Archive for the 'the_media' Category

Thorstein Veblen on the Media, 1915

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

Via Dan Gillmor in Boing Boing, via Joe Costello: Thorstein Veblen, Prescient on Today’s Media.

Systematic insincerity on the part of the ostensible purveyors of information and leaders of opinion may be deplored by persons who stickle for truth and pin their hopes of social salvation on the spread of accurate information.

As a former worker in the editorial department of a magazine publisher, I think Veblen was pretty accurate in his analysis of the origins and outline of the problem. At least, his description of “the current periodical press” matched up pretty closely with my own experience.

Johnston on the Obama Press Operation

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

This piece by David Cay Johnston was interesting to me: Who’s undercutting Obama? I’m not in a position to pass judgement on Obama’s press operation with regard to whether people answer the phone, get snippy when asked to spell their names, or assume they can unilaterally declare their comments off the record. But I do feel qualified to judge the changes to whitehouse.gov.

I know J.A.Y.S.O.N. thinks it’s a much better-designed website than it was under Bush, and since he knows a lot more about design than I do I’ll take that as a given. I’m more of a content guy. The thing that gets me excited in a website is content. Ridiculous amounts of content. Stacks of content. Reams of content. Browseable. Linkable.

For all Bush’s failings (at least a couple of which I seem to recall mentioning before), the White House website under Bush was a vast improvement over his predecessor’s. And from the perspective of content, Obama’s version of the site, at least so far, looks like a big step backward.

It’s not just that many thousands of pages went fwap! and disappeared overnight. That’s a serious issue (in light of the intent behind the Presidential Records Act, I’d think it might even be a legal issue, or at least ought to be, if and when the law catches up). But I can understand that requiring a new president to maintain the web content of his predecessor might be problematic, and would become moreso over time. But maybe the former site could have been transitioned to a permanent home at the Library of Congress, with the old URLs being redirected? Massive amounts of linkrot isn’t the sort of change I believe in.

(Update: Well, duh. It’s at the Bush Library: Welcome to the White House.)

Setting that aside, and judging the new site on its own merits, it just isn’t very good from a content standpoint. Yes, it has a some nice images and an actual “blog” that dares to speak its name, and the link farm at the bottom of every page has been helpful as I poke around. And yes, I know that Obama has been putting out videos on YouTube. But the press materials at whitehouse.gov are seriously lacking, which I assume is related to the press office problems that David Cay Johnston is griping about.

It looks like we’re getting briefing transcripts, which is nice. But the old site had transcripts and full audio files and full video streams of all news conferences and press briefings. I really liked that stuff. And lest you think I’m being all rich-media snobby, allow me to repeat: I’m a content guy from way back. I think putting out a ridiculous profusion of primary source material in every conceivable format and getting the fuck out of the way is, or should be, a web content creator’s first responsibility. And as much as it pains me to say it, at this point Team Obama’s geeks are getting their web-content asses handed to them by Team Bush. They’re thinking small, in an area where their small-minded predecessor thought big (or at least was oblivious enough that some geeky underling was able to think big on his behalf).

What’s up with that?

On punditry and discourse

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

http://www.thedailyshow.com/video/index.jhtml?videoId=215338&title=pundit-school

I’ve been critical of the style of argument for a long time. This little clip was very eye opening to me, confirming what I’ve suspected for a long time. Shows like Hannity’s America or Hardball have has much to do with debate as professional wrestling has to do with prizefighting.

Peter Schiff on the Coming Economic Meltdown — Two Years Ago

Saturday, November 29th, 2008

So, is this a stopped clock being right twice a day? Or a little boy pointing out the emperor’s naked backside while being laughed at by his fellow pundits?

My favorite part: Ben Stein at 6:31 encouraging everyone to load up on all those “astonishing bargains” in financial sector stocks. So, I wonder how much of his own money Stein put on that bet?

I don’t know anything about investing. But if you don’t ever bother to go back and compare what your experts said would happen to what actually did happen, well, you’re terminally clueless.

In which case, you’re probably perfectly willing to accept Rush Limbaugh’s assertion that “the Obama recession is in full swing, ladies and gentlemen.”

Well, I guess it’s true enough, at least in the sense that Obama is going to be the one to have to deal with cleaning up the mess. But somehow, I don’t think that’s what Rush meant when he said it.

