March 12, 2007

Media Alert

It's a bit short notice, but I'll be on The Live Desk with Martha MacCallum at 1pm Eastern today.

March 05, 2007

Coulter's No-Brainer

If there had been any debate about whether Ann Coulter had already jumped the shark, I don't think there is anymore. She's a performance artist who injured her brand by going to far - like a juggler who moves from beanbags to knives and then, spurred on by the excitement of the bigger crowds drawn to feats of increasing danger, moves to flaming torches and then chainsaws before eventually losing concentration and lopping off a hand. No more serious juggling for you - the show is over.

Her comments were so fantastically gratuitous and off the mark they had the weird appearance of being calculated - as if she was daring conservatives to stand up and smack her down. They have - and in some ways she did conservatives a favor by making it so easy for them. It was a free-pass and a no-brainer for almost everyone.

February 28, 2007

Ode To Olbermann

Mark Binelli profiles Keith Olbermann in the new issue of Rolling Stone, and though it's supposed to be flattering I'm not sure it comes across that way.

According to Binelli, Olberman's upswing began when he delivered this six-and-a-half minute rant against Don Rumsfeld last August. Binelli writes:

Audience response was positive, so Olbermann began hitting the Bush administration even harder. Scathing commentaries, directly inspired by broadcast legend Edward R. Murrow, became a regular feature on Countdown. As in Network, momentarily losing it seems to have paid off.

Later in the story Binelli briefly touches on Olbermann's history at ESPN, noting that after five years he left "under a cloud of stories about how he'd become a nightmare to work with." And then there's this:

Last June, the Daily News printed e-mail exchanges between Olbermann and hostile viewers. The host advised one correspondent to "go f*** your mother" and another to "kill yourself." He also told a fan that fellow MSNBC host Rita Cosby was "nice but dumber than a suitcase of rocks." Though the e-mails were meant to embarrass Olbermann, they only served to underline what people already know and like about him.

The pattern seems clear: Olbermann has pretty much always been an ass and a jerk in private, and now he's being celebrated by Arianna Huffington and others on the left for being that way in public.

February 20, 2007

The Campos Insurgency

Letfy law prof Paul Campos attacks Glenn Reynolds, calling him "the right's Ward Churchill." Reynolds responds here. I suspect we'll be hearing from Hugh Hewitt as well at some point in the not too distant future.

February 19, 2007

Krugman's Correction Run Amok

A reader emails to point out something that slipped past me this morning:

As so often, the truth is not just different but the exact opposite of what Krugman wrote.

If you had looked up what the NYT's 'readers' representatives' had to say about Krugman you would have found him sinning in exactly the way he so unjustly, as you point out, tries to foist on Giuliani.

Indeed, Krugman's column this morning deriding those who can't readily admit mistakes is particularly ironic given his own history in this regard. I'm speaking of the August 19, 2005 column on the 2000 election where Krugman wrongly asserted that:

the simple truth: "Al Gore won the 2000 presidential election." Two different news media consortiums reviewed Florida's ballots; both found that a full manual recount would have given the election to Mr. Gore.

Instead of admitting his mistake and issuing a standard correction, Krugman opted to use his entire next column to try and "clarify" his comment - without ever acknowledging or apologizing for his error. The Times' public editor, Byron Calame, protested and pushed editorial page editor Gail Collins to force Krugman to print a correction. Krugman issued a correction in his next column, on August 26, but botched it by citing bad info from a Miami Herald study.

According to Collins, Krugman pleaded out of having to issue a another correction in print, and she agreed to let him publish it on the Times web site, which he did on September 2, though it was published separately and not at the bottom of his column. One month later Collins concluded this had been a mistake, writing that, "The correction should have run in the same newspaper where the original error and all its little offspring had appeared."

February 02, 2007

Cable Wars

Yesterday Richard Johnson of the NY Post's Page Six reported that "ratings-challenged CNN is flipping out over a taunting Fox News Channel ad that cattily compares the also-ran cable network's dapper newsman Anderson Cooper to Paris Hilton." You can see the crew from Fox & Friends having a good laugh at the ad - and mocking Cooper - in the clip below:

This morning on Drudge's site, it looks like CNN has tried to strike back with the following ad (it's animated but I've captured three of the stills):


December 22, 2006

The MSM & The Blogosphere

You'll want to read Rich Miller's column in the Sun-Times this morning. Miller takes on critics of the blogosphere (Rago, et al) and concludes:

This phenomenon is not going away, no matter how much it is dismissed or chastised. The Internet has been seized on as a democratizing tool by millions of perpetually democracy-hungry Americans. Bloggers should definitely be open to criticism by the mainstream media. That's America. But lumping everyone together with the crackpots is neither fair nor honest. And the fact that so many reporters and pundits can't seem to get the story right just proves the bloggers' point that too many of them don't know what they're talking about on everything else.

November 16, 2006


NY Times Manaing Editor Jill Abramson talks about the use of anonymous sources:

You raise the issue of anonymous sources, which have proliferated in Washington-based reporting over time. Inside the paper, we call the sources of these stories "anonymice." And yes, these government officials are sometimes people who want to scamper back into their holes so nobody knows they have talked to the press. It is very difficult for readers to assess why they should trust a quote from a government official who refuses to be named. Our reporters and editors know this, which is why in recent years we have tried to publish much more information about why a source won't let us use his or her name and what the motivation for talking to us might be. We have also become more aggressive about pushing our sources to let us name them and being less willing to grant anonymity in order to get an interview. We have established new rules that require editors to know more about the sourcing of their reporters' stories.

Sometimes we actually decide to take a pass on getting access for an interview if it is off the record. In the past year, The Times passed up an opportunity to be part of a small group of reporters who went to the White House to talk to President Bush because the session was off the record. This was a difficult decision, because there is news value in reporters in hearing and seeing any president talk more informally, even if it is simply insight into how he frames his ideas. But in this case we believed the ground rules meant we had to deny our readers too much of the fruits of such a visit. Each of these cases presents a slightly different balancing test, between the possible gain to readers from anonymously given information and the fact that information presented anonymously means the reader will have a hard time making an independent judgment about credibility.

October 30, 2006

Penetrating the Media Cocoon

As closely as we're all watching the polls, it's surprising to hear someone such as Newsweek's Howard Fineman saying and writing that, " overwhelming majority of the American public wants Rummy out." He repeated that on Chris Matthews's show on Sunday morning.

Mr. Fineman has apparently missed the new Zogby poll released last Thursday. According to that poll, "Asked whether Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld should be fired because of the situation in Iraq, 42% agreed, while 49% said he should not be fired. Another 8% said they were unsure." Which means Mr. Rumsfeld is about 10 points more popular than the president. It makes one wonder what it takes to penetrate the media's cocoon.

October 12, 2006

Web 2.0 and Disappearing YouTube Videos

In light of the disappearance of the Zucker video earlier this week lampooning Madeline Albright and the Clinton administration's approach to North Korea and the Harry Reid video experience today on YouTube this is an interesting article by Robert Cox in the Washington Examiner.

If you doubt the Internet is causing a sea change in politics, just ask "independent" Senate candidate Joe Lieberman, who came out on the wrong end of a blogger-fueled campaign for the Democratic nomination in Connecticut.

That was no accident.

In the waning days of Howard Dean's abortive presidential campaign, I met many of the talented folks who played a role in turning the Dean Web site into a powerful fundraising tool that propelled an unknown candidate into the national spotlight. At various blogging conferences since, I have had the opportunity to observe many of these bright minds strategizing on how to best leverage the emerging world of blogs and other "social networking" services known as "Web 2.0" to advance their liberal political agenda and win elections.

Their common refrain: "We need to own the Internet the way the right owns talk radio."

A-List blogger and talk radio show host Hugh Hewitt's response was typical: "It doesn't matter who creates the tools used by bloggers, but what bloggers do with those tools."

When I suggested that ceding control of the major "nodes" in the online world to the left was a huge mistake, they were dismissive. It became clear they could not imagine one day finding themselves boxed out of what is fast becoming the biggest force in electoral politics.

Enter Fox News pundit, author and top-rated blogger Michelle Malkin. Last week she received notice from YouTube, the world's most popular video sharing service, that her video had been deemed "offensive." The result? Her account was terminated and her videos deleted.

YouTube refused to say why her videos were "offensive" and there was no avenue available to challenge the decision. Today, her videos are gone and her voice is suppressed on the most important video "node" on the Internet......

Malkin may have been the first casualty in the coming information war but she certainly will not be the last. Yet online conservative elites seem not to care. They fail to realize that voters are increasingly accessing news and information from these new media sources and that these sources are using their editorial discretion to publish and promote a liberal -- not conservative -- agenda.

The Media Scandal

Why is it that none of the major television networks or newspapers have managed to pay attention to the biggest real scandal of the 2006 campaign season, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid's real estate shenanigans? According to yesterday's AP report, Reid pocketed a $1.1 million windfall on the sale of some Las Vegas property he didn't own at the time of the sale. This makes Hillary Clinton's futures trading venture look like amateur hour. And it's time for conservatives to act because the biggest scandal is that the media are burying the story.

According to the AP report, the deal was put together by Reid's longtime friend Jay Brown, "...a former casino lawyer whose name surfaced in a major political bribery trial this summer and in other prior organized crime investigations." Apparently Brown structured the deal so that Reid could transfer his ownership interest to Brown without disclosing it to the public. And here's the kicker: Reid didn't disclose the sale on his financial disclosure forms filed with the Senate.

Not to make too big a deal of this, but falsifying that report - as Reid apparently did - is a federal crime. Under Title 18 US Code Section 1001, it's a false official statement. For which Reid could be sent to jail. If you're looking for this on tonight's network news or on the front page of tomorrow's New York Times (next to the newest revival of the Foley minutiae) you won't find it. There's ample time for Mark Foley, the discredited generals' revolt, and even the comprehensively discredited Lancet report on civilian casualties in Iraq. But cover a real scandal, with real misconduct that's punishable under federal criminal law?

Just imagine if this were Bill Frist, not Harry Reid. Calls for his resignation from Senate leadership (probably the Senate itself) would be loud and long, the Senate Ethics Committee would have already convened an investigation, the FBI would have been called in to verify the deeds and signatures and the 527 Media carrion crows would be in full cry. There would be front-page stories about connections to organized crime and lead items on the evening news about how this will sink the Dems' chances in November. But it isn't Frist, or any other Republican. It's Reid, on the verge of what the media hope is his tenure as Senate Majority Leader. So there's no reason to cover the story, right? The media culture says that's so.

Every talk show host should be booking the editors of the NYT, WaPo and LA Times, the news directors of CBS, ABC and NBC to ask why they aren't covering this story. Every columnist should be calling them for interviews. Just ask, "why aren't you covering this story?"

October 06, 2006

Media Alert (s)

I'll be on Hannity & Colmes tonight (9p-10p Eastern) along with Scott Rasmussen to discuss some of the latest Senate polling.

Also, Sunday evening I'll be on Beyond the Beltway with Bruce DuMont (7p-9p Eastern) talking more Election 2006. I've been told Joe Mathews, staff writer for the Los Angeles Times and author of "The People's Machine: Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Rise of Blockbuster Democracy," will be one of the other guests, so it should be interesting.

October 02, 2006

Mixing a Liberal Cocktail

One of the benefits of being part of a newspaper's editorial page is that writers almost never have to sign their name to anything they write - no matter how wrong, intellectually dishonest, or just plain stupid it might be.

That's something Hartford Courant editorial writer David Medina might want to reflect upon after putting his John Hancock on this unintentionally comical op-ed appearing in the paper this morning which is one part ode to Hugo Chavez:

A child living in the slums of Caracas today probably stands a better chance of becoming a doctor than a child attending public school in Hartford. The Venezuelan child also eats better and lives longer and more comfortably than at any time in his country's recent history.

One part rebuke to Democrats:

Instead of criticizing Chavez, Democrats should only hope to have someone as colorful and daring as Chavez running for president in 2008. Had they done so in 2000 and 2004, they'd probably be running the country right now.

And two parts pure Bush derangement syndrome:

For the record, President Bush is not the devil.

He might want to torture and maim suspected terrorists in defiance of the Geneva Conventions, but he is not the devil.

He might want the FBI, the CIA and the NSA to listen in on your most private conversations without the benefit of a court order, but, no, President Bush is not the devil.

