The Red Zone channel from DirecTV. Basically the show's producers channel surf for you, flipping obsessively between as many as 8 simultaneous pro football games (sometimes with two split-screened at a time). My wife says she gets a headache from watching it even for a few minutes. But I think its awesome. I actually flip back and forth between the RZC and whatever game I have chosen to watch that day for extra hyperactive bonus points.
Archive for the ‘Media and the Press’ Category.
In a hard-hitting, incredibly researched piece of journalism entitled "Me & Ted", Josh Marshall polled his progressive friends at Princeton and found that they all thought Ted Cruz was an asshole.
Well, it turns out Ted and I went to college together. And not just we happened to be at the same place at the same time. We were both at a pretty small part of a relatively small university. We both went to Princeton. I was one year ahead of him. But we were both in the same residential college, which basically meant a small cluster of dorms of freshmen and sophomores numbering four or five hundred students who all ate in the same dining hall.
As it turned out, though, almost everyone I knew well in college remembered him really well. Vividly. And I knew a number of his friends. But for whatever reason I just didn't remember him. When I saw college pictures of him, I thought okay, yeah, I remember that guy but sort of in the way where you're not 100% sure you're not manufacturing the recollection.
I was curious. Was this just my wife who tends to be a get-along and go-along kind of person? So I started getting in touch with a lot of old friends and asking whether they remembered Ted. It was an experience really unlike I've ever had. Everybody I talked to - men and women, cool kids and nerds, conservative and liberal - started the conversation pretty much the same.
"Ted? Oh yeah, immense a*#hole." Sometimes "total raging a#%hole." Sometimes other variations on the theme. But you get the idea. Very common reaction.
Wow, so this is what famous journalists do? Hey, I can do the same thing.
I went to Princeton with Eliot Spitzer. He was a couple of years ahead of me but had a really high profile on campus, in part due to his running for various University Student Government offices. So I checked with many of my friends back in college, and you know what? They all thought Spitzer was an asshole. I was reminded that we all disliked him so much that when one person (full disclosure, it was me) drunkenly asked who wanted to go moon Spitzer and the governing council meeting next door, we got 30 volunteers. He was so irritating that he actually inspired a successful opposition party cum performance art troupe called the Antarctic Liberation Front (Virginia Postrel also wrote about it here).
Wow, am I a big time journalist now? Will GQ be calling for me to do an article on Spitzer?
Look, this is going to be true for lots of politicians, because they share a number of qualities. They tend to have huge egos, which eventually manifest as a desire to tell us what to do because they know better than we do. They are willful, meaning they can work obsessively to get their own way even over trivial stuff. And they are charismatic, meaning they generally have a group of people who adore them and whose sycophancy pisses everyone else off. In other words, they are all assholes.
Deceptive Chart of the Day from Kevin Drum and Mother Jones to Desperately Sell the "Austerity" Hypothesis
Update: OK, I pulled together the data and did what Drum should have done, is take the graph back to pre-recession levels. Shouldn't it be even better if the increase in spending came during the recession rather than after? See update here.
Kevin Drum complains about US government austerity (I know, I know, only some cocooned progressive could describe recent history as austerity, but let's deal with his argument). He uses this chart to "prove" that we have been austere vs. other recessions, and thus austerity helps explain why recovery from this recession has been particularly slow. Here is his chart
This is absurdly disingenuous. Why? Simple -- it is impossible to evaluate post recession spending without looking at what spending did during the recession. All these numbers begin after the recession is over. But what if, in the current recession, we increased spending much more than in other recessions. We would still be at a higher level vs. pre-recession spending now, despite a lack of further increases after the recession.
In the time before this chart even starts, total state, local, Federal spending increased from 2007 to 2008 by 10.2%. It increased another 11.1 % from 2008 to 2009. So he starts the chart at the peak, only AFTER spending had increased in response to the recession by 22.5%. Had he started the chart at the correct date and not at a self-serving one, my guess is that it would have shown that in this recession we increased spending more than any other recent recession, not less. So went digging for some data.
I actually have a day job, so I don't have time to create a chart of total government spending since 1981, so I will look at just Federal spending, but it makes my point. I scavenged this chart from Factcheck.org. The purple bars are the year that each of Drum's data series begin plus the year prior (which is excluded from Drum's chart). Essentially the growth in spending between the two purple lines is the growth left out just ahead of when Drum started each data series in his chart. The chart did not go back to 1981 so I could not do that year.