Campbell Brown on the Anti-Palin Smears

Friday, November 7th, 2008

I’m not sure what I think about Campbell Brown. I’m generally unhappy with the direction CNN has gone in the last several years; the market has its own inexorable logic, I know, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it that a network I basically trusted back in the day is giving itself a gradual Fox News makeover. Even when I agree with the positions being presented, I still mourn the loss of actual journalism that goes along with the pursuit of loud, colorful, snarky ratings.

But that aside, I’ll say this for Brown: Several times now I’ve heard her make exactly the same “you liars need to be called on it” argument that I’ve made myself about some specific piece of high-profile B.S. As she did here:

McCain’s Khalidi Smear

Friday, October 31st, 2008

Various places have been commenting on this video of McCain’s sleazy spokesperson, Michael Goldfarb, in which Goldfarb tries to save Florida for McCain by creating the impression that Obama is a scary guy who pals around with terrorists and anti-Semites:

There have been two main responses to Goldfarb’s comments: First, there was ridicule at how Goldfarb tried to raise Jeremiah Wright without actually naming him (since McCain has said that Wright is off the table). But since then, there has been even more pushback regarding the smear of Rashid Khalidi, which CNN anchor Rick Sanchez apparently accepted as factual.

Lindsey Beyerstein is one of many people who are outraged by that, in The McCain spokesman and the phantom antisemite:

The McCain campaign is attacking an innocent academic in a way that can only be described as racist.

The man has done absolutely nothing wrong. Yes, he’s pro-Palestinian. That doesn’t make him a terrorist. Yes, he has been critical of Israel’s human rights record in Palestine. That doesn’t make him an antisemite.

If John McCain is too ignorant or too bigoted to see the difference between an academic critic of of the Israeli occupation and a terrorist, he’s even less fit to be president than I thought.

More likely, McCain knows perfectly well that Khalidi is neither a terrorist nor Jew-hater. McCain’s own institute, which is dedicated to promoting democracy and human rights, funded Khalidi’s work in Gaza for many years. McCain appeared on television opposite Khalidi in 1991, which I doubt he would have done if he really thought Khalidi was a terrorist.

LAT Editors: Who Can Heal This Rift?

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

I actually really liked the lead editorial in the Los Angeles Times today. I realize they’re cutting editorial staff left and right to align themselves with the new paradigm, but apparently they still have an editor or two who’s thinking about what it all means.

From Bringing us together.

McCain since has tried to cool off his supporters, but he lit this fire — he and no one else is responsible for those who shriek at Palin’s rallies, who proclaim that Obama is an Arab and who wish him harm. This campaign is more crass and more virulent because McCain made it so. That Palin has ended up alienating not only moderates but also conservatives is this race’s enduring irony.

On the question of who will best bind up this torn nation, we are far more troubled by what we know about McCain than what we don’t know about Obama. It is proper to admire McCain’s service to his nation — as a military man and as a senator — and he deserves our respect. On the question of who best can reunite us, however, we cannot put our faith in a man who has done so much to drive us apart.

Greg Sargent on Big Media on McCain/Palin’s Inciting Their Crowds

Friday, October 10th, 2008

An interesting-to-me item from Greg Sargent at TPM: Note To News Orgs: McCain And Palin Are Largely Responsible For Unhinged Tone At Their Rallies.

The news orgs are beginning to weigh in with big takes on what is unquestionably one of the most important stories of Campaign 2008: The pathologically-unhinged tone that McCain-Palin supporters are displaying at rallies of late.

The New York Times has a write-up here; The Washington Post has one here, and The Politico has one here.

This is a welcome development, and the stories are pretty good. But the news orgs are still dancing around the central story here: That McCain and Palin themselves are largely responsible for what’s happening.

In Which I Write a Cranky Letter to Cathleen Decker of the LA Times

Sunday, September 14th, 2008

From: jbc@lies.com
Subject: Yes, but why does it work?
Date: September 14, 2008 10:31:50 AM PDT
To: cathleen.decker@latimes.com
Cc: letters@latimes.com

As your article (“Why do politicians fudge the truth? Because it works”) correctly points out, politicians lie because it helps them win elections. What your article fails to do, though, is to pose, and answer, the obvious followup question: Why does it work? And how is it that a politician can do what the McCain campaign has been doing for the last week and a half (that is, lie blatantly and repeatedly, even continuing to use the same lies after they have been exposed as such) without paying a price for it in terms of public support?