He might want to gut the nation's affirmative-action laws and deck the entire Arctic National Wildlife Refuge with oil rigs, but even those actions, evil as they may seem, wouldn't make President Bush the devil.

Deceitful Democrats, on the other hand ...

And this is one of the people mixing up the unsigned editorials at the Courant every day.

September 26, 2006

The Washington Times on GOP Optimisim

The Washington Times offered an article today about improving GOP prospects that, to me anyway, seemed long on conclusions and short on evidence. Their thesis:

There has been a palpable shift in the mood in Washington in recent weeks. No longer are insiders in both parties sharing predictions of a Democratic rout of Republicans.

Some on both sides had expected an election debacle for the Republicans, driven by the Iraq war, high gas prices and the perception that a Republican-led Washington can neither shoot nor spend straight.

Now those perceptions have changed.

First off, let me just note the strategic use of metaphor in this lead. This is metaphor-as-bet-hedging, which is typical of the press. No longer is there going to be a "rout" of Republicans. No longer are people expecting an "election debacle." This is interesting because -- what exactly is a "rout"? Is it 15 or 30 seats? Or 50 or 70? What is an "election debacle"? Is it that the GOP merely loses control? Or is it maybe that they lose control so badly that they cannot reacquire it in 2008? Who knows! What we do know is that nobody can point to anything specific in this article on November 8 and declare that the Times was wrong! Why? Because the Times has chosen to couch its thesis only in metaphor. One thing that has turned me sour about the press and its pundits is this kind of strategic use of the metaphor -- it subtly and quietly introduces ambiguity where clarity is possible and preferable. I think that this happens because no news outlet wants to put itself on the line, but they also do not want to appear as though they are not putting itself on the line. So -- they hedge their bets by way of metaphor.

Anyway, I will get off the literary high horse and get on with the argument. As I said, the evidence that the Times provides does not seem to me to justify the enthusiasm among DC Republicans.

For instance, here is something offered up by Ken Mehlman that the Times accepts without question.

Comparing the 2006 midterm elections to previous major shifts, Mr. Mehlman says he sees none of the signs that preceded those landslides. In 1974, following the Watergate scandal, there was a surge in the Democratic primary-voter turnout and a decline in Republican voter turnout. The reverse was true before the 1994 Republican sweep of Congress.

So far this year, there has been no indication of a Democratic surge. In 36 of 39 primaries, the Democratic turnout has been lower than the average of the past 20 years. Only Connecticut, North Dakota and Vermont had higher-than-average Democratic turnouts this year.

The Times goes on to imply, though not by way of more Mehlman quotations, that this indicates that Democrats are not activating their base voters as well as they did in 1974. There are two major problems with this. First, they do not need to. They Democrats "only" need 15 seats. Provided that base amplification has a linear relationship with final seat swings, they need to amp the base by a little less than 1/3 the amplification of 1974 or 1994, all else being equal. The Democrats netted 48 seats in 1974, the GOP netted 52 in 1994. The Democrats only need 15 this time around. So -- what the Times notes might actually be consistent with a Democratic takeover.

Second, the argument that low primary turnout is a sign of a relatively placid base does not square with what we know about primary elections. Primaries do not tend to have high turnout because voters are so excited for November that they just have to go out and vote in March. They are not like football preseason. They tend to have high turnout because there are competitive races that attract voter attention. And competitive races in the primary tend to occur when more than one strategic, high quality politician see a good chance at actually getting into Congress, and throw their hats into the ring.

So -- why were Democratic primary races relatively uncompetitive this year? There are at least two reasons, one that favors the GOP and one that favors the Democrats. To the GOP's advantage, there are not many open seats that they have to defend. Strategic, high quality politicians most frequently come out of the woodwork for open seats because they know how hard it is to take on incumbents. Fewer open seats means fewer potential pickup opportunities for the Democrats -- good news for the GOP. To the Democrats advantage, the party can and does play a role in encouraging/discouraging candidates to or from running, and it appears that the national Democrats have done a good job at this. They succeeded in (a) getting good people in about 25 races and (b) helping clear a path for these people through the primaries by discourating competitive, but inferior, candidates from offering a challenge to the recruited candidates. Now -- the Democrats have suffered some embarassments in the recruitment/derecruitment game, notably in CA 11, KY 03 and NH 02. However, this seems to me to be explicable by their unprecedented activity in pre-primary maneuvering. If your failure rate is 15% of the time, you are going to have a lot more failures when you try 50 times than when you try 10 times. If your successes are not mentioned -- and, in this case, they are not because a successful recruitment/derecruitment will have the appearance of the party not being involved -- it will look as though you are stumbling when you really are not.

Taking a step back, this Times article is very peculiar to me. The Times is certainly a right-leaning paper. But right-leaning news outlets, beyond talk radio at least, do not seem to me to be historically guilty of being pollyannaish about the Republicans (I think the left-leaning ones like The New York Times are typically pollannaish about Democratic prospects, which in turn actually damages Democratic prospects). So -- the Times is clearly picking up on a vibe that the GOP elites seem to feel, but do not really justify it well at all. This means one of either two things (or possibly a mixture of both): (a) there is no justification to the vibe, and modified GOP expectations will yield disappointment on November 8; (b) there is some justification to the vibe, but the data that is driving this expectation is not yet publicly available.

I am not sure which it is. This is one of the drawbacks of living in Wrigleyville. I am not in any kind of loop. Of course -- if you are like me and think that separation from the center of power enables one to analyze power more clearly, overall one is better off being a stone's throw from the Cubs home than the Nationals home.

September 23, 2006

Bill Clinton and Osama Bin Laden

The two big stories today seem to be the rumor swirling around that Osama bin Laden has died from typhoid or a serious "water-borne illness." Time is reporting that:

Fugitive Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, believed to be on the run in rugged terrain in the Afghan-Pakistani border region since the September 11 attacks five years ago, has become seriously ill and may have already died, a Saudi source tells TIME, echoing earlier reports in the French media.

The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, says that Saudi officials have received multiple credible reports over the last several weeks that Bin Laden has been suffering from a water-borne illness. The source believes that there is a "high probability" that Bin Laden has already died from the disease, but stressed that Saudi officials have thus far received no concrete evidence of Bin Laden's death.

"This is not a rumor," says the source. "He is very ill. He got a water-related sickness and it could be terminal. There are a lot of serious facts about things that have actually happened. There is a lot to it. But we don't have any concrete information to say that he is dead."

The Strata-Sphere has a good roundup on the bin Laden rumor.

The other story that is generating interest in political circles is former Preisdent Bill Clinton's interview with Chris Wallace for tomorrow's FOX News Sunday. You can watch Wallace comment on the interview here. The transcript makes compelling reading and Clinton goes off on more than one occasion:

WALLACE: ...but the question is why didn't you do more, connect the dots and put them out of business?

CLINTON: OK, let's talk about it. I will answer all of those things on the merits but I want to talk about the context of which this...arises. I'm being asked this on the FOX network...ABC just had a right wing conservative on the Path to 9/11 falsely claim that it was based on the 911 commission report with three things asserted against me that are directly contradicted by the 9/11 commission report. I think it's very interesting that all the conservative Republicans who now say that I didn't do enough, claimed that I was obsessed with Bin Laden. All of President Bush's neocons claimed that I was too obsessed with finding Bin Laden when they didn't have a single meeting about Bin Laden for the nine months after I left office. All the right wingers who now say that I didn't do enough said that I did too much. Same people.....

WALLACE: Do you think you did enough sir?

CLINTON: No, because I didn't get him

WALLACE: Right...

CLINTON: But at least I tried. That's the difference in me and some, including all the right wingers who are attacking me now. They ridiculed me for trying. They had eight months to try and they didn't..... I tired. So I tried and failed. When I failed I left a comprehensive anti-terror strategy and the best guy in the country, Dick Clarke... So you did FOX's bidding on this show. You did you nice little conservative hit job on me. But what I want to know..

WALLACE: We asked.... Do you ever watch Fox News Sunday sir?

CLINTON: I don't believe you ask them that.

WALLACE: We ask plenty of questions of...

CLINTON: You didn't ask that did you? Tell the truth.

WALLACE: About the USS Cole?

CLINTON: tell the truth.

WALLACE: I...with Iraq and Afghanistan there's plenty of stuff to ask.

CLINTON: Did you ever ask that? You set this meeting up because you were going to get a lot of criticism from your viewers because Rupert Murdoch is going to get a lot of criticism from your viewers for supporting my work on Climate Change. And you came here under false pretenses and said that you'd spend half the time talking about. You said you'd spend half the time talking about what we did out there to raise $7 billion dollars plus over three days from 215 different commitments. And you don't care.

WALLACE: But President Clinton... We were going to ask half the question about it. I didn't think this was going to set you off on such a tear.

The vaunted Clinton PR machine seems to have lost a few steps this past moth. Their attack on ABC and the "Path to 9/11" only highlighted the exact stuff concerning the Clinton administration's approach to bin Laden they wanted to play down. And then here with the FOX News Sunday interview Clinton is only going to generate more focus on exactly what he did or didn't do as President to get bin Laden.

Should be interesting television tomorrow morning.

September 01, 2006

Kohl Is Key

Herb Kohl might well be described as one of the most low key members of the Senate. Today John Nichols writes that Kohl might also be the key to Internet neutrality.

Olbermann's Rant

I just watched the Olbermann video that Tom posted yesterday. It is simply stunning in its intellectual cluelessness and dishonesty. In what has to be the most bizarre attempt at an analogy with the 1930's I have ever seen, Olbermann tries to make the case that the "cowboy," "unilateralist," and "war-mongering" Bush administration is really the equivalent of Neville Chamberlain's appeasement government in the 1930's. His Chamberlain analogy is historical malpractice of the highest magnitude. Just stunning. Does Olbermann really think Americans are that stupid?

There are plenty of rational criticisms to be made of President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld's policy on the war. Senator Joseph Biden wrote a fair and very reasoned op-ed in last Thursday's Washington Post. George Will has been a vocal critic on one corner of the right. Bill Kristol and John McCain are no fans of Rumsfeld's stewardship. But unlike Olbermann, they all make real arguments and offer alternatives, and thus can be taken seriously. Keith Olbermann can not.

August 29, 2006

A Thousand Words

This shot of Rita Cosby and John Mark Karr perfectly captures the distasteful nature of today's tabloid media culture:


(Photo: Jack Dempsey, Associated Press)

August 28, 2006

Tribune Reporter Jailed

Another story in the local paper that deserves national attention: Chicago Tribune foreign correspondent Paul Salopek has been jailed in the Sudan and accused of being a spy.

August 24, 2006

The Post's Priorities

George Allen's apology to S.R. Sidarth gets A1 treatment in today's Washington Post. Is it really one of the six most important stories in the world today, or does the Post have its priorities a bit out of whack?

August 19, 2006

Kudlow Radio at 12:00 ET

I'll be on Larry Kudlow's radio show on New York's News Talk Radio 77 WABC at noon eastern time. Tune in and listen here.

August 18, 2006

More Fauxtography?

The Miami Herald reports on bloggers who are challenging the recently released photographcas of a recuperating Castro.

August 16, 2006

Are Pinch's Days Numbered at the NY Times?

Thomas Lifson at The American Thinker has done a great job chronicling the disastrous leadership "Pinch" Sulzberger has brought to the New York Times these past few years. In his piece today he suggests that Michael Wolff's "Panic on 43rd Street" in the latest Vanity Fair is the beginning of the Left's realization that Pinch is driving the paper into irrelevancy.

Anyone who understands the importance of the Times in setting the agenda for the entire media establishment realizes that without the Times to lead the way, lesser media properties in broadcasting and publishing might stray away from the left wing party line. Fox News has done better than any other media startup in recent memory by openly grazing in the conservative meadows. Despite intense derision by the Times and others in the Left establishment, it has prospered far more than they.....

The Times is steadily becoming damaged goods. Its prestige is not what it once was. Jayson Blair, Howell Raines, Judith Miller, and other mere employees have done plenty of damage. Just last weekend (no doubt too late for Wolff's deadline), current executive editor Bill Keller made the jaw-dropping admission that he had lied to his readers about his decision not to publish a story on the NSA telephone intercept program before the 2004 presidential election, a matter of great concern to the Left. Even worse, Keller had a guilty conscience about the lie, but did not fess up until caught in an inconsistency and questioned by the paper's public editor, Byron Calame.....