Hopefully, you can see why I say that Drum is disingenuous for not going back to pre-recession numbers. In this case, you can see the current recession has an unprecedented pop in spending in the year before Drum starts his data series, so it is not surprising that post recession spending might be flatter (remember, the pairs of purple lines are essentially the change in spending the year before each of Drum's data series). In fact, it is very clear that relative to the pre-recession year of 2008 (really 2007, but I will give him a small break), even after 5 years of "austerity" our federal spending as a percent of GDP will be far higher than in any other recession he considers. In no previous recession in this era did post recession spending end up more than 2 points higher (as a percent of GDP) than pre-recession levels. In this recession, we are likely to end up 4-5 points higher.
By the way, isn't it possible that he has cause and effect reversed? He argues that post-recession recovery was faster in other recessions because government spending kept increasing over five years after the recession is over. But isn't it just possible that the truth is the reverse -- that government spending increased more rapidly after other recessions because recovery was faster, thus increasing tax revenues. Congress then promptly spent the new revenues on new toys.
Let's look at the same chart, highlighted in a different way. I will circle the 4-5 years included in each of Drum's data series:
You can see that despite the fact that government spending in these prior recessions was increasing in real terms, it was falling in two our of three of them as a percentage of GDP (the third increased due to war spending in Afghanistan and Iraq, spending which I, and I suspect Drum, would hesitate to call stimulative, particular since he and others at the time called it a jobless recovery).
How can it be that spending was increasing but falling as a percent of GDP? Because the GDP was growing really fast, faster than government spending. This does not prove my point, but is a good indicator that recovery is likely leading spending increases, rather than the other way around.
Via Zero Hedge, Time's covers around the world this week. Spot the outlier
I am actually sympathetic to the case that the NCAA should allow student athletes to make money as athletes (just as student business majors are allowed to make money in business and student musicians are allowed to make money in music).
But seriously? Probably the highest profile, most contentious international diplomatic crisis of the last five years and Time chose not to put it on the cover this week? There are only two explanations, and neither are good. 1) Time felt that a story about American mis-steps might hurt sales. or 2) Time is protecting their guy in the White House. The athlete cover story does not have an expiration date, so is the kind of story a magazine holds for a slow week. It is hard to describe last week as a "slow week."
Well, the talking points on Obama and Syria must be out on Jornolist, and we see the results at Kevin Drum's place, among others. Apparently, Obama's handling of Syria marks him as a great President:
If you want to give Obama credit, give him credit for something he deserves: being willing to recognize an opportunity when he sees it. I can guarantee you that George W. Bush wouldn't have done the same. But Obama was flexible enough to see that he had made mistakes; that congressional approval of air strikes was unlikely; and that the Russian proposal gave him a chance to regroup and try another tack. That's not normal presidential behavior, and it's perfectly praiseworthy all on its own.
In the meantime, it's rock solid certain that Assad isn't going to launch another gas attack anytime soon, which means that, by hook or by crook, Obama has achieved his goal for now. No, it's not the way he planned it, but the best war plans seldom survive contact with reality, and the mark of a good commander is recognizing that and figuring out to react. It may not be pretty to watch it unfold in public in real time, but it's nonetheless the mark of a confident and effective commander-in-chief. It's about time we had one.
Wow, this is so brazenly absurd that if I hadn't lived through the last several decades, I would never have believed it was possible to make something like this stick. I am so glad that I am not a Red or Blue team member such that I would have to occasionally humiliate myself to support the team like this.
Further Proving the Point of Modern Journalism is To Generate Clicks, And Not Necessarily to Be Accurate
I don't like tribal red-blue politics, but I read a couple of blogs both from team elephant and team donkey to at least make sure I am not living in a libertarian echo chamber. From that I know that bloggers on the Right were complaining for years about Maureen Dowd's dishonest editing of quotations to make Republicans look bad. Apparently, bloggers on the Left, in this case Kevin Drum, have had it with Dowd's dishonest quote manipulation as well.
Which all means that Dowd likely has a job for life at the New York Times, as journalism today seems more about generating controversy and clicks rather than delivering facts -- and controversies like this that send everyone running in circles on Twitter certainly generate attention. From the New York Times : We have met TMZ and they are us.
If there was a Nobel Prize for Double Standards, Britain’s chattering classes would win it every year. This year, following their expressions of spittle-flecked outrage over the detention of Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda by anti-terrorism police at Heathrow airport, they’d have to be given a special Lifetime Achievement Award for Double Standards.
