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The Real Question

August 19th, 2009 Comments off

Every last Republican politician should be asked the following questions:

Question: Do you oppose socialized medicine?

Probable Answer: Yes.

Question: Then you favor shutting down Medicare, Medicaid, and the Veterans Health Administration.

Probable Answer: No!

Question: You can’t have it both ways. Medicare, Medicaid, and the VHA are all socialized medicine. If you oppose socialized medicine, then you oppose those three programs. So, you either support government-run health care–in which you should support the “Public Option”–or you oppose it–in which case you must state your opposition to Medicare, Medicaid, and the VHA.

Probable Answer: [any number of variations on bald-faced lies, squirming out of answering, changing the subject, etc.]

Any self-respecting journalist would have to ask this question. Too bad we have a Liberal Media™ in which Republican politicians are allowed this flagrant, hypocritical inconsistency, while Democrats are grilled on “euthanizing grandma.”

Damn Liberal Media™!

Was Crowley Racist? Probably Not. But That’s Not What Obama Was Talking About.

July 24th, 2009 5 comments

A lot of the controversy over the Gates arrest is now focused on racism. And the other day, when asked about the situation, Obama–clearly admitting that he was biased and did not have all the facts–suggested that the arrest was “stupid.” The problem is, conservatives–as well as a good chunk of the mainstream media–have now made this about Obama attacking the police for racism, when that is not even close to what was the case.

Here is Obama’s original statement:

My understanding is, at that point, Professor Gates is already in his house. The police officer comes in. I’m sure there’s some exchange of words. But my understanding is — is that Professor Gates then shows his ID to show that this is his house, and at that point he gets arrested for disorderly conduct, charges which are later dropped.

Now, I’ve — I don’t know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played in that. But I think it’s fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry; number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home.

And number three, what I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that there is a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcing disproportionately. That’s just a fact.

Note that while race is mentioned here, Obama (1) does not refer to the arrest as stupid in any way related to race, and (2) makes no claim that actual racism was involved–he actually says “separate and apart from this incident” there is a history of racism, referring to either why Gates reacted as he did, or that sensitivity must be practiced by all parties when race even might be an issue, or both.

The result? The narrative now is that Obama’s remark was somehow an accusation of racism, and an attack on an honest, hard-working cop. One example of how the story is being reported:

Crowley’s account came on a day of dizzying debate over his actions, a furor that was touched off by President Barack Obama’s remarks at a news conference Wednesday night, when he said the police had “acted stupidly” and linked Gates’ arrest to the nation’s long history of racial profiling.

“Linked” being the key word. In a very loose sense, it’s true, but the use of that word implies that Obama accused the officer in some sense of racism–when Obama went to great lengths to avoid saying exactly that. Can you honestly say that Obama “linked Gates’ arrest to … racial profiling” when Obama said “separate and apart from this incident” there is a history of racial profiling? And he was right in that there is a history of racial profiling.

It’s a shame, because the real issue of importance here is not Obama, and not even racial profiling, but rather “contempt of cop” arrests–the “stupid” act that Obama referred to. And Obama was 100% right–it was a stupid arrest, almost certainly a case of a cop getting annoyed at someone and abusing his power to slap that person down.

But what about racism? Was is in fact involved?

While I strongly disagree with the arrest, I don’t think that the facts much support the idea that Crowley himself was racist. It’s possible that he made racially biased assumptions, but far from certain, and Crowley deserves the benefit of the doubt on this.

The initial situation that Crowley was put into was unavoidable: he received a call reporting a break-in, so naturally he had to investigate. He could not just say to himself, “Hmm, there’s an older gentleman inside, he’s probably the owner, I’ll just go away.” He had to check and find out who Gates was. Nothing wrong there.

What Gates identifies as racism is less of a clear-cut situation: that Crowley asked Gates to step out onto the front porch. Apparently, it is much more difficult for an officer to make an arrest if the individual is indoors rather than out; a policeman asking someone to step outside could be a prelude to an arrest. And if Crowley was intending to arrest Gates with no questions asked, then that would have been far more likely a case of racism–it is perhaps not as likely that a police officer would arrest a 58-year-old white person using a cane, in that situation, in such a fashion.