Sparing his readers the gory details of the business decline of the New York Times Company, Wolff cuts to the chase: the paper version of the Times is dying, and there is so far no evident way for the expensive-to-produce content to be viable as an internet publication. His readers are warned that there will be a future without their daily dose of conventional Left wisdom. He goes so far as to predict it will be:

Just another newspaper company coming to its natural end.

And, anyway, how do you exactly define "end"?

You mean NO New York Times? Nada? Darkness?

Well, yes, in effect.

Vanity Fair readers are now informed that their favorite newspaper is doomed under the helmsmanship of Pinch.

I don't know that I would describe the New York Times as doomed, but there is no question the paper has been colossally mismanaged the last 5 years. Very ironic for a paper that editorializes ad nauseum about the Bush administration's incompetence as the country clips along at over 3% GDP growth, under 5% unemployment, and almost five years out from 9/11 without a substantive terrorist attack at home, while NY Times Company stock languishes near 5 year lows.

August 14, 2006

Gore Just Misses - Again

Interesting article in the San Francisco Chronicle comparing the massive popularity of YouTube with Al Gore's media venture Current TV. The nut:

Current "caught the (viewer-created content) trend early, but it is kind of surfing by them," said John Higgins, business editor at Broadcasting & Cable magazine, a trade publication for the television industry. "These guys (at Current) had all the right ideas and all the same machinery in place that YouTube did, but they didn't quite do it. Lighting struck 10 feet to the left of them.

August 08, 2006

Institutional Breakdown at Reuters

A reader who says he spent more than a decade working as a news photographer for major media outlets in Washington D.C. sends along the following comments on the Reuters/Hajj fiasco:

Firstly, the Reuters PR person's comment that Adnan Hajj was trying to "remove dust marks" is disingenuous on the face of it. Virtually every wire service photographer today shoots digitally -- there are no "dust marks" to remove. It's quite simply impossible. Secondly, his alteration of both photos (the smoke and the aircraft flares) from what I have seen was sloppy and amateurish -- it's clear he just coarsly cloned bits of the image over and over again.

This causes me to wonder two things: Firstly, while cleaning or repairing an image fault may be permitted (although, for example, a photographer in North Carolina was just fired by his newspaper for simply making the backround of a photo richer in color -- a change he claimed was necessary because the camera failed to capture the true quality of the color he saw), this can NEVER be done by cloning, especially by cloning significant chunks of picture, as Hajj did.

Secondly, where were the editors? I have read that Hajj was apparently filing directly into the Reuters World desk, bypassing the Beirut bureau, but even this is no excuse. If the pictures I have seen were indeed the photos distributed, they are clumsy and obvious manipulations, and any desk editor worth his salt should have seen them for what they were INSTANTLY.

Next, filing a deliberately misleading caption (for example, identifying flares as missiles or bombs) should be a firing action. The only excuse Hajj could have was that he couldn't tell the difference, which would lead one to wonder why he is trusted to cover this fighting in the first place.

BTW, the "time stamp" thing on the Qana pictures is a spurious argument. If it means what I think (the time marker for when the picture was transmitted to clients from the wire service), the time on the picture is meaningless. Editors would transmit the best picture first, then continue sending pictures from the event in order of importance and quality, not in the order they were shot. They might even transmit a picture hours or days later at the request of a client.

I know that there is a big difference between covering the White House, as I did, and Beirut, where the men with guns are not as polite as the Secret Service. However, there are two inviolable rules here:

1. You've got to be able to trust your stringers. They are reporters too, trusted to transmit the FACTS, not what they think or what they believe, but what simply, actually happened.
2. Your editors -- at every level, from the guy simply running the desk to the big guy incharge of all photos -- are there to watch for this stuff.

August 03, 2006

There They Go Again - Jed Babbin

It's fascinating how the press first contrives a story and then its herd mentality takes over and runs with it, hyping it to the skies regardless of the truth. The latest exercise began Wednesday afternoon at Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld's press conference. After someone from Reuters first posed the question, CNN's Barbara Starr asked it again: why Mr. Rumsfeld turned down a Senate Armed Services Committee request to testify at a special hearing on Iraq on Thursday. Rumsfeld answered that because he was making himself available to the whole senate answering questions on the war that same morning he'd determined that he couldn't do both. It went all down hill from there because the Dems know the earlier session Thursday won't be before the tv cameras. They want bread and circuses, not answers to questions.

Lolita Baldor, an AP reporter, wrote a breathless piece in which she said Rumsfeld's action was, "...raising a new furor on Capitol Hill over the three-year-old conflict." The furor is limited in her story to a chest-deep harrumph from Sen. Kennedy ("America is in deep trouble in Iraq, yet Secretary Rumsfeld refuses to explain and defend his policies in full public view tomorrow") and a nice letter from Hillary asking Mr. Rumsfeld to change his mind. No Republicans - not even John Warner who could easily be confused for a Dem - were quoted.

From here, it's going to follow the usual pattern. The New York Times will have a Doug Jehl story about how Rumsfeld is hiding from the devastating questions he'd face (the secret list of which will appear in Jehl's story). That will precede MoDo's Sunday vespers session about why we need a female SecDef), Chris Matthews will have Sen. Dodd on to say that the Pentagon is an Augean Stable that needs to be flushed out, WaPo's Dana Milbank will have a front page above-the-fold piece on Senate Dems' outrage and Katie Couric will be overheard on a shuttle flight shouting into her cell phone about how she needs to get on the air early to make sure this story is treated with the seriousness it deserves. (And while all this media talent was spinning up its macrodander, Rumsfeld decided to show up after all. He's just mischevious enough to do that just to see the media continue to spin.) But how do stories like this get concocted?

The answer isn't available from AP. I called night bureau chief Robert Glass who, when I asked him about it, sounded as calm as Leo Bloom after Max Bialystock screamed at him. (He told me to send my inquiry to editor Alan Fram. I did and have not received an answer last night or today.)

Where's the Dem war room that is running this show? How is the Dem spin machine driving these reporters so relentlessly? Who is the Dem Moriarty at the center of the web that pulls the media in and manipulates it so? Or is it, as we expect, just Teddy and Chris Dodd chugging scotch in some back room in the Capitol and dialing random numbers? Stay tuned. This is gonna be fun to watch. And please do watch. Something tells me you won't be seeing any Republicans on the nightly news asking why the Dems are demanding we cut and run. It's not like the Dems have anything else to say.

July 27, 2006

What Liberal Media? No, Really ...

CNN sticks the knife in at the end of a story about the Democrats' "Six in '06" agenda unveiling.

Here are the closing two paragraphs of their story:

At a meeting with reporters at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee headquarters, Democratic leaders unveiled a Web video with clips of the president saying "stay the course" interspersed with graphics such as "gas prices at an all time high."

They played the video on a small laptop in the front of the room full of reporters because, they said, they couldn't find a screen projector.


July 24, 2006

Media Alert

I'll be on Kudlow & Company later this afternoon (roughly 5:35 eastern) along with Peter Beinart and Kevin Rennie discussing Joe Lieberman and more.

July 14, 2006

Bad Business

A lot of good stuff in the Wall Street Journal today. Let's start with this one from the Taste page: "Primetime Scrooges: For American businessmen, primetime is crimetime."

This topic is a perennial favorite of mine, but it's definitely worth revisiting. For any good capitalist, it's hard to ignore how often in TV and movies the "bad guys" are businessmen of one kind or another. Still, it's not often that someone quantifies it.


According to a study published last month by the Business & Media Institute, in the world of TV entertainment, "businessmen [are] a greater threat to society than terrorists, gangs or the mob."

The study, titled "Bad Company," looked at the top 12 TV dramas during May and November in 2005, ranging from crime shows like "CSI" to the goofy "Desperate Housewives." Out of 39 episodes that featured business-related plots, the study found, 77% advanced a negative view of the world of commerce and its practitioners.

I don't actually think this trend is driven primarily by lefty hostility toward business (though, for some writers and producers, I wouldn't rule it out). It's probably mostly driven by laziness. I mean, do screenwriters have extreme hostility toward Russian nationalists? Or are Russian nationalists just a lazy way of having terrorist characters without making them Muslims?

When it comes down to it, there are only so many motives for murder (love-sex-jealousy, revenge, money) that can sustain an hour-long drama that anyone wants to watch. Maybe most real murders are the results of bar fights and drug dealers killing each other. But that'd be a pretty boring show.

So, popular entertainment hates business. But there's probably not an awful lot that can be done about it.

July 11, 2006

Murdoch Wins Again


Online teen hangout ranked as the No. 1 U.S. Web site last week, displacing Yahoo Inc.'s top-rated e-mail gateway and Google Inc.'s search site, Internet tracking firm Hitwise said on Tuesday.

News Corp.'s MySpace accounted for 4.46 percent of all U.S. Internet visits for the week ending July 8, pushing it past Yahoo Mail for the first time and outpacing the home pages for Yahoo, Google and Microsoft's MSN Hotmail.

July 08, 2006

Larry Kudlow Program: 12:00 - 1:00

I'll be on Larry Kudlow's program from noon - 1:00 ET today. Listen live here.

June 28, 2006

The Blogwars (Cont.)

Jonathan Gurwitz of the San Antonio Express-News fires back guessed it, Daily Kos.

June 26, 2006

Brooks Blasts Kos

Oh, how I'd like to violate the fair use doctrine with David Brooks' latest column blasting Markos Moulitsas. But, alas, I can only offer a snippet of Brooks' satirical takedown:

They say that the great leaders are gone and politics has become the realm of the small-minded. But in the land of the Lilliputians, the Keyboard Kingpin must be accorded full respect.

The Keyboard Kingpin, a k a Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, sits at his computer, fires up his Web site, Daily Kos, and commands his followers, who come across like squadrons of rabid lambs, to unleash their venom on those who stand in the way. And in this way the Kingpin has made himself a mighty force in his own mind, and every knee shall bow.

As expected, one of Kos's goose-stepping lieutenants by the name of "mcjoan" retaliates with an interminable list of diatribes against Brooks, concluded by her (his?) own:

What has been amply demonstrated is David Brooks' willingness to lie about anything and everything to serve his Republican masters. Nothing he writes is to be taken seriously or believed. He just does not tell the truth.

Brooks serving his Republican masters? At the New York Times? Despite the fact that David Brooks is moderate and exceedingly mild mannered - not to mention very critical of the Bush administration on a whole host of issues - he must be part of some top-secret "neocon" listserv (which includes Lieberman-lover Marty Peretz, no doubt) that is beamed out weekly direct from the Blackberry of _________ (insert name of most-hated member of Zionist-Likudnik cabal running the White House and the country).

Surely that's where Brooks gets instructions about which topics he should write about, and which ones he should "starve of oxygen."

Should the NY Times Be Prosecuted?

Yesterday on FOX News Sunday Rep. Peter King called on the U.S. Government to prosecute the New York Times for its recent article revealing the SWIFT program:

To me, the real question here is the conduct of the New York Times. By disclosing this in time of war, they have compromised America's antiterrorist policies. This is a very effective policy. They have compromised it. This is the second time the New York Times has done this.

And to me, nobody elected the New York Times to do anything. And the New York Times is putting its own arrogant, elitist, left-wing agenda before the interests of the American people. And I'm calling on the attorney general to begin a criminal investigation and prosecution of the New York Times, its reporters, the editors that worked on this, and the publisher. We're in time of war, Chris, and what they've done here is absolutely disgraceful. I believe they violated the Espionage Act, the Comint (ph) Act.

This is absolutely disgraceful. The time has come for the American people to realize and the New York Times to realize we're at war and they can't be just on their own deciding what to declassify, what to release.

If Congress wants to work on this privately, that's one thing. But for them to, on their own -- for them to decide -- for the editor of the New York Times to say that he decides it's in the national interest -- no one elected them to anything.

Michael Barone discusses the subject of prosecuting the New York Times in his column today, and while he does say that " it certainly is in order to prosecute government officials who have abused their trust by disclosing secrets," he doesn't come out and squarely advocate prosecuting the paper.

Nevertheless, Barone concludes by expressing the sort of frustration and incredulity that many Americans, myself included, feel when trying to compute why the Times felt compelled to expose the SWIFT program. Barone writes:

Why do they hate us? Why does the Times print stories that put America more at risk of attack? They say that these surveillance programs are subject to abuse, but give no reason to believe that this concern is anything but theoretical. We have a press that is at war with an administration, while our country is at war against merciless enemies. The Times is acting like an adolescent kicking the shins of its parents, hoping to make them hurt while confident of remaining safe under their roof. But how safe will we remain when our protection depends on the Times?