In part, they can do it because of lazy, irresponsible journalism that presents a false equivalence between two things that are not equal. The premise of your piece is that both the McCain campaign and the Obama campaign are engaged in what is essentially the same sort of dishonesty. That is objectively, verifiably false. The McCain campaign is being much more dishonest than the Obama campaign. In fact, the McCain campaign is being more dishonest than any presidential campaign I’ve seen over the past 30 years. Meanwhile, the Obama campaign has been setting new standards for truthfulness. (I will grant you, given the nature of our political campaigns, that that is not a very high bar. But Obama is clearing it. Just as McCain’s tactics represent a new low.)

I don’t know why your article does such a poor job of portraying this reality. I don’t know if it is the result of incompetence and inexperience, or of a cynical decision-making process. I don’t know if you, as the reporter, were primarily to blame, or if the fault lies more with your editors. I do know this, however: As professional journalists in general, and newspaper reporters in particular, struggle to maintain their relevance in the marketplace of ideas, they can’t abandon their primary professional obligation: The accurate reporting of objective truth. Your article fails that test, and fails it badly.

John Callender
jbc@lies.com

http://www.lies.com/

Update:

From: Cathleen.Decker@latimes.com
Subject: Re: Yes, but why does it work?
Date: September 14, 2008 11:53:19 AM PDT
To: callender.john@gmail.com

The article includes 18 paragraphs on McCain misstatements, to 2 for Obama. Twice it says McCain has been more egregious. I don’t think the full story suggests an equivalence.
Thank you for reading and conversing.
Cathy
Cathleen Decker
State Politics Editor
Los Angeles Times
Cathleen. Decker@latimes. Com

From: callender.john@gmail.com
Subject: Re: Yes, but why does it work?
Date: September 14, 2008 12:59:50 PM PDT
To: Cathleen.Decker@latimes.com

On Sep 14, 2008, at 11:53 AM, Decker, Cathleen wrote:

> The article includes 18 paragraphs on McCain misstatements,
> to 2 for Obama. Twice it says McCain has been more egregious.
> I don’t think the full story suggests an equivalence.

Where does the article say McCain has been more egregious? I can see only one suggestion of that, not two, and the statement is made only indirectly:

‘Political innocents may wonder why a candidate like McCain, whose campaign is premised on what he calls “straight talk” — and to a lesser extent Obama — have veered from the flat truth.’

It’s not immediately clear what that “and to a lesser extent Obama” is referring to. Are you saying that Obama’s campaign has “veered from the flat truth” to a lesser extent than McCain’s? Or that Obama’s campaign is premised on “straight talk” to a lesser extent than McCain’s?

Again, as I stated in my email, this stops short of unambiguously pointing out the objective reality: McCain’s campaign is setting a record for lies, stating outright falsehoods in official campaign advertising and stump speeches, and doing so repeatedly, even after the claims have been publicly and authoritatively debunked by unaffiliated third parties. Meanwhile, Obama’s campaign is guilty of the occasional assertion that, while factually true, could be suspected of creating a misleading impression in voters’ minds. Those two things simply aren’t the same, yet they are presented as such.

Taking the article’s first 6 graphs, I definitely see a suggestion of equivalence. While it’s true that nearly all the specific examples given in the full article are of McCain falsehoods, and that this might lead a reader who is bothering to keep score to the conclusion that McCain’s sins are worse, the article does not state that objective fact — which you clearly are aware of — in clear, unambiguous terms. Why not? That point is central to what your article is _about_. To fail to state it prominently and unambiguously amounts to a lie of omission.

The Obama campaign has actually done a decent job of adhering to the high-road promises he made early on about how he would conduct himself. He has done so even in the face of some low-road campaigning from the Clinton campaign during the primary, and has continued to do so in the face of McCain’s post-convention lies. Yet you characterize the situation like this:

‘Both major party candidates for president vowed to run a different kind of campaign, implicitly promising a break from the spin-fests that past contests had become. But the close race and the tumultuous media environment in which McCain and Obama now find themselves appear to have crushed those notions.’