For the newspaper editors, politicians and concerned tweeters now getting het up about the state’s interference in journalistic activity, about what they call the state’s ‘war on journalism’, are the very same people – the very same – who over the past two years cheered the state harassment of tabloid journalists; watched approvingly as tabloid journalists were arrested; turned a blind eye when tabloid journalists’ effects were rifled through by the police; said nothing about the placing of tabloid journalists on limbo-like, profession-destroying bail for months on end; said ‘Well, what do you expect?’ when material garnered by tabloid journalists through illegal methods was confiscated; applauded when tabloid journalists were imprisoned for the apparently terrible crime of listening in on the conversations of our hereditary rulers.
For these cheerleaders of the state’s two-year war on redtop journalism now to gnash their teeth over the state’s poking of its nose into the affairs of the Guardianis extraordinary. It suggests that what they lack in moral consistency they more than make up for with brass neck.
Everything that is now being done to the Guardian has already been done to the tabloid press, a hundred times over, and often at the behest of the Guardian.
I thought the more interesting part of this story was the prisoners in Missouri were reading the Economist
Give me a quick answer - are forest fires above average this year? Is this an unusually bad fire season?
You could be forgiven for saying "yes". In fact, it is an unusually quiet fire season. Via Real Science
source: National Interagency Fire Center
It is such a disconnect with news reporting that you may have to click the source link yourself just to make sure I am not having you on, but 2013 is an unusually quiet fire season (2012 was worse but still under the 10 year average). This tendency to judge trends by frequency of the media coverage rather than frequency of the underlying phenomenon is one I have written about before.
let’s take a step back to 2001 and the “Summer of the Shark.” The media hysteria began in early July, when a young boy was bitten by a shark on a beach in Florida. Subsequent attacks received breathless media coverage, up to and including near-nightly footage from TV helicopters of swimming sharks. Until the 9/11 attacks, sharks were the third biggest story of the year as measured by the time dedicated to it on the three major broadcast networks’ news shows.
Through this coverage, Americans were left with a strong impression that something unusual was happening — that an unprecedented number of shark attacks were occurring in that year, and the media dedicated endless coverage to speculation by various “experts” as to the cause of this sharp increase in attacks.
Except there was one problem — there was no sharp increase in attacks. In the year 2001, five people died in 76 shark attacks. However, just a year earlier, 12 people had died in 85 attacks. The data showed that 2001 actually was a down year for shark attacks.
Well, the silver lining of this story is that the press, who until now have generally yawned at libertarian concerns about warrantless searches and national security letters, particularly since that power has been held by a Democrat rather than a Republican, will now likely go nuts.
You have probably seen it by now, but here is the basic story
The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative's top executive called a "massive and unprecedented intrusion" into how news organizations gather the news.
The records obtained by the Justice Department listed incoming and outgoing calls, and the duration of each call, for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., and the main number for AP reporters in the House of Representatives press gallery, according to attorneys for the AP.
In all, the government seized those records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of 2012. The exact number of journalists who used the phone lines during that period is unknown but more than 100 journalists work in the offices whose phone records were targeted on a wide array of stories about government and other matters.
The AP believes this is an investigation into sources of a story on May 7, 2012 about a foiled terror attack. This bit was interesting to me for two reasons:
The May 7, 2012, AP story that disclosed details of the CIA operation in Yemen to stop an airliner bomb plot occurred around the one-year anniversary of the May 2, 2011, killing of Osama bin Laden.
The plot was significant because the White House had told the public it had "no credible information that terrorist organizations, including al-Qaida, are plotting attacks in the U.S. to coincide with the (May 2) anniversary of bin Laden's death."
The AP delayed reporting the story at the request of government officials who said it would jeopardize national security. Once government officials said those concerns were allayed, the AP disclosed the plot because officials said it no longer endangered national security. The Obama administration, however, continued to request that the story be held until the administration could make an official announcement.
First, it seems to fit in with the White House cover-up over Benghazi, in the sense that it is another example of the Administration trying to downplay, in fact hide, acts of organized terrorism. I have criticized the Administration for throwing free speech under the bus in its Benghazi response, but I must say their reasons for doing so were never that clear to me. This story seems to create a pattern of almost irrational White House sensitivity to any admission of terrorist threats to the US.
Second, note from the last sentence that the White House is bending over backwards to investigate the AP basically for stealing its thunder before a press conference. Wow. Well if that were suddenly illegal, just about everyone in DC would be in jail.