I think that last question is rhetorical. There used to be a time in America when the publishing of classified information, especially in a time of war when such disclosures could materially benefit our enemies, was something that was taken very, very seriously. Not any more.

The New York Times, motivated by its own political ideology and dislike of the current occupant of the White House, has elevated itself on the back of the First Amendment to the role of unelected arbiter of U.S. national security interests.

How ironic is it that the Times, which has spent years (along with the rest of the liberal establishment) railing against the Bush administration for perceived abuses of executive power, continues to abuse the First Amendment for partisan political purposes? I'm sorry but, Bill Keller's effort this morning notwithstanding, there is simply no other explanation that can justify why the Times would expose, over the pleas of the United States government, a completely legal program designed to hunt down terrorists and protect American citizens.

June 14, 2006

The Assault on Our Troops

benson_marines.jpg Steve Benson's recent cartoon in the Arizona Republic disparaging the U.S. Marine Corps (via Malkin) is a fitting example of the subject of my column today.

Someone who thought the U.S. Marine Corps was an honorable institution worth defending would never have drawn that cartoon, especially since we clearly don't have all the facts about Haditha and no one has yet been charged. But Benson wasted no time in assuming the absolute worst about our troops and what happened in Haditha, nor did he waste any time in smearing the Corps as a whole.

As one former Marine wrote to the paper, "The Marine Corps is a very proud organization and is proud of its history. We are a band of brothers, not a band of murderers."

wasserman_gitmo.gifHere's another cartoon by Dan Wasserman of the Boston Globe that does an equally offensive smear job on the U.S. military over the recent suicides at Guantanamo Bay. It's very reminiscent of Senator Dick Durbin's "gulag" remarks on the floor of the Senate and really a despicable distortion of the truth, as well as a vicious attack on the integrity of the men and women who put themselves at great personal risk every day in Gitmo to help protect America.

Navy Rear Admiral Harry B. Harris, Jr., the man who directly oversees operations at Guantanamo Bay, recently responded to critics with an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune detailing the quality of treatment received by detainees. According to Admiral Harris that treatment includes: 12 hours of recreation and exercise per day, three meals a day that meet cultural (halal) dietary requirements and that cost three times as much as the food served to our troops, korans, prayer beads, rugs, five prayer sessions a day, a library stocked with 2,000 titles in Arabic, and medical care including dental work, eye exams, vaccinations, and screenings for colon cancer.

If that isn't enough to make your blood boil over how the media constantly portrays treatment of detainees at Gitmo as inhumane, Harris also writes that:

many detainees persist in mixing a blood-urine-feces-semen cocktail and throwing this deadly concoction into the faces of the American men and women who guard them, feed them and care for them. Most of the time after such an assault, our guards decline the opportunity to take a day off. After a quick medical checkup and a shower, they prefer to put on a clean uniform and return to duty. And the only retribution they exact on the detainees is to simply continue to serve with pride, dignity and humanity. [snip]

The young Americans serving here in Guantanamo are upholding the highest ideals of honor and duty in a remote location, face to face with some of the most dangerous men on the planet. Your readers should be proud of them. I am proud to be their commander.

So how is it that Dan Wasserman's first reaction to news that three suspected terrorists took their own lives is to paint the soldiers at Guantanamo as hooded executioners and Nazi-esque looking concentration camp commanders? The media continues to demonstrate that it has lost its moorings when it comes to defending the honor and integrity of U.S. troops.

June 12, 2006

Duke Case Collapse

Here's how Duff Wilson and Jonathan Glater of the New York Times characterize Mike Nifong's case against the Duke lacrosse players:

When a woman hired to dance at a Duke University lacrosse team party claimed that members of the team raped her, Michael B. Nifong, the district attorney for Durham County, responded with an aggressive, unflinching and very public investigation.

"There's no doubt in my mind that she was raped and assaulted at this location," Mr. Nifong said on national television after the case surfaced in March. Mr. Nifong called other lacrosse players "hooligans" who had aided, abetted or covered up for the rapists. Local police officers seemed equally certain that they had a horrific crime to solve.

But in the intervening months, the case has come to appear far less robust.

Just calling it a 'bust' would be more accurate. Almost every single piece of evidence that has come out in this case has favored the defense. Even the cornerstone of the prosecution's case, the medical exam from Duke hospital that found the accuser had "injuries consistent with being raped and sexually assaulted vaginally and anally," now looks to be much less conclusive than what DA Mike Nifong (and the press and everybody else) made it out to be, especially now that court papers have been filed alleging the accuser "had sex with at least four men and a sexual device in the days immediately leading up to the off-campus party." That group includes the accuser's boyfriend, whose seminal fluid is the only substance conclusively to have been found in or on the accuser so far, despite the fact she told police that the thirty-minute long gang rape she claims took place in the early morning of March 14 did not involve the use of condoms.

In other words, the DA's case is in shambles. As I've written before, however, Nifong's determination to proceed with this case, despite botching the identification process and indicting at least one player who has a seemingly air-tight alibi Nifong seems to have been unaware of, puts him in the disastrous position of having become personally invested in the outcome. The New York Times article ends with a similar conclusion:

Mr. Vann said Mr. Nifong could drop the case, but the political price would be high. "He'd have hell to pay from the African-American community," he said. "They'd say, 'Give her her day in court. What do you have to lose? If you lose, at least the jury made the decision.' So he's kind of stuck."

Nifong didn't stand up to the African-American community prior to the election, so there is no reason to think he'll do it now. As Thomas Sowell suggested not long ago, it looks like Nifong's strategy - and his best hope for minimizing potential damage from the growing likelihood of the case either being thrown out or resulting in acquittals - is to stretch out the process and hope the country gets bored with the story and moves on to something else.

June 11, 2006

Covering the Kos Kids

The Yearly Kos Convention has attracted all the big name journalists who have filed stories this morning:

A Mixed Bag of First Impressions by Democrats at Blog Rendezvous - Adam Nagourney, New York Times

Net-Savvy Democrats Aim to Pack a Digital Punch - Ron Brownstein, Los Angeles Times

Bloggers' Convention Draws Democrats - Dan Balz, Washington Post

Democratic Rivals Woo Liberal Bloggers - Charles Hurt, Washington Times

Democrats court influential bloggers
- Scott Shepard, Cox News/AJC

Even the foreign press is in town for the event: Top politicians pay homage to king of bloggers - Paul Harris, The Observer

In local coverage, Lawrence Mower of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports on Howard Dean's speech. And Launce Rake of the Las Vegas Sun has a piece from yesterday on Wes Clark's speech.

June 09, 2006

Covering Zarqawi

Just how left wing is the editorial page of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune? So left wing, in fact, that the editors decided to adapt a CNN interview with Michael Berg - the pacifist, Bush-hating father of Nick Berg who was beheaded by Zarqawi in May 2004 - to run as a piece of commentary on the op-ed page today. To be fair, the editors did manage to squeeze out an editorial admitting - albeit begrudgingly - that the "rough justice" delivered to Zarqawi yesterday was a good thing.

nypost_zarqawi.gif nydn_zarqawi.jpgAt the other end of the spectrum we have the New York Post and the New York Daily News, both of which carry full page color pictures of a dead Zarqawi on their covers, with the Post adding an extra, humorous, but politically incorrect touch with a speech bubble coming out of Zarqawi's mouth that says, "warm up the virgins."

The Post's headline story runs under the title "Evil Zarqawi Blown to Hell" and the Daily News carries a very similar front-pager under the headline "Zarq is Blown Right To Hell."

The Star-Tribune, however, pulls down a wire story from Newsday for its headline coverage ("Al-Zarqawi was betrayed") and devotes its own reporting manpower (in the person of James Rosen from the paper's Washington D.C. bureau) to producing a 742-word companion piece under the headline "But What About Osama?" As the title suggests, the tone and tenor of Rosen's piece is "yeah, but..."

For terrorism experts, though, Bin Laden is still Public Enemy No. 1.

"It's a good thing to have gotten Al-Zarqawi, but it doesn't end the insurgency in Iraq, and it certainly doesn't bring us any closer to finding Bin Laden," said Charles Pena, author of a new book on terrorism and an analyst with the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy in Washington. [snip]

"In the Iraqi context, the raid against Zarqawi is important, but in terms of the global jihad, it doesn't matter. But Bin Laden's death would matter in the global jihad landscape. Bin Laden started the entire organization. He has been the symbolic figure for global jihad."

The inability of U.S. and Pakistani forces to capture Bin Laden and Al-Zawahiri, she said, "is very disconcerting to intelligence sources fighting the war on terrorism, and it also continues to provide inspiration" to their followers.

The Post and the Daily News may be over-the-top tabloids trying to sell papers at the heart of Ground Zero, but at least they seem generally happy about the fact that we just snuffed out one of the worst terrorists on the planet. The Star-Tribune, on the other hand, seems able to muster only a bare minimum of enthusiasm and unable to focus, even for a single day, on the hugely positive aspects of Zarqawi's death.

June 05, 2006

Pinch's New York Times

From the Rocky Mountain News' Vincent Carroll on New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr.

"It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt." - Mark Twain

But of course it is not easy to keep your mouth closed when you are publisher of The New York Times and the son of the previous publisher. You are a very important person and have known this your entire life. Speaking is largely what you do, even if you happen to embody the very worst characteristics of your generation - a tendency toward moral preening, self-inflation and historical amnesia.

Arthur Sulzberger Jr. has been publisher of the Times since 1992 and his shallowness has been on display for years. But never more so than in a commencement address he delivered last month at State University of New York at New Paltz.

"When I graduated from college in 1974," Sulzberger declared to much applause, "my fellow students and I . . . were determined not to repeat the mistakes of our predecessors. We had seen the horrors and futility of war and smelled the stench of corruption in government.

"Our children, we vowed, would never know that.

So, well, sorry. It wasn't supposed to be this way.

You weren't supposed to be graduating into an America fighting a misbegotten war in a foreign land.

You weren't supposed to be graduating into a world where we are still fighting for fundamental human rights, be it the rights of immigrants to start a new life, the right of gays to marry or the rights of women to choose.

You weren't supposed to be graduating into a world where oil still drives policy and environmentalists have to relentlessly fight for every gain.

You weren't. But you are. And for that I'm sorry."

The breathtaking arrogance of this litany lies not in its politics, which are what you'd expect, but in its sheer childishness.

What serious adult could possibly anticipate a world in which environmentalists - or any other interest group - are given free rein to define national policy, and in which U.S. leaders are indifferent to safeguarding a commodity crucial to their economy?

What serious adult would expect consensus over efforts to redefine marriage or how to treat millions of people who entered this country without permission? It seems Sulzberger graduated from college anticipating a world in which no one ever disagreed with The New York Times. How revealing to make such a confession.

The crowning touch of these passages, however, is their false contrition - the apology for a state of affairs that he and his audience both know Sulzberger had nothing to do with creating. He is sorry that the world has not lived up to his standards for Utopia. It's a 12-year-old's lament delivered by the publisher of the most powerful newspaper in the land to an audience that in some cases sounds, based on the cheering, almost as immature as he is.

This provides an insight into why the New York Times has fallen so far in the last decade, particularly the last 5 years. The Times' article on John Kerry that ran over Memorial Day which prompted Thomas Lipscomb's "The Truth, John Kerry, and The New York Times" on RealClearPolitics today would not have run in the New York Times of 20 years ago.

June 02, 2006

"Net Neutrality" and Congress

The issue of "net neutrality" is going to become increasingly more important as giant corporations battle to gain advantage in this new media and telecommunications landscape. Ken Yarmosh has a good piece today that gives a decent overview of the playing field:

The term 'network neutrality' relates to the regulation of the Internet or more specifically, to the underlying networks that make the Internet possible. Described by one of its more popular supporters David Isenberg, a former AT&T executive, network neutrality "means that the network does not discriminate among different types of traffic based on the traffic's source, destination or content."

In consideration of this definition, to this point network neutrality has essentially been a guiding principle of the Internet. Network providers like Verizon or Qwest have not "discriminated" against different types of network traffic - they have not prioritized content of one site or one content provider over another. Internet users can access websites and content from Google and Yahoo! on equal terms. But without the principle of network neutrality in place, how that content gets served might vary based on how much these and other companies were willing to pay.