Yes: the campaign has crushed those notions — but only because the McCain campaign has done the exact opposite of what it promised to do, while the Obama campaign has largely remained true to its promise. To characterize that as the fault of the “close race” and the “tumultuous media environment” is to go out of your way to avoid stating the simple truth: This has happened specifically because the McCain campaign has chosen to blatantly violate the norms of presidential candidate truth-telling (such as they are).

I encourage you to think carefully about the role your own work is playing in this process. The McCain campaign would like to mislead low-information voters by making charges it knows to be untrue, counting on reporters like you to let them off the hook, as you did in today’s article. You owe your readers more than that. You owe them the truth. When you fail to give it to them (as you failed today), you let all of us down.

John Callender
jbc@lies.com

http://www.lies.com/

Palin Admits the Obvious on the Bridge to Nowhere

Saturday, September 13th, 2008

Steve Benen at Washington Monthly talks about the latest piece of the Sarah Palin/Charlie Gibson interview: her acknowledgment that she initially supported the Bridge to Nowhere, and only switched to opposing it (and kept the money and used it for other projects) when it had become a symbol of pork and Congress had cancelled it. More at Palin reverses course on bridge claim.

Benen writes:

Palin explained, “I was for infrastructure being built in the state. And it’s not inappropriate for a mayor or for a governor to request and to work with their Congress and their congressmen, their congresswomen, to plug into the federal budget along with every other state a share of the federal budget for infrastructure.”

You know what? That’s absolutely true. If a governor wants to go to Congress, hat in hand, and ask for pork-barrel infrastructure earmarks, that’s fine. But here’s the thing: Palin has spent the last two weeks insisting the exact opposite of the truth. It’s not “inappropriate” for Palin to ask for infrastructure money; it’s inappropriate to lie about it.

And as a practical matter, that’s what we’re left with — Palin reluctantly acknowledging to a national television audience that her single favorite talking point is demonstrably false. The anecdote that she used to help introduce herself to the nation was a lie.

The concession leads to two fairly straightforward questions. First, will Palin apologize for having misled voters? And second, are there consequences for a candidate seeking national office who gets caught in this big a lie?

Fallows on the Media on Hillary’s Lies vs. Palin’s

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

James Fallows is interested by the contrast between the mainstream media’s treatment of the Hillary Clinton “hail of Bosnian bullets” lie, and Palin’s “no thanks on those Bridge to Nowhere funds” lie: A controlled experiment.

Good stuff.

Drum on the Media’s Declaration of Irrelevance

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

There’s been a sudden flurry of discussion centering around the specific topic that is this blog’s raison d’etre, so I wanted to mention it.

The Obama campaign started running this attack ad today, in which they actually use the “L” word to describe McCain/Palin’s pushing of the Bridge to Nowhere lie:

And this raises a really interesting question: How is the media going to handle this? Are they going to report the factual truth (that McCain and Palin are flat-out lying, and in a way that has been demonstrated to be a lie)? Or are they going to report it as just another controversy between two sides?

It kind of matters. McCain/Palin are making an explicit strategy out of selling a version of their biographies that, at least in her case, is directly contradicted by the facts. (The version of McCain’s biography they’re trying to sell is also dishonest and false-to-fact, but in a less stark way than Palin’s.) See this item in the Washington Post, for example: McCain, Palin push biography, not issues.

Steve Benen had a really interesting write-up of some back-and-forth that happened on CNN about this (Making a story “stick”):

Roberts wrapped up the segment, concluding, “We still have 56 days to talk about this back and forth.”

But therein lies the point. The nation doesn’t need 56 days of “back and forth.” We don’t need 56 seconds of “back and forth.” There’s an objective truth here, and CNN, as a neutral, independent news source, is supposed to tell viewers what the facts are.

But CNN can’t do that, because reality has a well known liberal bias. If Roberts conceded that Begala was telling the truth about demonstrable facts, then he’d be “taking sides.” For a media figure to acknowledge that a candidate for national office is lying shamelessly would be wholly unacceptable — it would break with the “balance” between competing arguments.

The viewer at home hears one side, then the other. Who’s right? That’s not CNN’s problem.