Update: Some thoughts from Glenn Greenwald
how media reactions to civil liberties assaults are shaped almost entirely by who the victims are. For years, the Obama administration has been engaged in pervasive spying on American Muslim communities and dissident groups. It demanded a reform-free renewal of the Patriot Act and the Fisa Amendments Act of 2008, both of which codify immense powers of warrantless eavesdropping, including ones that can be used against journalists. It has prosecuted double the number of whistleblowers under espionage statutes as all previous administrations combined, threatened to criminalize WikiLeaks, and abused Bradley Manning to the point that a formal UN investigation denounced his treatment as "cruel and inhuman".
But, with a few noble exceptions, most major media outlets said little about any of this, except in those cases when they supported it. It took a direct and blatant attack on them for them to really get worked up, denounce these assaults, and acknowledge this administration's true character. That is redolent of how the general public reacted with rage over privacy invasions only when new TSA airport searches targeted not just Muslims but themselves: what they perceive as "regular Americans". Or how former Democratic Rep. Jane Harman -- once the most vocal defender of Bush's vast warrantless eavesdropping programs -- suddenly began sounding like a shrill and outraged privacy advocate once it was revealed that her own conversations with Aipac representatives were recorded by the government.
I can't help thinking of Adolf Eichmann when I look at 1) our Elvis-impersonating terrorist who thinks the local hospital is hoarding body parts and 2) the Chechnyan Beavis and Butthead who managed to kill and maim scores of people despite being bigger screwups than the entire Reservoir Dogs gang.
Don't let your freedoms be taken away by people who say such and such a place or event is vulnerable or open to attack. If these guys can successfully terrorize people, there can't be any way to stop serious threats short of a North Korean police state. Every occasion and location is theoretically vulnerable. Our best protection is to build a society that eschews violence. And, when someone does go off the farm, we want a society where there is no general toleration for the act. In Chechnya or Syria or Iraq, these two boneheads would likely have found help and protection from some percentage of the population. Not so in Boston, or anywhere else in America.
PS- Today must have been CNN's wet dream. This was like a real-life version of the Running Man (the enjoyable Richard Bachman aka Steven King book, not the awful movie), with similarly high ratings.
I don't pay much attention to TV and entertainment news, but I found myself kind of fascinated by this train wreck.
I was amazed at the stakes, how many hundreds of millions of dollars were on the line, based on small changes in the perceived likability of certain talking heads.
But I was even more amazed by how juvenile, thin-skinned, and emotionally-immature people making 10 million + salaries could be. One woman, who had a reputation as a serious journalist (at least until she took a job on a morning show) breaks down into tears and goes into a year-long depression because she lost her job -- and was effectively given a $12 million severance, a figure well north of my lifetime cumulative income. Jeez, who in this day and age has not lost a job, likely with no more to show for it than a box of their personal items and a security escort to the door? Reading this thing I just wanted to keep shouting "grow the f*ck up!"
The increasing popularity of vilifying one's intellectual opponents as evil in order to avoid debating them (after all, why bother debating people who are, well, evil) will not be a new concept to readers here.
To see how the frontiers of this tactic are being pushed, one can best look at the climate debate. I want to link a spectacular example, but let me give some background:
About a year ago, a professor of cognitive science wrote a paper (Lewandowsky 2012) that tried to correlate being a climate skeptic with holding any number of other conspiracy theories (e.g. moon landings were faked). You can read the whole sad story, but in essence the survey used small sample sizes of people who may not actually have been skeptics (the survey was not actually advertised at any skeptic web sites) and compounded its own problems with bad math. In fact, the study has not actually been formally published to this day.
Anyway, a lot of folks criticized the paper. So what did the author do? Amend the paper to fix the errors? Defend his methodology? No, he wrote a second paper that used the critiques of his first paper (often selectively edited by himself) as further evidence of "conspiracist ideation." Seriously. The fact that critiques exist of his paper proves the paper! And then, for double extra recursion points, when the author published the paper online, he front-loaded the first five comments with friends who accused all subsequent commenters criticizing the second paper as conspiracists who are merely proving the point of the second paper.
Seriously, this is the group calling me "anti-science"! And no matter how much of a nutter this guy is, he got tons of mainstream ink for his initial "study." In our post-modernist world, the media uncritically laps this stuff up as real science because the results fit their narrative.