But this is where benefit of the doubt comes in: perhaps Crowley was simply asking Gates to step outside just to be on the safe side, allowing himself more options should the situation take a bad turn. We can’t know what Crowley’s actual intent there was, and so cannot make the assumption that Crowley was being racist–especially since it appears that he did not do anything after that which appeared significantly out of order–until the actual arrest, that is.

Gates, however, made that assumption right off the bat, but there was a contributing factor: that the call had been made at all. This was not Crowley’s fault, of course; the neighbor may have over-reacted. She saw a man forcing open a door–but she also noticed two men. This is critical. To see two men, she had to either see Gates before he entered the house, in which case she would have seen him go around and enter the house easily before the forced front-door entry occurred, or she had to see Gates inside the house when the door was forced open. Neither make sense in the context of an unlawful break-in.

The fact that the neighbor reported men with “backpacks” casts further suspicion: neither man was wearing a backpack–instead, they were dressed in suits, carrying luggage. Where did she get backpacks from, and how did she miss the suitcases? Seeing two men dressed in suits with luggage is a far cry from two men with backpacks; one suggests a returning resident, the other suggests young thugs. It is easy to question whether the neighbor would have reported things differently had she seen two white men in suits, one with greying hair and a cane, in the same situation.

So Gates had returned home in a context that did not match any reasonable expectation of a break-in, and yet moments later police come and act like he may be an intruder. The real turning point was Crowley’s request that Gates step outside, which Gates recognized as a possible prelude to an arrest. With these two facts–an accusation of a black man in an upscale white neighborhood breaking into his own home, and the likelihood that the police officer would simply arrest him right off the bat–Gates forms a new context, and from that point on, everything he sees is colored by it.

Race may very well have played a part in setting up the situation–but it is less than perfectly clear. The neighbor could have just seen things wrong and maybe race had nothing to do with it; the officer could have just been following procedure and might not have treated Gates differently than anyone else. But in the overall context, Gates did have reason to believe that race was involved–though he certainly over-reacted, even if you don’t take the officer’s account at full face value.

What is likely the case is that the neighbor saw the forced entry, and as witnesses are wont to do, painted in details that weren’t there–not an act of overt racism, but more than likely unconscious bias, giving us backpacks instead of suits and luggage, and ignoring the overall context where Gates was already indoors. The policeman came and made what he considered a by-the-book encounter; though he may have intended to act inappropriately and would have arrested Gates right off, we have to assume that he just wanted Gates outside to make the situation easier to deal with. But by that point, Gates had received one too many signals that he was being treated in a racist manner, did not give benefit of the doubt, and started making accusations–accusations that Crowley probably was strongly offended by. The main business of identifying the owner done, Crowley then makes the next big mistake: by wildly overreacting to an angry man who believed he had good reason to be upset, and arresting Gates on trumped-up charges.

That’s the main issue in the end. While actual racism may have played a small, contributory role in setting this up, it was the early taking of offense by both gates and Crowley which escalated things, and eventually Crowley was most at fault, using his authority to satisfy his personal grievance.

And that was the only part of this which was way over the line: the contempt-of-cop arrest.

Obama’s comment did not accuse the cop of racism, but because the media is playing it that way, it’s now about the stuck-up Harvard elitist and his reverse-racist pal in the Oval Office dumping on an honest, hard working cop by labeling him as a racist. Right-wing sites are already ginning up conspiracy theories, like the Boston Globe removing the police report from their web site because it was too embarrassing for Gates, or because it contradicted the paper’s liberal-media agenda to make Gates look like a victim–as if the police report is gospel or something.

So much for any attention on the abusive practice of “contempt of cop” arrests.

By the way, a comment just filed in the previous post sheds new light on why Crowley worded his police report so oddly. From Massachusetts state law, two of the four identifying qualities of what constitutes “disorderly conduct”:

“with purpose to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm

“engages in fighting or threatening, violent or tumultuous behavior”

Then, from Crowley’s report:

Due to the tumultuous manner Gates had exhibited in his residence as well as his continued tumultuous behavior outside the residence, in view of the public, I warned Gates that he was becoming disorderly. Gates ignored my warning and continued to yell, which drew the attention of both the police officers and citizens, who appeared surprised and alarmed by Gates’s outburst.

It seems pretty clear that Gates was very intentionally cribbing language from the state code so as to justify the arrest. These terms raised flags–note that my post pays special attention to these terms, as they stood out as rather unusual and unlikely. Now we know why: Crowley had to justify the arrest. Whether this is regular practice or not, it seems to cast doubt on the accuracy of what he claimed, as if it were tailor-made to fit the law, as opposed to being a true and objective account of what actually happened.