Telcos like Verizon argue that they should be able to control how their networks operate. They are the ones investing billions of dollars into network infrastructure. When Yahoo! offers users streaming video that is bandwidth intensive, Verizon sees higher traffic and network use but not necessarily higher profits. They want to change that and pricing their service at different levels - 'discriminating' network traffic - is their answer.

This issue has been rolling under the radar for a while now and I see little chance that Congress and the Judiciary will not have to insert themselves into this battle at some point in the next 2-5 years.

May 23, 2006

Big Failure in the Big Easy

Lou Dolinar is a veteran reporter for Newsday, now retired. In September of last year, he wrote a story for RealClearPolitics about "what went right" during Katrina, detailing how the rescue efforts were vastly underplayed by the media. Over the course of the last few months, Dolinar has been interviewing National Guardsmen and digging further into what happened on the ground in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and this time he's produced an even more mind-boggling and damning account of the story the media missed. Read it in its entirety here.

May 01, 2006

Rush Limbaugh and History

Hugh Hewitt on Rush.

What transparent garbage. Here's how Reuters describes Rush:
Under the deal the 55-year-old Limbaugh, best known as a brash and often moralistic talk show host, will see the case against him dropped in 18 months, his attorney said.

Rush Limbaugh actually is known now, and will be 100 years from now, as the most innovative and successful radio talk show host in history, the most powerful brand on air from 1990 forward, and, as the story proves again, the new media voice most hated by the old media monopoly he --almost single-handedly-- broke.

A century from now, the accounts of these years will not record any of today's anchors. But they will, almost certainly, note Cronkite and Limbaugh as the two broadcasters who defined a medium and changed the politics of their age.

Many in the media elite may laugh at the comparison of Cronkite and Limbaugh "as the two broadcasters who defined a medium and changed the politics of their age." They shouldn't.

One of the foundations of the current Republican majority was the busting up of the old media monopoly which for years had helped prop up an intellectually exhausted Democratic Party living off the fumes of FDR's New Deal. Talk radio was the precursor to the FOX News Channel and the Internet, all three of which are important pillars counterbalancing the left-wing tilt to the rest of the "Mainstream Media."

Limbaugh is the indisputable pioneer and leader of modern day talk radio and many of his enemies have been having fun with the recent deal on his prescription drug addiction, but Hewitt is dead on in his conclusion. Whether you love him or hate him, Rush's place in the history books is secure.

April 24, 2006

Hot Air

Michelle Malkin has launched a new conservative internet video site called Hot Air. Seeing as how I've become maddeningly addicted to, I will most certainly give it a try. You should as well.

April 20, 2006

Scott McClellan & the White House 'Shake-Up'

Some quick hits from the blogosphere today:

NYU Journalism professor Jay Rosen has a must-read take on Scott McClellan's stint as White House Press Secretary:

McClellan's specialty was non-communication; what's remarkable about him as a choice for press secretary is that he had no special talent for explaining Bush's policies to the world. In fact, he usually made things less clear by talking about them. We have to assume that this is the way the President wanted it; and if we do assume that it forces us to ask: why use a bad explainer and a rotten communicator as your spokesman before the entire world? Isn't that just dumb-- and bad politics? Wouldn't it be suicidal in a media-driven age with its 24-hour news cycle?

Rosen's critique on the Bush administration and the press--while a bit harsh--is worth reading in full.

Neal Boortz dismisses the "circus" created out of the latest White House changes:

If you watched the coverage, you might get the impression Scott McClellan was the first press secretary to quit or be fired in the history of the republic.

But this is all standard operating procedure. Bill Clinton had three press secretaries over 8 years. George W. Bush will now be on his third. Big deal. But the press tells us all this turmoil is unique! First the White House chief of staff steps down, and now this. But it's all happened before. Every last bit of it.

Matt Stoller calls it the "fake shake-up" and says a real "shake-up can happen, but it won't happen until November, 2006."

And Hugh Hewitt takes issue with a Washington Post analysis that warns of doom and gloom if Bush does not revitalize his presidency. Hewitt counters:

When Bush-Rove wins -- again, for the sixth straight time if we add in the two Texas governor races-- will the Beltway elite finally admit they misunderestimated Bush all along?

For more blogosphere opinion on this and other topics, check out the RealClearPolitics Blog Coverage page.

FOX News' Brit Hume

If you missed Howard Kurtz's profile on FOX News' Brit Hume yesterday, it is well worth a read. Kurtz gives a very fair and balanced overview of Hume's journalistic career and the rise of Hume's signature program Special Report With Brit Hume. Here in Chicago Special Report competes directly against the three major evening new programs and for some time I have felt that Hume has had the best evening newscast in America. RealClearPolitics will have transcripts from Special Report's roundtable available every morning accessible from RCP's front page in the left column or directly in the RCP Resource Center.

April 08, 2006

Maybe the NY Times Figured We Wouldn't Notice - By Dennis Byrne

OK, I admit that when I saw a lengthy and prominently played New York Times story this morning about a congressman who "used his powerful perch on the House Appropriations Committee to funnel $250 million into five nonprofit organizations that he had set up," I assumed that the paper was going after another Republican.

True, that assumption was my own bias against a paper whose liberal bias is reaching legendary heights.

As I read the story, I didn't even notice that the story failed to identify the political affiliation of the congressman, Alan B. Mollohan of West Virginia, in the first paragraph. Nor in the second. Nor in the third.

By now, I noticed this omission, because standard journalistic practice calls for a politician's party to be identified, if not in the first paragraph, at least pretty damn quick.

I read on. Fourth graph, still nothing. Fifth, sixth and seventh. Nothing. The New York Times must figure that everyone knows who Mollohan is. Only us rubes wouldn't.

Finally in the eighth graph I find this:

The case has led several Republican leaders to call for Mr. Mollohan's removal from the House ethics committee, where he is the senior Democrat. [Emphasis added]

That's 315 words into the story. Before the first mention that Mollohan's a Democrat. And, it turns out, an important one.

Maybe someone has a logical explanation for why it took so long. The choices are:

• Incompetent and careless writer and editors.
• Biased writer and editors.

Or maybe the Times figured that political affiliation--this time--was of no consequence.

Actually, it is of significant consequence, as you might gather from the straight news story, which broke in the Wall Street Journal on April 7:

Congressman's 'Earmarks' Spur Federal Probe

April 7, 2006; Page A1

FAIRMONT, W.Va. -- On a mountaintop above old coal seams that once fueled West Virginia's economy, a gleaming steel-and-glass research center is taking shape, its winged design and 120-foot data tower visible for miles.

The $136 million building is being built with taxpayers' money for the Institute for Scientific Research, a nonprofit group launched by the local congressman, Democrat Alan Mollohan, and funded almost entirely through provisions he put into annual spending bills.

A 12-term congressman, Mr. Mollohan sits on the House Appropriations Committee, a panel that disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff dubbed the "favor factory." Working with fellow West Virginian Sen. Robert Byrd, Mr. Mollohan has steered at least $178 million to nonprofit groups in his district over the past five years using "earmarks" -- special-interest provisions that are slipped into spending bills to direct money to pet projects.

The money has brought more than jobs and building projects to his district. It has formed and financed a tight-knit network of nonprofit institutions in West Virginia that are run by people who contribute regularly to Mr. Mollohan's campaigns, political-action committee and a family foundation. One of these people also invests in real estate alongside Mr. Mollohan and his wife. The network of contributors also includes private companies that get contracts through these nonprofits.

Such a pattern raises questions about whether the donations or deals might be a way beneficiaries of earmarks could influence the legislator's actions. Now, federal prosecutors have opened an investigation of Mr. Mollohan's finances and whether they were properly disclosed, according to people contacted in the inquiry. Mr. Mollohan hasn't been accused of wrongdoing. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Washington, whose public-corruption unit is conducting the inquiry, declined to comment....

Here' how the UPI reported the story:

WASHINGTON, DC, United States (UPI) -- A Democratic congressman has fueled five non-profit groups in his West Virginia district with $250 million in earmark funding, The New York Times reports.

- Dennis Byrne is a Chicago-area writer and consultant who blogs at He may be reached via email at

March 31, 2006

Krugman's Penance

krugman.jpgIt's like clockwork. Whenever a liberal columnist gives off even the slightest hint of violating progressive orthodoxy they get absolutely blasted by readers, and as sure as the sun will rise in the East that pundit's next column will contain some sort of modification or qualification, inevitably packaged in an unhinged rant against the right. You see this pattern somewhat frequently with Richard Cohen, and to a lesser extent with guys like Tom Friedman and E.J. Dionne.

One person you never see it happen to is Paul Krugman, because he's so consistently, rabidly anti-Bush and anti-Republican. Last week, however, Krugman wrote about "some uncomfortable facts about the economics of modern immigration, and immigration from Mexico in particular."

Krugman stated up front he was "instinctively, emotionally pro-immigration" but went on to acknowledge that low-skill immigrants threaten to "unravel" the social safety net and that "realistically, we'll need to reduce the inflow of low-skill immigrants" with "better controls on illegal immigration."

Even though Krugman took a few gratuitous partisan shots, the column was noticeable for its attempt to deal, at least in part, with some of the realities of a very complex, difficult, and emotional issue. Mickey Kaus noticed it too, commenting that "Krugman is clearly way off the PC/Dem/elite legalization reservation here."

Indeed, judging by the opening of his column today (Times $elect), Krugman seems to have been threatened with being excommunicated from the Upper West Side cocktail party circuit:

For now, at least, the immigration issue is mainly hurting the Republican Party, which is divided between those who want to expel immigrants and those who want to exploit them. The only thing the two factions seem to have in common is mean-spiritedness.

Nothing like a vicious slander to reestablish your liberal bona fides and moral superiority. Krugman goes on to recast his argument and reiterate that "it's important to be intellectually honest, even when it hurts," but his column today is vastly different in tone from the one last week, with much more emphasis on his unequivocal support for total amnesty.

So it looks like Krugman has more or less paid the penance for his little indiscreet episode of independent thinking. It must have been a nervous few days at Princeton fielding the angry phone calls and emails from fellow members of the progressive intelligentsia.

March 23, 2006

ABC News Takes Ill

ABC News was already taking heat over complaints of bias in its coverage of Iraq, and I'm sure Matt Drudge just made things infinitely worse for them by exposing this email bashing President Bush.

March 17, 2006

Sullivan Gets Mugged

Russ Smith pulls off a hat trick in his weekly "Mugger" column in the NY Press, slapping Andrew Sullivan, Eric Alterman, and Paul Krugman - though Sullivan definitely gets the worst of it:

It's a question that can't be asked too often. Is selective homophobia acceptable when practiced by left-wingers who otherwise have impeccable anti-Bush, anti-Republican, anti-Alito, pro-abortion and soak-the-rich credentials? The one sliver of grace in Paul Krugman's I-told-you-so March 10 Times column, in which he reluctantly welcomed "born-again Bush bashers" Bruce Bartlett and Andrew Sullivan to his club, was that he didn't mention the latter's preoccupation with gay marriage. Maybe Krugman's squeamish about the subject, but I'm grateful.

The Nation's Eric Alterman, on the contrary,has no manners.

Sullivan, as noted here before, is not one of my favorite pundits. He denies it, of course, but his animus toward George W. Bush--the man who allegedly tortures at will, has an IQ lower than the typical unionized highschool teacher, presides over an economy that'll leave the country bankrupt sooner rather than later and is in favor of a police state--coincided with the president's vocal stance leading up to the 2004 elections that marriage is an institution reserved strictly for heterosexuals. That's certainly a reasonable point of view from a proud gay man who writes about his "fiancé" and snickers in print about the "hot" Olympian John Weir, but he ought not cloak his "born-again" opposition to Bush with arguments that minimize this crucial difference of opinion.

Additionally, it's off-putting to hear Sullivan on the subject of Iraq--you'd think he was writing from Baghdad's "Green Zone" rather than one of television's "green rooms" that he frequents more than is decent--especially after he told the citizens of Iraq "you're welcome," after Saddam Hussein was ousted three years ago. It's also strange to read his ongoing hagiography of Sen. John McCain--in similar terms with which he once described Bush. After all, the Arizona senator is one of the politically beleaguered president's most fervent supporters right now, as he mines Bush's contributor lists in preparation for a 2008 presidential run. Also, McCain is against gay marriage and is cultivating, somewhat successfully, an alliance with the cultural right.