The problem with [the theory that sports subsidies help the economy] is that there is scant evidence that such economic benefits actually occur. Numerous studies done over the last 25 years have found that professional sport teams have little, if any, positive effect on a city’s economy. Usually, a new team or a new stadium location doesn’t increase the amount of consumer spending, it merely shifts it away from other, already existing sources. Entertainment dollars will be spent one way or another whether a stadium exists or not. Plus, the increase in jobs is often modest at best — nowhere near enough to offset the millions invested in the projects.
It's amazing they got the local paper to print this. Most local papers would be defunct without a sports page. As a result, local newspapers generally bring to bear tremendous pressure in favor of subsidies to attract and keep new professional sports teams. Our local paper the AZ Republic tends credulously publish every crazy, stupid benefit study of sports teams on the road to promoting more local subsidies for them.
Why is the media always so deferential to the state? The reasons may be in part ideological, but there is a public choice explanation as well -- the state (particularly local police and crime stories) generate most of its headlines, and so they have a financial incentive to retain access to the source of so much of their content.
Perhaps even more revealing, though, was this:
To start, [San Diego County Sheriff's Office] spokeswoman Jan Caldwell explained to the room full of journalists why it is so important to be nice to her: "If you are rude, if you are obnoxious, if you are demanding, if you call me a liar, I will probably not talk to you anymore. And there's only one sheriff's department in town, and you can go talk to the deputies all you want but there's one PIO."
Here we have the heart of the matter. "Professional" journalists may, indeed, be brilliant, talented, well-trained, professional, with an abiding appetite for hard-hitting but neutral reporting. Yet professional journalists also depend on relationships. Ms. Caldwell calls that fact out, sending law enforcement's core message to the press: if you want access, play the game.
The game colors mainstream media coverage of criminal justice. Here's my overt bias: I'm a criminal defense attorney, a former prosecutor, and a critic of the criminal justice system. In my view, the press is too often deferential to police and prosecutors. They report the state's claims as fact and the defense's as nitpicking or flimflam. They accept the state's spin on police conduct uncritically. They present criminal justice issues from their favored "if it bleeds it leads" perspective rather than from a critical and questioning perspective, happily covering deliberate spectacle rather than calling it out as spectacle. They accept leaks and tips and favors from law enforcement, even when those tips and leaks and favors violate defendants' rights, and even when the act of giving the tip or leak or favor is itself a story that somebody ought to be investigating. In fact, they cheerfully facilitate obstruction of justice through leaks. They dumb down criminal justice issues to serve their narrative, or because they don't understand them.
This "professional" press approach to the criminal justice system serves police and prosecutors very well. They favor reporters who hew to it. Of course they don't want to answer questions from the 800-pound bedridden guy in fuzzy slippers in his mother's basement. But it's not because an 800-pound bedridden guy can't ask pertinent questions. It's because he's frankly more likely to ask tough questions, more likely to depart from the mutually accepted narrative about the system, less likely to be "respectful" in order to protect his access. (Of course, he might also be completely nuts, in a way that "mainstream" journalism screens out to some extent.)
Which is why, despite Joe Arpaio's frequent antics that make national news, it falls to our local alt-weekly here in Phoenix rather than our monopoly daily paper to do actual investigative reporting on the Sheriff's office.
The extent to which the media is aiding and abetting, with absolutely no skepticism, the sky-is-falling sequester reaction of pro-big-government forces is just sickening. I have never seen so many absurd numbers published so credulously by so much of the media. Reporters who are often completely unwilling to accept any complaints from corporations as valid when it comes to over-taxation or over-regulation are willing to print their sequester complaints without a whiff of challenge. Case in point, from here in AZ. This is a "news" article in our main Phoenix paper:
Arizona stands to lose nearly 49,200 jobs and as much as $4.9 billion in gross state product this year if deep automatic spending cuts go into effect Friday, and the bulk of the jobs and lost production would be carved from the defense industry.
Virtually all programs, training and building projects at the state’s military bases would be downgraded, weakening the armed forces’ defense capabilities, according to military spokesmen.
“It’s devastating and it’s outrageous and it’s shameful,” U.S. Sen. John McCain told about 200 people during a recent town-hall meeting in Phoenix.
“It’s disgraceful, and it’s going to happen. And it’s going to harm Arizona’s economy dramatically,” McCain said.
Estimates vary on the precise number of jobs at stake in Arizona, but there’s wide agreement that more than a year of political posturing on sequestration in Washington will leave deep economic ruts in Arizona.
