the Times’ reader’s rep, responded to me via email this afternoon:

A note on Page A4 in the “For the Record” section was published that day. In this case, it was a computer glitch — the final page that editors saw before sending the pages in showed the correct headlines, but what appeared off the presses didn’t match what editors had seen earlier.

But I’ll forward your point to editors for their thoughts about your broader concerns regarding quality control and staffing cuts.

So, that’s kind of cool, that she’s working on a Sunday answering random emails. I didn’t notice the A4 “For the Record” item on Friday, and appear to have used that section since then to light the barbecue, but I’ll take her word for it.

That explanation leaves a question unanswered, though: At what stage was the problem actually noticed? Was an explicit decision made to ship the problematic version? How much zeal can a reader of the Times reasonably expect the paper to employ in pursuit of editorial quality? I’m not trying to be snarky. I’m actually curious what the answer is, and I suspect that the answer might not be the same today as it was a few years ago.

Drum on Excess Certainty

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

Kevin Drum is a very smart dude: Listening to the Talking Heads. (Note: not the David Byrne Talking Heads.)

Mooney on Will on Warming

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

Chris Mooney offers a really good response to that recent George Will op-ed in the Washington Post that amounted to a raft of lies about global warming: Climate change’s myths and facts.

A recent controversy over claims about climate science by Post op-ed columnist George F. Will raises a critical question: Can we ever know, on any contentious or politicized topic, how to recognize the real conclusions of science and how to distinguish them from scientific-sounding spin or misinformation?

As Mooney’s article demonstrates, yeah, actually, we can. I’m happy to see the WaPo running Mooney’s article now. But I’m disturbed by what it says that it took so long for them to do so, after all the high-profile outrage that Will’s original piece produced.

For those on the right who persist in maintaining that global warming isn’t real, remind me again why defending your right to delude yourself is worth imposing a bullshit tax on scores or hundreds of future generations. Because I’m just not seeing it.

Romm on the Media’s Conspiracy of Silence

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

Joseph Romm continues to speak the truth about climate change, including in this item about non-coverage in the US media of the results of the recent Copenhagen Climate Science Congress: Conspiracy of silence.

In the last two years, our scientific understanding of business-as-usual projections for global warming has changed dramatically (see here and here). Yet, much of the U.S. public — especially conservatives — remain in the dark about just how dire the situation is (see here).

Why? Because the U.S. media is largely ignoring the story.

Romm goes on to summarize the key messages to come out of the conference, including that worst-case IPCC scenario trajectories for atmospheric CO2 concentrations (or worse) are being realized, and that “inaction is inexcusable.” Romm’s response?

What is inexcusable is US media coverage and the blinkered conservative strategy of scientific denial — what can only be described as a murder-suicide pact with the human race (see here).

Shirky on the Death of Newspapers

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

From Clay Shirky’s personal blog: Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable.

When someone demands to know how we are going to replace newspapers, they are really demanding to be told that we are not living through a revolution. They are demanding to be told that old systems won’t break before new systems are in place. They are demanding to be told that ancient social bargains aren’t in peril, that core institutions will be spared, that new methods of spreading information will improve previous practice rather than upending it. They are demanding to be lied to.

There are fewer and fewer people who can convincingly tell such a lie.