On March 11, Sullivan wrote on his Time-financed blog, "Too many [Republicans] hate [McCain], I fear. And the factions who hate him--the factions who [detested] him in South Carolina in 2000--are among the most vicious and shameless in the country." Oh, please. Both economic and social conservatives are not shy today about plumping McCain as the best Republican bet in 2008. Sure, there's strenuous disgust still with the Senator's grandstanding, sponsorship of a First Amendment-busting campaign finance bill and coziness with some Democrats and almost every reporter in the country, but the onetime POW and Keating Five survivor has the look of a winner. Anyone who thinks Sens. George Allen, Bill Frist or Chuck Hagel are going to defeat the McCain machine are living in the past.

Krugman, a detestable writer who picks random facts to make political points, nevertheless was right on target on March 13--far ahead of his colleagues--when he skewered McCain. "[H]ere's what you need to know about McCain," he wrote. "He isn't a straight talker. His flip-flopping on tax cuts, his call to send troops we don't have to Iraq and his endorsement of the South Dakota anti-abortion legislation even while claiming that he would find a way around that legislation's central provision show that he's a politician as slippery and evasive as, well, George W. Bush."

Coming to soon: full-throated support of Sen. Russell Feingold.

March 08, 2006

General Franks in Qatar

Responding to a question after a speech yesterday in Doha, Qatar, General Tommy Franks lamented the lack of accountability in the media:

“The number of stories presented in any media outlet over the last five years that can be called into question and proven invalid is huge, and the number of incorrect assertions and absurd allegations is enormous.

If you as a military officer, diplomat or politician, use your judgement to make decisions and if your judgement is bad, what happens? You lose your job, livelihood, because you are responsible for what you do..."

In the same Q&A session Franks also was quoted saying "I doubt that we will ever see an armed conflict with Iran."

March 07, 2006

The Fat Bald Guy Rule

Paul Campos explains the Fat Bald Guy Rule (FBGR) in today's Rocky Mountain News:

The FBGR posits that, when considering otherwise roughly equivalent candidates for any job whose formal requirements don't include being good-looking, hire the fat bald guy. The reason is simple: Society gives all sorts of unearned preferences to good-looking people, so when a fat bald guy manages to assemble a résumé that at first glance resembles that possessed by his good-looking competition, the FBGR assumes that the former record is actually far more impressive than the latter, all things considered.

Examples of the FBGR can be found all over our image-conscious and media-driven culture. For instance, the essential difference between a ranting lunatic like Ann Coulter - who at a national GOP event last month gave a speech in which she referred to Arabs as "ragheads," and who has opined that "we should invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity" - and the schizophrenic bag lady who wanders the downtown mall is that Coulter is equipped with a law degree and long glossy blonde hair.

A bit of a cheap shot on Coulter, in my opinion, but I'm sure it'll get an "Amen" from Bob Wright in the inevitable Round 4 on Ann Coulter over at

February 27, 2006

Contrast and Compare

Read this column by Ralph Peters lauding the tireless work of our troops:

When you have the privilege of spending just a little time among these wonderful fellow citizens of ours, you can't help feeling impressed. And humbled. Certainly, they're far better soldiers than my Cold War generation produced. And they're doing a much tougher job.

If I could have a wish for the day, it would be that everyone reading this column could actually spend some time with our troops. Whatever your political stand you'd come away determined to stand behind our men and women in uniform.

Now contrast it with this lament by Bob Herbert about the all-encompassing evil of the military-industrial complex:

The way you keep the wars coming is to keep the populace in a state of perpetual fear. That allows you to continue the insane feeding of the military-industrial complex at the expense of the rest of the nation's needs. "Before long," said Mr. Jarecki in an interview, "the military ends up so overempowered that the rest of your national life has been allowed to atrophy. [snip]

The military-industrial complex has become so pervasive that it is now, as one of the figures in the movie notes, all but invisible. Its missions and priorities are poorly understood by most Americans, and frequently counter to their interests.

February 24, 2006

Der Spiegel's Shame

Here's the new cover of Germany's Der Spiegel magazine, via Davids Medienkritik. The translation of the headline and sub-head read: "America's Shame: Torture in the Name of Freedom"

Ray D. at Davids Medienkritik asks:

Torture in the name of freedom? Since when has America advocated torture as a means of promoting freedom? When someone is tortured or abused in a German jail in violation of established standards, does that mean the German government is torturing in the name of democracy as well? When illegal immigrants suffocate or commit suicide in German custody is that also in the name of democracy? It is as if the United States had never addressed the issue. It is as if the McCain bill torture ban had never been passed by Congress and signed by the President.

This is a dangerously cynical equation of two concepts. Particularly in a Europe where the general public is already so jaded that many no longer believe in the concept of freedom. Why? Because instead of reporting on the systematic violation of human rights in nations like North Korea and Iran the German media finds it necessary to exploit two year old photos of Abu Ghraib for profit (again and again). Never mind that Saddam's Abu Ghraib was a thousand times worse or that hundreds of thousands are starving to death in Kim Jong Il's gulags. There is no need for context in the world of asymmetric journalism.

And on the related subject of vicious anti-American press bias in Germany, Ray also dissects the way Der Spiegel massively distorted its recent interview with Karen Hughes.  It has to be read to be believed.

It's hard for the average American to comprehend either the depth or the scope of anti-Americanism in the global press and just how much our image suffers as a result of the tactics routinely employed by the likes of Der Spiegel.

February 13, 2006

Where You Can Put Your Two Cents

The San Francisco Chronicle runs an "interactive" feature called "Two Cents" where readers are encouraged to respond to questions posed by the editorial staff. Here's the "Two Cents" question the Chronicle asked this week: Who's more dangerous: bin Laden or Bush?. Don't snicker, I believe they were being serious.

Now check out some of the responses, which I'm sure surprised the Chronicle's staff:

"While I am no defender of Bush, this question borders on the offensive."

"I would never compare Bush to bin Laden. "

"My jaw dropped in disbelief at this question."

Coming next week: Who is more of a tyrant: Saddam Hussein or George W. Bush?

Killing The Messengers

In case you missed it, here's the intro to my column from Saturday:

Two masked men rush through the lobby doors and into the newspaper building. One pulls the clip on a grenade and hurls it into the newsroom. Both pull out automatic weapons and begin spraying bullets throughout the office. The paper’s employees scramble frantically for cover, racing out into the hallways and hiding under desks. In a matter of minutes the terrorists are gone, leaving the office a mess of smoke, shattered glass, and debris.

The attack I’m describing might sound like a potential nightmare scenario involving Islamic terrorists in Denmark or a country in Western Europe - but it’s not. It took place five days ago in the Mexican border town of Nuevo Laredo.

In the rest of the column I go into a bit more detail on the attack in Nuevo Laredo, as well as the lessons to be learned from the drug cartels' silencing of the press through intimidation.

But the situation in Nuevo Laredo deserves more attention, because a low-grade guerilla war is essentially being waged just across our Southern border.  Two more people were executed gang-land style in Nuevo Laredo yesterday, bring the total number of killings there in the first forty-four days of the year to 29. 

The McAllen Monitor editorializes on the subject today, concluding, " In America there has been much talk and worry about securing the border from terrorism. In Mexico, shamefully, control of the border appears to have been largely yielded."

February 01, 2006

The Eric Breindel Award

We've been asked to let people know that The Eric Breindel Memorial Foundation is now accepting applications for its 8th Annual Eric Breindel Award, given to columnists in the United States whose writings have demonstrated " love of country and its democratic institutions as well as the act of bearing witness to the evils of totalitarianism."

Past winners include Claudia Rosett, Daniel Henninger, Michael Kelly (posthumously); Jeff Jacoby, Jay Nordlinger, and Victor Davis Hanson.

A single prize of $20,000 will be awarded in June of this year. Applications are due by April 21. For more details contact Germaine Febles via email at

January 27, 2006

Old Media's Decline

There were some excellent pieces this week on the demise of Old Media and its implication on political discourse in this new media world. Hugh Hewitt has an insightful piece on Nicholas Lemann’s attempt to save the Columbia Journalism School (CSJ).

The story of what is going on at CSJ cannot be separated from the collapse of credibility of the mainstream media, also known as "elite media" and "old media" among its detractors. The fortunes of the big five papers--the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, and the Wall Street Journal, as well as the old TV networks and big weekly newsmagazines--are visibly in decline……

This story in its small way partakes of the seismic shift underway. Its origin is an email request from Lemann last spring: Would I be willing to be the subject of a New Yorker profile? I agreed, on the condition that I could have reciprocal access to Lemann and the Columbia Journalism School for this piece. Hedged with some qualifiers--he could not commit any of his faculty to talk to me or guarantee access to classrooms, though everyone proved to be very welcoming--Lemann agreed. Reactions to his profile of me varied among family and friends, but I thought it complete and fair. Before I sat down with Lemann I had read everything he'd written for the New Yorker and was impressed with his profiles of Dick Cheney and Karl Rove. (The Cheney profile earned Lemann some animosity among colleagues, who thought him too gentle with the only man the left fears as much as Rove.) The scorn on the center-right for the "objectivity" and "professionalism" of the mainstream media is deep and sincere. I went to Columbia to see if Lemann was the exception that proves the rule, and to test the rule itself.

What's the rule? That the elite media are hopelessly biased to the left and so blind to their own deficiencies, or so in denial, that they cannot save themselves from irrelevance. They're like the cheater in the clubhouse, whose every mention of a great round of golf is met with rolling eyes and knowing nods……

Hewitt goes on at length detailing his two-day visit to the distinguished journalism school and closes with a not so optimistic assessment:

Every conversation with one of the old guard citing the old proof texts comes down to this point: There is too much expertise, all of it almost instantly available now, for the traditional idea of journalism to last much longer. In the past, almost every bit of information was difficult and expensive to acquire and was therefore mediated by journalists whom readers and viewers were usually in no position to second-guess. Authority has drained from journalism for a reason. Too many of its practitioners have been easily exposed as poseurs.

Lemann understands completely what has happened. I think he regrets it. He is certainly trying to salvage the situation. And there is simply no way he can succeed.

Thomas Lifson further examines the transformation in American media in his The Antique Media. Lifson explains how television and the evening news broadcast sealed the fate of the evening newspaper industry and details how the “The emergence of talk radio, cable television and especially the Internet “is having a similar effect on today’s Mainstream Media.

When Rush Limbaugh created modern talk radio, most cities of any size had at least two or three dozen radio stations. In search of a niche audience, radio stations were happy to latch on to the under-served market of conservative listeners. Rush demonstrated the concept when the FCC “fairness doctrine” was repealed, and stations could air a political view without having to offer free time to alternative views.

As television viewing options proliferated with the arrival of numerous cable networks, while the American electorate polarized further into liberal and conservative spheres, a huge market niche emerged, and was spotted by Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch, undoubtedly cognizant of Rush Limbaugh’s enormous following....

The term for what Ailes and Murdoch accomplished is “market segmentation.” It is a phenomenon that regularly occurs in markets as they grow and mature. But so far, the other television news competitors are stuck in the old mode of thinking. It is a loser’s game, though they haven’t figured out that point quite yet…..The once dominant broadcast network news divisions are no longer mainstream, they are antique. Their assumptions and instincts are based on technologies and resulting market structures that no longer define the state of the art. But their antique character is far surpassed by that of the daily newspaper industry.

Newspapers, of course, are in a death spiral, a case I made almost two years ago. The expense, time, and resources consumed in leveling forests to put ink on paper and transport heavy newspapers to readers’ hands are simply not sustainable when news consumers can look at their computer screens and find far more printed information, far more usefully displayed, at much lower cost....

Internet websites like blogs are an even deeper challenge to the antique media than Fox News Channel was to the antique networks. There are no serious barriers to entry for bloggers. The capital requirements are low to non-existent, and global distribution takes place with no pesky distributors, longshoremen, retailers, or other encumbering interests in the way.

Some day a new industrial structure will emerge for the Internet-based media, but the shape and characteristics of that structure will remain unknowable for some time to come....

America’s media will never be the same. It will take a long time for antique practices to die out, but die out they will. The antique media are on their way out.

And then finally today Tom Bevan takes a look at the Los Angeles Times’ Joel Stein and the increasing impotence of the New York Times editorial page.

In what is becoming a fairly regular occurrence, this week turned out to be another bad week for big media.

On one coast, Joel Stein of the Los Angeles Times wrote the sort of career-crippling column most writers dread – setting off a firestorm by saying he does not support U.S. troops – and managed to compound the offense by making his point with bad humor...