Not a single person who is skeptical of these estimates is quoted in the entirety of the article. The entire incremental cut of the sequester in discretionary spending this year is, from page 11 of the most recent CBO report, about $35 billion (larger numbers you may have seen around 70-80 billion include dollars that were going away anyway, sequester or not, which just shows the corruption of this process and the reporting on it.)
Dividing this up based on GDP, about 1/18th of this cut would apply to Arizona, giving AZ a cut in Federal spending of around $2 billion. It takes a heroic multiplier to get from that to $4.9 billion in GDP loss. Its amazing to me that Republicans assume multipliers less than 1 for all government spending, except for defense (and sports stadiums) which magically take on multipliers of 2+.
Update: I wrote the following letter to the Editor today:
I was amazed that in Paul Giblin’s February 26 article on looming sequester cuts [“Arizona Defense Industry, Bases Would Bear Brunt Of Spending Cuts”], he was able to write 38 paragraphs and yet could not find space to hear from a single person exercising even a shred of skepticism about these doom and gloom forecasts.
The sequester rhetoric that Giblin credulously parrots is part of a game that has been played for decades, with government agencies and large corporations that supply them swearing that even trivial cuts will devastate the economy. They reinforce this sky-is-falling message by threatening to cut all the most, rather than least, visible and important tasks and programs in order to scare the public into reversing the cuts. The ugliness of this process is made worse by the hypocrisy of Republicans, who suddenly become hard core Keynesians when it comes to spending on military.
It is a corrupt, yet predictable, game, and it is disappointing to see the ArizonaRepublic playing along so eagerly.
But the real problem with such lists isn’t the lack of partisan diversity; it’s the glaring lack of lies told to the public in the service of wielding government force. Only one of PolitiFact’s Top 10—Obama blaming 90 percent of the 2009−12 deficit increase on George W. Bush—involved an official lying about his own record. The rest all focused on the way that politicians (and their surrogates) characterized their competitors’ actions and words. This isn’t a check on the exercise of power; it’s a check on the exercise of rhetoric.
And when it comes to rhetoric that motivates journalists into action, nothing beats culturally divisive figures from the opposing political tribe. So it was that in May 2011, the respected Nieman Journalism Lab set the mediasphere abuzz with an academic study of more than 700 news articles and 20 network news segments from 2009 that addressed a single controversial claim from the ObamaCare debate. Was it the president’s oft-repeated whopper that he was nobly pushing the reform rock up the hill despite the concentrated efforts of health care “special interests”? Was it his promise that “if you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan,” something that has turned out not to be true? Was it the way Obama and the Democrats brazenly gamed and misrepresented the Congressional Budget Office’s scoring of the bill, claiming it wouldn’t add “one dime” to the deficit?
No. The cause for reconsideration of the ObamaCare coverage was not the truth-busting claims made by a sitting president in the service of radically reshaping an important aspect of American life but rather the Facebook commentary of a former governor, Sarah Palin.
Here is the issue with media bias: It is not that journalists sit in some secret room and craft plans to overthrow their ideological opposition, Journolist notwithstanding. It is that a monoculture limits the range of issues to which the media applies skepticism. I am as guilty as anyone. Hypotheses and pronouncements that do not fit with my view of how the world works are met with much more skepticism, checking of sources, etc. The media is generally comfortable with a large and expansive role for government and seldom fact-checks the arguments for its expansion.
In fact, as I have written before, the media has an odd way of covering itself against charges of being insufficient skeptical about new legislation: They raise potential issues with it, but only after it passes.
I almost never watch the network news, but I happened to be in the room when NBC News had a year in review video where it paid tribute to famous people who passed away in 2012. The people they chose were incredible -- probably 85% entertainers and sports figures and 15% government / military figures. And that is NBC's world. I vaguely remember there may have been one exception, but essentially there were no producers, no scientists, no inventors, no business people. Not even someone like Carroll Shelby, a business person who also had a place in pop culture.
Blogging has been light during the holidays, but here are some predictions I made back in 2007 I feel pretty good about (note these were made a year before Obama was elected)
What I will say is that folks who have enthusiastically supported the war should understand that the war is going to have the following consequences:
- In 2009 we will have a Democratic Congress and President for the first time since 1994.
- The next President will use the deficits from the $1.3 trillion in Iraq war spending to justify a lot of new taxes
- These new taxes, once the war spending is over, will not be used for deficit reduction but for new programs that, once established, will be nearly impossible to eliminate
- No matter what the next president promises to the electorate, they are not going to reverse precedents for presidential power and secrecy that GWB has established. Politicians never give up power voluntarily. [if the next president is Hillary, she is likely to push the envelope even further]. Republicans are not going to like these things as much when someone of the other party is using them.