Categories: "Liberal" Media, Law, Race, Social Issues Tags:

Cronkite

July 19th, 2009 3 comments

Walter Cronkite died today. He was one of the greats, and perhaps one of the last greats. The “most trusted man in America,” known for his signature sign-out, “And that’s the way it is.” But he also was an excellent example of what was right about avoiding bias in reporting, and a contrast to what has become so wrong with reporting today.

It was no secret that Cronkite was a liberal, proud and unreserved. He famously chided Kerry for shying away from his liberalism, and castigated Bush for Iraq. The staunchly conservative “Media Research Center” has a page documenting Cronkite’s liberal bias, but that page attacking Cronkite and holding him up as a prime example of the “Liberal Media” is notable in that (a) Cronkite (unsurprisingly) comes across as rationally and thoughtfully biased—this is the worst they can find?—and (b) it’s all stuff from after he retired—not one shred of evidence for any liberal bias in his actual reporting. In fact, they quote him in explaining why liberal journalists don’t allow it to taint their reporting:

I believe that most of us reporters are liberal, but not because we consciously have chosen that particular color in the political spectrum. More likely it is because most of us served our journalistic apprenticeships as reporters covering the seamier side of our cities – the crimes, the tenement fires, the homeless and the hungry, the underclothed and undereducated.

We reached our intellectual adulthood with daily close-ups of the inequality in a nation that was founded on the commitment to equality for all. So we are inclined to side with the powerless rather than the powerful. If that is what makes us liberals, so be it, just as long as in reporting the news we adhere to the first ideals of good journalism – that news reports must be fair, accurate and unbiased.

At least, that’s the way it was—I doubt that most “journalists” today do the same kind of early-career reporting by and large.

What Cronkite notes can be said of many similar professions, and is quite significant: educators, scientists, artists, serious journalists—in other words, people who make their livings looking hard at the world in an intelligent way—tend to be liberal. That’s no coincidence, as it is no coincidence that most people in the field of making money—looking at the world through a lens of competition and greed—tend to be conservative.

But what is most important in his statement is that the personal politics of journalists do not bleed through into the reporting. This is key—the key—to the whole “liberal media” canard: it matters not one bit what the personal politics of journalists is, it matters only what bias comes through in reporting. That’s where the whole myth falls apart. If 90% of journalists are liberal but none let it color their reporting, and 10% are conservatives but they do let it color their reporting, then you have a conservative bias overall.

Conservatives see it a different way. Their general response toward almost everything is projection. They assume that everyone else will act the same way that they want to, only without the restraint they feel themselves best capable of—but then use that imagined lack of restraint on the part of others as permission for themselves to let go. Conservatives do not rein in their personal politics in journalism, they let it bleed all over what they report—and so they simply assume that this is what the liberals do, and use that as justification for what they themselves do. I could spend all day detailing hundreds of cases of conservative “journalists”—anchors or reporters, not commentators—doing just that. In contrast, ask yourself when you’ve seen the same coming from a liberal journalist, and only one example will come up—Dan Rather and the National Guard story, and mostly because it’s just about the only example out there. And for it to be from a reporter who jumped on Clinton like all the others in the Lewinsky scandal, and who jumped onto the Bush Patriotic War bandwagon like all the others, is a poor example of excessive liberal bias.

Cronkite was the most trusted man in America not because he was a liberal, but because he gave it to the people straight. It used to be that’s what reporters did. But then Fox came along and made tons of money spewing political propaganda, and now it’s the norm.

It’s a damn shame that a principled, honest journalist like Cronkite, the man who along with Murrow defined excellence in broadcasting, had to watch while petty, small-minded political whores claimed the mantle of journalism and vilely desecrated the sacred temple of objective reporting. There should be no O’Reilly, no Olbermann, no Hannity, no Maddow. There should be people like Aaron Brown, a fantastic journalist whose broadcast came closest among the contemporaries in doing the kind of reporting that Cronkite did, the kind of reporter who should have inherited the anchor’s chair—and so naturally, CNN fired him. (Worse, they forced him completely out of the business for two years.)