Glenn Greenwald chimed in today on a dispute between Marc Ambinder and Matt Yglesias involving the media’s handling of the Bridge to Nowhwere story, where Ambinder wrote:

To move to a Greenwaldian debate about the duties, obligations and frustrations of the press — well — read elsewhere if you want to play that game. I’ll abstain.

But Ambinder, who writes for The Atlantic, is a professional journalist, and as Greenwald points out, he does have an obligation to report that blatant lies are, in fact, blatant lies. That journalists have been increasingly willing to be played by liars lately, that they’ve reached the point where they now feel at liberty to mock, as Ambinder does, the idea that they have a duty to report the truth as they know it, is really quite significant, it seems to me.

Kevin Drum, in A bridge to somewhere, had this to say:

And not to get too sanctimonious about this, but this really is a test of some kind for the press. This lie is unusually egregious given the plain facts of the situation (Palin was eagerly supportive of the bridge until after Congress pulled the earmark, at which point she reluctantly decided to take the money but use it for other projects), and if the media allows the McCain campaign to get away with this – if they relegate it to occasional closing paragraphs and page A9 fact checks – well, that means McCain knows he can pretty much get away with anything. The press will be writing its own declaration of irrelevance.

I think that hits it on the head. If the mainstream news media aren’t going to tell the truth about this (I don’t mean the Fox News-style media here, but the real media), then it will mean a fundamental change in the nature of the relationship between them and me.

On Anthrax, Bentonite, and Conspiracies

Saturday, August 2nd, 2008

Your homework for today: read Glenn Greenwald’s item on the reporting that was done back in 2001 on the anthrax letters that had everyone freaked out for a time: Vital unresolved anthrax questions and ABC News. (Those who want to play along without doing all that reading can skate by with Kevin Drum’s Cliff Notes summary: Bentonite. But you better hope the teacher doesn’t call on you.)

One thing that bugs me about all the reporting over the last few days is the readiness of the media to accept that Bruce Ivins’ death was a suicide. There sure have been a lot of suicides over the last few years of people about to come to trial for what potentially could be blockbuster charges with major repercussions in Washington. And I realize that it’s Hollywood, but I can’t help thinking of that scene from Michael Clayton where the two operatives kill Tom Wilkinson’s character and make it look like a drug overdose.

I know that most conspiracy theories are ridiculously wrong. But not all of them. I think anyone who’s honest about the limits of human wisdom would admit that there must be a smallish subset of widely-held conspiracy theories that are essentially correct. (Just as there are almost certainly a fair number of criminal conspiracies that have never been suspected, even by the tinfoil-hat crowd.) But which ones are correct? I don’t know. And neither does anyone (well, almost anyone) else.

That’s one reason why I’m fairly tolerant toward the 9/11 truthers I come across. I think they’re almost certainly in the “ridiculously wrong” crowd. But I respect their willingness to endure the ridicule they get in pursuit of the truth. I don’t believe 9/11 was an inside job; I think the evidence on that is pretty clear. I think it’s unlikely that Flight 93 was actually shot down, as opposed to crashing when the passengers rushed the cockpit, but I’m less confident of that.

The real world is a fairly complex place, and it doesn’t always slice up as neatly as we’d like it to. For example, I’m pretty sure O.J. killed Nicole and Ronald Goldman — but I also think it’s a better-than-even chance that Mark Fuhrman jumped the fence at the compound to plant the bloody glove. If believing in O.J.’s guilt makes you reflexively dismiss anyone who says Fuhrman might have planted evidence, I think you’re not being honest about how the world works.

If there’s one thing that the history of scientific discovery teaches, it’s that if your epistemology and methods are good enough to allow you to discover a hitherto unsuspected truth, in many (most?) cases that truth will turn out to be something that appears fairly outlandish from the perspective of someone who hasn’t run your experiments or examined your data. People put too much faith in Occam’s Razor. If the available evidence is insufficient to illuminate the true state of affairs, Occam’s Razor doesn’t elevate the quality of your data. It may make you a smidgeon less likely to be wrong. But it’s no substitute for actually knowing enough to be right.

Bruce Ivins almost certainly knew some really important things about the identity and motivations of the 2001 anthrax attacker(s) (even if it was only that he wasn’t one of them), but sadly, that knowledge died with him. Meanwhile, the folks at ABC News who reported that “four well-placed and separate sources” told them that tests had found traces of bentonite in the 2001 anthrax letters – a fact we now know to be false – also possess really important information that bears on how the government responded to those attacks. It would be really nice if they’d share that information with the rest of us.