1. The prediction was 100% correct, and in fact even went further as the donkeys gained a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, at least for a year. Though the war likely had little to do with the outcome, which was driven more by the economy
2. Dead-on. Five years later Obama still blames the deficit on Bush. This is no longer true -- Obama has contributed far, far more than Bush to the deficit -- but the Republicans' fiscal irresponsibility during their tenure have robbed them of any credibility in criticizing Obama
3. Mostly true (and usually a safe bet with government). Tax increases were deferred for four years due to an economy I had not foreseen would be so bad, but they are coming. At the time, it seemed logical to blame a lot of the deficit issues on war spending. Today, though, 1.3 trillion is barely 8% of the debt and is almost trivial to more recent money wasting activities.
4. Absolutely true. In spades. The only thing I missed was I thought Obama might be less likely to go overboard with the whole executive authority and secrecy thing than Hillary, but boy was I wrong. Obama has absolutely embraced the imperial presidency in a way that might have made Dick Cheney blush. Accelerated drone war, constant ducking of FOIA and transparency, increased use of treason laws to prosecute whistle blowers, claiming of power to assassinate Americans on the President's say-so, accelerated warrant-less wiretapping, using executive orders to end-run Congress, etc. etc. And I never guessed how much the media which so frequently criticized Bush for any expansions in these areas would roll over and accept such activity from a President of their party.
According to the New York Times, French Socialist president François Hollande demanded and received the dismissal of the editor of Le Figaro, the country’s leading conservative newspaper. If that sounds impossibly high-handed, consider the background, as reported in the Times:
The publisher, Serge Dassault, is a senator from [ousted President Nicolas] Sarkozy’s political party [and thus opposed to Hollande]. But Mr. Dassault also heads a major military contractor, and there was widespread speculation that [Figaro editor Étienne] Mougeotte’s ouster was meant to put the Dassault group in good stead with the new president.
[Since-convicted Illinois Gov. Rod] Blagojevich, Harris and others are also alleged [in the federal indictment] to have withheld state assistance to the Tribune Company in connection with the sale of Wrigley Field. The statement says this was done to induce the firing of Chicago Tribune editorial board members who were critical of Blagojevich.
Read the whole thing. He has an interesting story about Ted Kennedy passing legislation to force a change in ownership of the Boston paper most consistently critical of him.
OK, there are lots of reasons to get Obama out of office. The problem is, that for most of them, I have no reasonable hope that Romney will be any better. Corporatism? CEO as Venture-Capitalist-in-Chief? Indefinite detentions? Lack of Transparency? The Drug War? Obamacare, which was modeled on Romneycare? What are the odds that any of these improve under Romney, and at least under Obama they are not being done by someone who wraps himself in the mantle of small government and free markets, helping to corrupt the public understanding of those terms.
So I am pretty sure I cannot vote for Romey. I really like Gary Johnson and I am pretty sure he will get my vote. Republican friends get all over me for wasting my vote, saying it will just help Obama win. So be it -- I see both candidates undertaking roughly the same actions and I would rather that bad statist actions be taken in the name of Progressives rather than in the name of someone who purports to be free market.
To test my own position, I have been scrounging for reasons to vote for Romney. I have two so far:
1. Less likely to bail out Illinois when its pension system goes broke in the next few years
2. I might marginally prefer his Supreme Court nominees to Obama's
That is about all I have. Stretching today, I have come up with a third:
You know the press are in full defense mode protecting their guy in office when the only press that reports on the ACLU's accusation about sky-rocketing wire tapping under Obama are the libertarians at Reason and the Marxists at the World Socialist Web site. Four years ago the New York Times would have milked this for about a dozen articles. It may take a Republican President to get the media to kick back into accountability mode over expansions of executive power.
Over the last few days I have heard the same radio commercial three times, trying to raise awareness about hunger and poverty. A little girl's voice says that when she goes downstairs and looks in the refrigerator, she does not see any food. I too aspire to eliminating hunger from the world, but if our poor have electricity, refrigerators, and two-story houses, we must be doing something right.