On the other coast, the New York Times spent its rapidly dwindling editorial capital trying to browbeat Senate Democrats into blocking a Supreme Court nominee who is unquestionably qualified for the job. No matter that this would entail the first filibuster of a majority supported nominee in the history of the country, or that according to the most recent Gallup poll Americans believe Alito should be confirmed by close to a 2-1 margin…

The veil of “objectivity” in the press has been pulled back over the last few years, and the result has been a massive shift in the media landscape. Audiences are more polarized, markets are more segmented, and news consumption is no longer a strictly passive enterprise. These trends are almost certain to continue, what is uncertain is how big media will deal with them.

Politically this trend is bad news for Democrats, as they continue to see their boost from media bias get reduced every year. George W. Bush would have almost certainly lost both the 2000 and 2004 elections had we been living in a 1980’s media world, as opposed to the 2000’s. So on one hand Dems are losing an asset they had come to rely on, and on the other, the explosion of the Internet has empowered the far left in the Democratic Party which in turn pushes the party to left and reinforces its minority status.

January 24, 2006

What is the Los Angeles Times Thinking?

From Joel Stein, on the Los Angeles Times op-ed page today:

I DON'T SUPPORT our troops. This is a particularly difficult opinion to have, especially if you are the kind of person who likes to put bumper stickers on his car. Supporting the troops is a position that even Calvin is unwilling to urinate on……

Blindly lending support to our soldiers, I fear, will keep them overseas longer by giving soft acquiescence to the hawks who sent them there — and who might one day want to send them somewhere else. Trust me, a guy who thought 50.7% was a mandate isn't going to pick up on the subtleties of a parade for just service in an unjust war. He's going to be looking for funnel cake.

Besides, those little yellow ribbons aren't really for the troops. They need body armor, shorter stays and a USO show by the cast of "Laguna Beach."

The real purpose of those ribbons is to ease some of the guilt we feel for voting to send them to war…..

I understand the guilt. We know we're sending recruits to do our dirty work, and we want to seem grateful.

After we've decided that we made a mistake, we don't want to blame the soldiers who were ordered to fight. Or even our representatives, who were deceived by false intelligence. And certainly not ourselves, who failed to object to a war we barely understood.

But blaming the president is a little too easy. The truth is that people who pull triggers are ultimately responsible, whether they're following orders or not……

But when you volunteer for the U.S. military, you pretty much know you're not going to be fending off invasions from Mexico and Canada. So you're willingly signing up

I'm not advocating that we spit on returning veterans like they did after the Vietnam War, but we shouldn't be celebrating people for doing something we don't think was a good idea. All I'm asking is that we give our returning soldiers what they need: hospitals, pensions, mental health and a safe, immediate return. But, please, no parades.

Seriously, the traffic is insufferable.

Now, I realize this piece is written to supposedly have some humor in it and, to be extremely charitable, is perhaps not supposed to be taken literally. But why would a major newspaper like the Los Angeles Times, that is trying rejuvenate their sales, run a column that displays this type of ingratitude to our men and women who volunteer to defend this country?

UPDATE: Hugh Hewitt has an interview this afternoon with weekly Los Angeles Times columnist Joel Stein, RadioBlogger has the transcript.

January 03, 2006

Foer & The MSB

Via Sullivan, Frank Foer castigates liberal blogs (which he calls the "mainstream blogosphere" or "MSB") for "heaping disdain" on the NY Times over the NSA story:

These attacks should be meaningless, except they're not. The administration has now launched an investigation into the leak that produced the Times story. This is a dangerous case that could seriously threaten the ability of reporters to do their jobs. And liberals should be apoplectic about the threat it represents. But instead of apoplexy, many in the MSB are sitting on their hands. The Bush administration has opened a new front in its war on the press, and the press has no defenders. Thanks to the MSB's sweeping, reckless criticisms, the Times has lost much of the credibility and authority that it needs to mount a robust defense. For this, the bloggers deserve some credit. Well done, guys.

Foer is a talented guy, but this is rather weak. First, the DoJ investigation into the NSA story isn't a "new front in [the Bush administration's] war on the press."  If anything, it's a declaration of war on leakers inside the administration, but even that is probably a stretch - as we've seen, it's standard procedure to open an investigation when classified information is leaked to the public.

Second, any vulnerability the Times suffers is largely of its own making after demanding an investigation into the leak of Valerie Plame's name. Most of the media and the left were gung ho for probing leaks until Patrick Fitzgerald doggedly went to work doing his job questioning reporters. But Fitzgerald hardly "declared war" on the press.

Finally, at least in the case of the leak of the NSA surveillance program there is clear, indisputable evidence that a crime was committed to justify an investigation. Half of the Washington press corps knew Valerie Plame's name before it was printed and there was considerable uncertainty about her status at the CIA (which is why Fitzgerald couldn't indict under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act), but even some of the most senior people in the White House didn't have a clue about the NSA story until it hit the pages of the New York Times last month.

Even if Foer considers the Plame leak a dirty trick and the NSA leak an act of heroism, that doesn't support the claim that investigating the latter is a declaration of war on the press but investigating the former wasn't. In fact, that sort of thinking is at least part of the reason for the New York Times' credibility problem.

January 02, 2006

Herbert's Stiff Medicine

Bob Herbert wrote a suprisingly candid column last week titled "Blowing the Whistle on Gangsta Culture." (Full text of the article accessible via the Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Herbert uses the death of E.J. Duncan and three friends - all of whom were aspiring rappers (of various ethnic backgrounds) gunned down in the basement of Duncan's parents' house the week before last for no apparent reason - to highlight the "profoundly self-destructive cultural influences that have spread like a cancer through much of the black community and beyond." He continues:

I keep wondering when leaders of eminence will step forward and declare, unambiguously, that enough is enough, as they did in the heyday of the civil rights movement, when the enemy was white racism.

It is time to blow the whistle on the nitwits who have so successfully promoted a values system that embraces murder, drug-dealing, gang membership, misogyny, child abandonment and a sense of self so diseased that it teaches children to view the men in their orbit as niggaz and the women as hoes.

However this madness developed, it's time to bring it to an end.

I noticed that Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Louis Farrakhan, Snoop Dogg and other "leaders" and celebrities turned out in South Central Los Angeles on Tuesday for the funeral of Stanley "Tookie" Williams, the convicted killer and co-founder of the Crips street gang who was executed in California last week.

I remember talking over the years to parents in Los Angeles and elsewhere who were petrified that their children would be killed in cold blood - summarily executed, without any possibility of a defense or an appeal - by the Crips or some other gang because they just happened to be wearing the wrong color cap or jacket or whatever.

The enthusiastic turnout at Tookie Williams's funeral tells you much of what you need to know about the current state of black leadership in the U.S.

That is some stiff, righteous stuff - all the more impressive coming from the source. If Herbert is disgusted with the current state of black leadership in America then we may indeed have reached a tipping point.

RELATED: Two and a half years ago Herbert wrote a similarly tough column about anti-intellectualism in the African-American community. You can read my comments on it here.

December 29, 2005

Measuring Media Bias

It is very rare that an article in The Quarterly Journal of Economics finds its way into the mainstream media. But an article in its recent edition, by Tim Groseclose and Jeffrey Milyo, entitled "A Measure of Media Bias," did just that last week.

Most of the reports I read were based upon the press releases that announced the article's publication. Much of the details of the article, which is 46 pages in length, went largely unnoticed. Having just finished reading this piece, I thought I might comment upon it.

The authors theorize that the mainstream press is (a) more leftist than the average member of Congress and (b) more leftist than the average American voter. This is an argument that many have made in the past, but rarely has it been done systematically, i.e. with some kind of objective measure of bias. The authors of this article develop such a measure.

What they do, in essence, is compare the frequency with which members of Congress reference think tanks in House or Senate speeches to the frequency with which 20 news sources reference think tanks in their news reports. The theory behind this test is that a conservative member of Congress will probably mention the same think tanks that a conservative media outlet will mention - and a liberal member of Congress will probably mention the same think tanks that a liberal media outlet will mention. If you have an objective measure of liberal/conservative among members of Congress (and Groseclose and Milyo use each members' Americans for Democratic Action voting score - a standard measurement in academic work), you can then develop a measure of liberal/conservative for media outlets.

In their words:

As a simplified example, imagine that there were only two think tanks, and suppose that the New York Times cited the first think tank twice as often as the second. Our method asks: what is the estimated ADA score of a member of Congress who exhibits the same frequency (2:1) in his or her speeches? This is the score that our method would assign the New York Times.
As has been reported, they found that most think tanks are more liberal than the average member of Congress from the same period.

What has gone relatively under-reported are two interesting findings. First, the results of Groseclose and Milyo tend to go against the arguments made by people like Eric Alterman and Neal Gabler that the media has a corporate, and therefore conservative or pro-business, bias. One result that they find, for instance, is that News Night with Aaron Brown and Time magazine have different ADA scores, with the former being about 9 "points" more conservative than the latter. Yet, both are owned by Time-Warner. This does not amount to a strong refutation of the theory of "conservative bias" but nevertheless the result is problematic for those who advocate that idea.

Another point that has gone under-reported is that almost all media outlets are more liberal than the average Republican member of Congress and more conservative than the average liberal member of Congress. The media outlets that are measured would, if they were members of Congress, be mostly Democratic - but also mostly conservatively Democratic. So, it is important not to overstate the scale of bias they find. The direction of the bias is left, but the strength of the bias is not overwhelming.

One argument that Groseclose and Milyo make that I think is overstated is the argument that we now know that the media is more leftist than the average American voter. They make this argument by inferring what the average voter's ADA score is. They estimate the average member of Congress's ADA score -- weighting it to account for factors like gerrymandering, population variance among senatorial constituencies, and the absence of congressional representation for Washington DC -- and use this estimate as a proxy for the average American's ideological position on the ADA scale. The problem with this is that I think it gives too much credit to the average voter. The consensus among political scientists is that only about 30% of the American electorate is ideological in the sense that the ADA would rate members of Congress. Thus, comparing the ideology of the electorate to the ideology of the media is, by and large, like comparing apples to oranges. The public is largely, as Donald Kinder once put it, "innocent of ideology." Unfortunately, this article lacks a discussion of this compelling literature - and so their argument in this regard is not very persuasive. Furthermore, even if we assume that the public is ideological, we cannot assume that they vote for members of Congress based upon ideology. We know for a fact that they do not. Accordingly, it is difficult to infer the average voter's ideology based upon the average member's ideology.

A final point is worth mentioning. This article does not prove that the media is biased toward the left. It produces a result that is consistent with that theory. That is an important distinction. The fact that this article is in the Journal of Quarterly Economics indicates that the article is methodologically valid (i.e. all of their statistics are good) and theoretically plausible and honest (i.e. they are not putting forth some insane theory or some insignificant way of testing the theory).

But that does not necessarily mean that it is theoretically perfect. The objectivity of this measure of bias is, as mentioned earlier, legislative voting. But consider how this measure is "filtered" in the study. One moves from congressional vote choices, to the ADA's assessment of what constitutes liberal and conservative vote choices, to the ADA's assignment of liberal/conservative scores, to speeches by members where think tanks are referenced, to references in the media to think tanks, to ADA scores for the media, to a comparison between media and congressional scores. This is not a very parsimonious measure in that it takes many different steps across institutions (Congress, ADA, media) and across actions (vote casting, speechifying, news reporting). It might be possible to construct a more parsimonious indicator of media bias that is just as objective - and such an indicator might provide a different result.

(One such possible improvement might be an independent indicator of whether a think tank is liberal/conservative. Their theory assumes that liberals prefer to cite liberal think tanks. That is how they conclude that media outlets are liberal when they see them referencing the same think tanks. But they do not test that assumption. One would need an independent measure of think tank ideology, which they do not provide, to see whether liberals in fact use liberal think tanks, and vice-versa. Maybe they do not.)

It is also not necessarily the case that, simply because the media is biased in this domain (i.e. its use of think tanks in its reports), it is necessarily biased in all domains. For instance, the media might have a tendency to use pro-leftist think tanks, but it might show a conservative bias in its selection of news stories. Maybe, in other words, its bias is compartmentalized - in some instances it is leftist, in others it is rightist. This article is only directly measuring a type of bias. The fact that objective indicators of bias are difficult to develop, and so rarely done, means that we simply cannot say with certainty whether the media is generally biased.