Update: It’s a few days later, and there has (obviously) been a bit of news since then, with the FBI laying out something approximating a prosecution’s opening statement against Ivins yesterday (though in the absence of an actual criminal process, or a defense, I’m not especially comfortable basing any conclusions on it). Glenn Greenwald has continued to post items about the story, and this morning I got an email from someone named Simon Owens who runs a site named Bloggasm (ew; sounds kind of messy) where he’s posted an item that includes details from interviews he did with Greenwald and others about ABC’s original bentonite story. He (Owens) is looking for some links, so here you go: Should ABC News reveal its anonymous sources?

He’s John McCain, and He Approves This Message

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

He’s John McCain, and he approves this message:

Note that this isn’t isolated. There have been a whole string of McCain web ads recently pushing similarly dishonest crap containing embedded racist dogwhistles.

Like I said: he’s John McCain. And he approves this message. Which I think says all that needs to be said. But if you’d like some more analysis, here’s Joshua Micah Marshall in keeping track:

…here we have a candidate, John McCain, who is running on a record of straight talk and honorable campaigning running a campaign made up mainly of charges reporters are now more or less acknowledging are lies. But there’s precious little drawing together of the contradiction. What’s more, as everyone will acknowledge after the campaign, the McCain campaign is now pushing the caricature of Obama as a uppity young black man whose presumptuousness is displayed not only in taking on airs above his station but also in a taste for young white women.

Hodder Remixes Blitt for Drum

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

Mainstream Media Play NBA Referee, Give McCain Home-Court Advantage

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

So, despite having some significant stretches of NBA fandom in my past, I was forced to accept a couple of painful (for me) truths during the playoffs this year:

1) The Celtics as a team, and Kevin Garnett as an individual player, were just so much better than the Lakers that there wasn’t any real doubt as to the outcome of the Finals from the get-go.

2) The NBA exists somewhere in the gray area between professional wrestling and real sports in terms of the essential fairness of the competition, with the referees serving as the main lever that gives the home team a big leg up to keep things closer than they otherwise would be.

Which is not much of a crisis; I understand that (as with pro wrestling) it’s just business: People pay lots of money to buy those tickets, and lots of money to reach the audience that watches the games on TV, and some of that money would probably go away if the officials were zealously objective in how they call the games. So it all works out; I’m not sure it even has to be arranged explicitly in smoke-filled rooms. It probably just kind of happens, as people at all levels of the organization make decisions in the knowledge of the overall institutional goal (more viewers, more ticket sales, more dollars).

And maybe I’m being paranoid. Maybe this is the result of my own bias resulting from the hostile-media effect. But I’m increasingly of the opinion that the mainstream media is calling the presidential race the same way. That is, they are giving the underdog (McCain) a leg up, because a closer contest is more interesting, and gets more viewers, and since the dynamic of commercial news operations has been pretty much completely remade to be bottom-line driven, with things like journalistic ethics and fairness a distant memory, it becomes just like the NBA, or professional wrestling. It isn’t like there has to be a big shouting match between old-school referees who still call the game fairly and soulless league executives who pound the desk and talk about ratings. The people who would have made that case for fairness (or for journalistic ethics) just aren’t there any more. They’ve retired, or moved on, or just never rose to the level of exercising that kind of power in the organizations the way they’re currently structured.

I’m not sure what it means. But I’m pretty sure it’s not a good thing.

Anyway, some data points that have caught my attention lately: Max Bergmann at the huffingtonpost writes about the week that should have ended McCain’s presidential hopes, but that hasn’t, thanks in part to the referees blowing the whistle on Jesse Jackson’s “cut off his nuts” comment about Obama, while ignoring lots of more-newsworthy fouls by McCain and his entourage.

And along with the supposedly-fair news organizations skewing for McCain, there are the not-even-pretending fanboys at Fox News, and their imitators, which these days apparently includes the Associated Press. Mark Kleiman wonders the following (in Pelosi figures it out):

How completely in the tank for the Republicans is the AP? A subpoena isn’t issued, and a Congressinal investigation isn’t conducted, by “Congressional Democrats,” as the story says not once but three times. A subpoena voted by a Congressional committee has exactly the same legal standing as a subpoena issued by a judge. The story makes it sound as if Rove is engaged in partisan warfare rather than defiance of the law.