It seems very popular to publicly declare, even continually reiterate, that there is a trend without actually, you know, showing the trend data. I won't declare this to be a media trend, but this summer we were plagued with news reports about the drought "trend" when in fact no such trend exists in the US data (NOAA data from this article). Something similar holds for the supposed British austerity. Here is British government spending in real dollars (via here)
A couple of weeks ago I discussed media coverage of summer temperatures in the US in the context of the crazy 2001 "summer of the shark" panic, where the media took a below-average year for shark attacks and played it up with constant coverage into the work shark attack year ever.
In 2010 we had another summer of the shark, this time with the fears over Toyota sudden accelerations. We even were treated with an OJ-White-Bronco-like real-time video of some moron in a Prius who supposedly couldn't find the brake peddle for scores of miles on an LA freeway. I expressed skepticism immediately that there was really a hardware / electronics problem behind the accelerations, and wondered whether the US government's ownership of Toyotas competitors might not have something to do with all the Senate hearings and government attention. Eventually, the NHTSA and other government agencies determined there was no flaw with the Toyotas, that the sudden acceleration was merely due to operator error (ie jamming a foot on the wrong peddle). This happens a lot, as it turns out, and I remember Walter Olson once found a stat that a huge percentage of sudden acceleration cases that make it to court seem to involved people over 70 or under 20.
ABC led the parade on this particular shark attack. They used "safety experts" who were actually in the pay of plaintiff's lawyers, without disclosing this conflict of interest. They actually tampered with their tested Toyotas and claimed they replicated the "spontaneous" acceleration:
It is hard to spot the lowest behavior in the affair so far, but that honor can arguably go to ABC and the lengths to which it went to pretend it had recreated the problem. In fact, they had to strip three wires, splice in a resistor of a very specific value and then short two other wires. They made it sound like this is something that could easily happen naturally (lol) but this is an easy thing to prove – and inspection of actual throttle assemblies from cars that have supposedly exhibited the sudden acceleration problem have shown no evidence of such shorting. So the ABC story was completely fraudulent, similar to the old Dateline NBC story that secretly used model rocket engines to ignite gas tanks. Its amazing to me that Toyota, acting in good faith will get sued for billions over a complex problem which may or may not exist in a few cars, while ABC will suffer no repercussions from outright fraud.
Basically ABC proved that if you bypass a potentiometer with a resistor, you can spoof the potentiometer setting. Duh. The same hack on a radio would cause sudden acceleration of your volume.
So, given some time and reflection, eventually the rest of the journalistic community has brought some accountability to ABC by publicly shaming them for this shoddy journalism. Ha ha, just kidding. They just gave ABC and its reporter one of their highest awards for the story
Congratulations to Brian Ross, America's Wrongest Reporter, for winning a coveted Edward R. Murrow Award honoring his coverage of the Toyota unintended acceleration story. The award, oddly, is for "Video Continuing Coverage" rather than "Fostering Global Panic Based on Bullshit Story." Still, a Murrow is a Murrow, right? Let's go to tape.
Ross, you will recall, was one of the driving forces behind the Runaway Toyota Panic of '10, which was later determined by NASA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to have been largely the result of idiots stepping on the accelerator when they intended to step on the brake, and of other idiots talking about it on TV. Ross was one of those idiots. For some reason, ABC News submitted four of Ross' Toyota reports to the Radio Television Digital News Association for award consideration.
One report they didn't submit was the one where Gawker caught Ross staging footage to make it seem like a Toyota was accelerating out of control when it was in fact parked with the emergency brake on, doors open, and someone stepping on the gas. We're told by an ABC News insider that, even though it didn't nominate that segment, the network "acknowledged and owned that mistake" in its awards submission. Good for them! Now let's see them acknowledge and own these mistakes from the segments it did submit. For instance:
In two of the winning reports, Ross quoted safety expert Sean Kane criticizing Toyota and insisting that there were cases of unintended acceleration that "couldn't be explained by floormats," which Toyota had recalled in 2009 after some mats became stuck under gas pedals. What he didn't report was that Kane was being paid by plaintiff's attorneys who were suing Toyota over unintended acceleration cases, and so had a financial incentive to argue that there was more to the Runaway Toyota scare than just floormats. Indeed, in other ABC News segments that the network didn't nominate, Ross showed Kane saying—again without disclosing his relationship to plaintiff's attorneys—"We clearly think that Toyota has a larger problem on their hands that involves the electronics with these vehicles." That position—that electronics were involved—was later eviscerated by the NASA/NHTSA report, which found "no electronic flaws in Toyota vehicles capable of producing the large throttle openings required to create dangerous high-speed unintended acceleration incidents."