In other words, the results they find are consistent with a general bias, but they do not "prove" that there is such a thing. It is very possible that these results could eventually be explained by an alternative theory that does not conceive of the media as being generally biased. That would first require the development of another objective indicator of media bias.

December 16, 2005

The Media's Incurable Myopia

The coverage of the Iraqi election by the press has been extensive and generally positive, but as sure as the sun continues to rise in the east, by next week we will be back to a steady diet of chaos and carnage in the newspapers and on TV.

The problem isn't necessarily that the press covers car bombs and kidnappings, or that it is composed of bad people who want to see the U.S. fail in Iraq - though it's undeniable there are plenty of members of the mainstream media who dislike this president and don't approve of the war. The more general problem, however, which is part institutional and part individual, is that the press is either unwilling or unable to put events in Iraq in any sort of historical context.

Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld chastised the media for this is his speech last week, and yesterday the estimable Thomas P.M. Barnett piled on:

The press always wants a quick and easy answer to the question: Who wins and when does it happen? Either the U.S. is winning or the enemy is winning, and it has to be done by Tuesday. If Bush speaks to the long fight and says we'll always pursue victory even as it takes years and decades to unfold, then he must be speaking illogically. The Second World War should have been over by 1943. The Cold War should have ended in 1953. If the GWOT isn't done by 2005, then we've lost and we must retreat from the world.

We lost over 20k* in Iwo Jima and we won. If we lose 2k-plus in almost three years in Iraq, then we must be losing.

Where are the wise men? Hell, where are the journalists with any sense of history?

Karl Zinsmeister drives the point home even further by questioning how historical events might be viewed in today's environment:

I’ve been looking back at World War II recently and remembering, for instance, the Battle of the Bulge. In the Battle of the Bulge, American soldiers were sent to fight in waist-deep snow with no winter clothing, and I’m thinking to myself, “today, that would be reason to hang somebody. What commission is going to attack them for that?”

Look at Iwo Jima. I believe 7,000 men were killed at Iwo Jima. It's a four-mile by two-mile island in the middle of nowhere with no resources. I wonder, would we, in our contemporary worldview be able to look at that and say, "that’s a glorious triumph for the US Marine Corps," or would we say, "somebody’s got to be court-martialed over that screw-up?"

There is just an insane amount of handwringing today, all driven by the deluge of round-the-clock media coverage. News organizations can't get the cameras to the flames in Iraq fast enough and day after day the public reacts emotionally to the images put before them through the lens of a soda straw. How many times have we heard people come back from Iraq and talk about how different reality is from what they've seen on TV and read in the papers?

And how many times have we heard members of the press talk about their duty to inform and educate the citizenry about issues? In the matter of Iraq, that means news organizations have an obligation to their readers and viewers to put events in perspective and provide historical context. They have failed the public miserably in that obligation.

The public bears its share of the burden, too. As Thomas Sowell wrote earlier this week: "Utter ignorance of history enables any war with any casualties to be depicted in the media as an unmitigated disaster."

Iraq is tough, to be sure, but it's far from a disaster. The only thing missing from the picture today is knowledge of history and context.

*Barnett seems to have confused the number of U.S. casualties suffered at Iwo Jima (26,000) with the number of combat deaths (6,800).

The Timing of The Times

Did the The New York Times harm national security by running a story today reporting President Bush signed an order in 2002 giving the NSA authority to eavesdrop on certain domestic communications without a FISA court warrant? Hugh Hewitt thinks so:

When the next attack comes, one question will be how did the terrorists evade detection. Today the odds increased that one of their methods will be careful reading of the New York Times.

I think Hugh goes a bit over the top here. I am curious, however, as to the timing.  Why would The Times chose to run this clearly controversial story today, of all days, after it had been sitting on it (at the administration's request) for more than a year?

December 07, 2005

The Dean of Hardball

Chris Matthews is the Howard Dean of cable television talk shows: he starts pontificating and there's just no telling what sort of absurdity is going to come flying out of his mouth. Lately, Matthews has tended to suffer more acute attacks of Deanitis whenever he starts talking about Vice President Cheney.  Last night's discussion of the Cheney's speech at Ft. Drum is a classic example:

MATTHEWS:  I heard—I watched the vice president and I listened attentively to his speech at Fort Drum.  I heard something different than just we are building a democracy over there. 

I heard we are fighting for American influence.  It was a much more traditional position about geopolitics.  We are over there.  And he went through all the cases that they, the terrorists, tried to knock us out of being over there. 

Lebanon in ‘83, Somalia later on, he went through each case and said, what they are trying to do, the Arabs over there, are throw us out of Arabia.  He says we have a right to be there in force; we‘re going to stay there. 

I thought he was staking a claim to the oil fields of Arabia, saying, we‘re staying there, we belong there like we belong in Texas and Wyoming. [emphasis added]

This is wackiness. Matthews was going along fine (I may not agree with his opinion but at least it's within reason) before suddenly succumbing to a Tourette's-like attack of fever-swamp moonbattery.

Matthews went on to talk about Cheney's low poll numbers, saying to Howard Fineman, "I wouldn‘t like to have my job approval of 32 percent." Hey Chris, I'm sure if Cheney was a talk show host he wouldn't want your ratings, either.

December 01, 2005

MoDo's New Low

Maureen Dowd lowered the bar for intellectual seriousness again yesterday with her rant on Vice President Cheney:

Things had been going so smoothly. The global torture franchise was up and running. Halliburton contracts were flowing. Tax cuts were sailing through. Oil companies were raking it in. Alaska drilling was thrillingly close. The courts were defending his executive privilege on energy policy, and people were still buying all that smoke about Saddam's being responsible for 9/11, and that drivel about how we're fighting them there so we don't have to fight them here. Everything was groovy.

Is it coincidence that Dowd's name hasn't appeared among the top ten searches on Technorati either yesterday or today - something that has become a standard occurrence when one of the fire-walled columnists at the Times writes a fresh piece?

November 09, 2005

Judy's Gone

Here is Katharine Seelye's just-posted report on Miller's departure from the NYT:

Lawyers for Ms. Miller and the paper negotiated a severance package, the details of which they would not disclose. Under the agreement, Ms. Miller will retire from the newspaper, and The Times will print a letter she wrote to the editor explaining her position. Ms. Miller originally demanded that she be able to write an essay for the paper's Op-Ed page challenging the allegations against her. The Times refused that demand - Gail Collins, editor of the editorial page, said, "We don't use the Op-Ed page for back and forth between one part of the paper and another" - but agreed to let her write the letter.

In that letter, to be published in The New York Times on Thursday under the heading, "Judith Miller's Farewell," Ms. Miller said she was leaving partly because some of her colleagues disagreed with her decision to testify in the C.I.A. leak case.

Can't wait to read Judy's letter. 

UPDATE: Here it is

November 04, 2005

Brooks v. Krugman: Dueling Satires

I must come clean: a few days ago I broke down and subscribed to Times Select. Why? Well, a big part of my job is knowing what's in the editorial pages around the country and, like it or not, The Times is still fairly influential.

That and I missed tracking the deterioration of Dowd, Herbert and especially Krugman into tinfoil hat lunacy during the Bush administration. It's been the editorial equivalent of a slow motion car crash 6 times a week for the last 5 years and frankly, I found myself unable to look away with three solid years of carnage left. Perhaps this was the hidden brillance of the Times Select strategy all along. All I know is that my $49.95 fate was sealed the day Scooter Libby got indicted and I have not been disappointed (I'm still on the "14 day free trial" so technically I've got an out).

Yesterday David Brooks wrote a blistering satire of Harry Reid. Today Paul Krugman followed with one of his own on the Bush administration. In the spirit of a Friday afternoon at the end of a long week, I hereby present, "Dueling Satires." Cue the banjo music from Deliverance:

Brooks: Harry Reid sits alone at his kitchen table at 4 a.m., writing important notes in crayon on the outside of envelopes. It's been four weeks since he launched his personal investigation into the Republican plot to manipulate intelligence to trick the American people into believing Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

Krugman: Hans Christian Andersen understood bad rulers. "The Emperor's New Suit" doesn't end with everyone acclaiming the little boy for telling the truth. It ends with the emperor and his officials refusing to admit their mistake. I've laid my hands on additional material, which Andersen failed to publish, describing what happened after the imperial procession was over.

Brooks: It has been four weeks since he [Reid] began investigating this conspiracy and three weeks since he sealed his windows with aluminum foil to ward off the Illuminati. Odd patterns now leap into his brain. Scooter Libby was born near a book depository but was indicted while at a theater. Karl Rove reads books from book depositories but rarely has time for the theater.

Krugman: Fox News repeatedly played up possible finds of imperial clothing, then buried reports discrediting these stories. Months after the naked procession, a poll found that many of those getting most of their news from Fox believed that the emperor had in fact been clothed.

Brooks: Harry Reid sits alone at his kitchen table at 4 a.m. Odd thoughts rush through his brain. He cannot trust the letter "r," so he must change his name to Hawwy Weed. Brian Lamb secretly rules the world by manipulating the serial numbers on milk cartons.

Krugman: After the naked procession, pro-wardrobe pundits denied that the emperor was at fault. The blame, they said, rested with the C.I.A., which had provided the emperor with bad intelligence about the potential for a suit.

Brooks: Reid realizes there is only one solution: "Must call a secret session of the Senate. Must expose global conspiracy to sap vital juices! Must expose Republican plot to manipulate intelligence!" Harry Reid sits alone at his kitchen table at 4 a.m.

Krugman: Two and a half years after the emperor's naked procession, a majority of citizens believed that the imperial administration had deliberately misled the country. Several former officials had gone public with tales of an administration obsessed with its wardrobe from Day 1. But apologists for the emperor continued to dismiss any suggestion that officials had lied to the nation. It was, they said, a crazy conspiracy theory. After all, back in 1998 Bill Clinton thought there was a suit.

November 01, 2005

Another MSM Myth

From Eric Deggans' column in The St. Petersburg Times:

At least 98 stories and opinion columns in U.S. newspapers said former FEMA head Michael Brown was a college roommate or friend of his predecessor, Joe Allbaugh. He wasn't.

October 27, 2005

Have You Ever Wondered....

what it would feel like to get smacked down by Charles Krauthammer? Brent Scowcroft is about to find out. Get Krauthammer's new syndicated column tonight at 12:01am Eastern Time on the RCP home page.

October 13, 2005

Sid's Envy

The stench coming from The Guardian this morning is Sidney Blumenthal, the former journalist now most well known for being the hack Bill Clinton hired to destroy Monica Lewinsky using his savvy and relationships with members of the press corps, complaining about what is, in his view, an unconscionable restraint on the part of the press in the CIA leak case:

Unlike in Watergate, which was largely advanced by the press, this scandal has unfolded despite much of the press corps' efforts to avoid, demean or restrain the story. Also, unlike in Watergate, major influences in the press have been aligned with their sources in the administration, not with the professionals in the government acting as whistleblowers. Bob Woodward, who has written two books describing events from the perspective of the Bush administration, supported the White House version of the Niger incident by charging in July 2004: "There were reasonable grounds to discredit Wilson."

Ironic that Blumenthal, the type of person who would use the press to discredit his own mother if it would help advance his career, has chosen this as the subject of his complaint.

October 11, 2005

Rather's Bravado

Here's an interesting item from New York Magazine on the updated paperback version of David Blum's book about CBS News' 60 Minutes:

Among Blum's new revelations: The night before last fall's controversial National Guard piece aired, Rather called 60 Minutes Wednesday executive producer Josh Howard from the anchor desk to find out why he wasn't running promos for the story. When Howard told him he couldn't promote it - CBS News president Andrew Heyward hadn't seen it yet, nor had the lawyers, and they hadn't even contacted the White House for comment - Rather threatened to take the story to the Times that night. (Rather later backed down.) The anchor was feeling a good deal less of a cowboy after the story blew up in his face. According to the book, on the night before his on-air apology, Rather confessed to Howard that he'd had doubts about the veracity of the memos all along. "I knew when I did the [document consultant Marcel] Matley interview that something wasn't right with all this," Rather confessed to Howard, belying his stalwart public position.

So Rather had doubts about the authenticity of the TANG memos from the beginning. And yet he still pestered his executive producer to give the story more promotion and threatened to take the story somewhere else. The only way this makes sense is if you're a masochist, a journalist who puts partisanship above professional integrity, or an uncontrollable egomaniac. Or perhaps all three.