I’d have to answer, pretty much completely in the tank. I’m not sure when it happened, but it’s kind of scary, given that the AP is one of the few remaining “news organizations” that actually has reporters scattered around to gather news. Most of the rest are madly downsizing their editorial staffs, replacing them with wire reports from… the AP.

Sigh. Maybe Obama is the political equivalent of Kevin Garnett, and it doesn’t matter how hard the referees shore up McCain in their effort to make it a more interesting contest. Maybe it doesn’t matter how many former referees have traded in their blue-gray shirts for the hot pants and spangles of Republican cheerleaders. Eventually we’re going to get to that Game 6 in Boston Garden and the truth will be revealed in all its ugly, naked starkness (or its radiant, majestic glory, depending on which team you’re rooting for). McCain will try to drive the lane and Obama will just swat that weak-ass stuff away, then spread his arms to the cheers of the crowd, reveling in his moment that has finally, at long, long last, arrived.

Maybe. But in the meantime, I wish we had better referees.

More Photoshop Phun

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

From some bloggy New York Times site: In an Iranian Image, a Missile Too Many.

Here’s the first version (which apparently was pulled by those stalwart defenders of copyright, the mainstream media, from the web site of “Sepah News, the media arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards”). This photo ran on the front pages of the Los Angeles Times, the Financial Times, and the Chicago Tribune, as well as on the web sites of BBC News, MSNBC, Yahoo! News, and NYTimes.com. None of these top-notch media outlets noticed (or at least, none of them cared) that one of the four missiles is a fairly obvious photoshop clone:

Today the following image was posted to the Sepah News site. Presumably this is the original from which the other one was made:

It’s kind of fun to figure out how little effort was required to alter the image, and what a big psychological difference is achieved by the alteration. (And again, what a gullible bunch of n00bs the MSM editors were to run it without comment.)

On Fox News

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

They’re not the only ones doing it, obviously. But they were the first to go this far with it. And I guess it’s some measure of the lingering memories of a bygone era that I still find it somewhat shocking that Fox News stoops this low in its efforts to manage its reputation.

See this write-up from David Carr at the New York Times: When Fox News is the story. It has additional back-story regarding this item from Media Matters, showing altered photos of NY Times reporters that were run on the “Fox & Friends” show: Fox News airs altered photos of NY Times reporters.

I mean, really, guys. Can we go back to a world where grown-ups are in charge?

The Smoking Gun on James Sabatino’s LA Times Con

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

No time to obsess right now, but this was too much in the lies.com sweet spot for me to pass it up. From The Smoking Gun, a story about how imprisoned con-man James Sabatino apparently gamed the LA Times into reporting fabricated news: Big Phat Liar.

MARCH 26–Last week’s bombshell Los Angeles Times report claiming that the 1994 shooting of Tupac Shakur in the lobby of a Manhattan recording studio was carried out by associates of Sean “Diddy” Combs and that the rap impresario knew of the plot beforehand was based largely on fabricated FBI reports, The Smoking Gun has learned.

The Times appears to have been hoaxed by an imprisoned con man and accomplished document forger, an audacious swindler who has created a fantasy world in which he managed hip-hop luminaries, conducted business with Combs, Shakur, Busta Rhymes, and The Notorious B.I.G., and even served as Combs’s trusted emissary to Death Row Records boss Marion “Suge” Knight during the outset of hostilities in the bloody East Coast-West Coast rap feud.

Obama Speaks Truth to Race

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

Honestly I wasn’t expecting much from Obama’s speech today on race, assuming that he would attempt to distance himself and Clinton from their respective supporters that have been trying to turn this into a racial election, in one direction or another.

As it turns out, Obama takes this moment — at the height and final stretch of an incredibly unpredictable nomination race — to speak substantively, expansively, and somewhat confrontationally on race and how it influences the opinions and opportunities of a broad swath of Americans today. Here’s the transcript.

Some continue to insist that Obama is all talk. Looking at what he has accomplished, they couldn’t be more wrong. But even if it were true, I think a President who is able and willing to speak words like these at politically inopportune times may do more to change the way business is done than any amount of political triangulation.