There should be hourlong news shows that report the news, like Jim Lehrer became well-known for. There should be focus on issues—not celebrities and little blonde white girls who are kidnapped. There should be deep background, in-depth reporting, continuing coverage, measured delivery, tough questions, relevant points. Instead we get soft porn set to rock music, the new standard pioneered by Fox “News.”

To think that it was a big deal when Cronkite led the charge to expanding the evening news to half an hour from the previous fifteen minutes they were allotted, to think of Cronkite’s humanity during the Kennedy assassination and the moon launch, to think of the legacy the man left—and then to realize that today, Glenn Beck gets a whole hour to himself, makes you cry for the death of journalism.

Categories: "Liberal" Media, Journalism Tags:

Sex Trouble? Must Be (D)

June 25th, 2009 Comments off

Sheesh…

Sanford

Fox On Foley

Not that I expect Fox to be any better than the morons posting to Free Republic who automatically label any and every criminal/terrorist as “registered Democrat,” but still. All I can say is, we better not be hearing lame excuses about “accidents” in the Fox graphics department. Better to simply fess up to what is obviously intentional.

Petty

June 22nd, 2009 Comments off

Here’s an exchange from the right-wing echo chamber, between Greta van Susteren and Karl Rove, as an example of what sheer levels of hypocritical revisionism and, yes, pettiness they stoop to naturally:

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Karl, I have to confess that from time to time, I hold a grudge. I got to confess to that. Now let me ask you about President Obama. I don’t know if you’ve been following this, but he will not come to FOX News Channel, and he took a little swipe at us the other day, and we’ve sort of teased him back. But this whole idea that — that, you know, the largest audience is on cable — of all the cable news is on FOX News Channel — what do you make of this little spat he has with us?

ROVE: I think it’s petty stubbornness. I mean, here’s a man who seems to be willing to go sit down with Ahmadinejad and Kim Jong Il, but he won’t sit down with Greta or O’Reilly or Sean Hannity. I mean, it strikes that this guy might be a little fearful of — of having tough questions asked of him.

You know what? Hillary Clinton had the same attitude until the primary, when she came on FOX, found she was treated fairly. And I can’t tell you how after that, how many people came up to me with my travels around the country and said, I’m a Hillary Clinton fan, and I appreciate what FOX did in giving her a fair shot and a fair venue on television.

The President of United States should not be afraid of coming on FOX News, nor should the President of the United States diminish his office by seeming to engage in a petty fight with the — with the — with a network himself.

I know that they have to maintain the ridiculous fiction that Fox is not the propaganda arm of the Republican Party, and as such, Obama would be opening himself to brazen attack every time he let Fox get a shot at him. But the sheer gall of hypocrisy and revisionism they exhibit here is pretty over-the-edge here.

First, we have Susteren claiming that “Obama” has a “little spat” with Fox. Hoo boy. Let’s see, Fox, for the past year or more, has savaged Obama like no one else, calling him such vile names as one could not previously imagine a news network calling a president before, making accusation after bald, unfounded, hysterical accusation. Communist, Socialist, Nazi, attacking America, destroying America… the drumbeat of smear, attack, and rage-filled hysterical rant has been constant for quite some time now. But Obama takes a little jab at Fox at a correspondent’s dinner where jabs are the main course, and suddenly he’s “petty”?

Next, Rove claims he “won’t sit down” with people like Sean Hannity. Aside from the fact that Hannity is one of the most rabid anti-Obama nutballs out there, Obama has sat down with Fox News and with people like Hannity–he went on Fox News and allowed Bill O’Reilly to have a clear shot at him. And O’Reilly did, treating Obama like a hostile witness in a trial, shouting at him with such antagonism and disrespect as to make it impossible to believe that a president would ever subject himself to that again. When did anybody treat Bush like this?

So, Obama has the stones to come on O’Reilly and hold his own–tell me, did Rove ever send Bush to be a guest on Olbermann?–and then whines that Obama never sits down with Fox News personalities because he’s “afraid” and “fearful” of “tough questions.” What utter stupidity and lies.

Then Rove claims that Obama will, of course be treated “fairly.” Like this, I suppose:

I know that I’m hardly revealing anything new or surprising here–Fox is, always has been, and always will be a festering cesspool of wingnut blathering and smears. But it never hurts to speak truth about these people a bit more often in the hopes that more people will realize the toxic effect these bottom-feeders have on the American political scene.

Red Herrings

May 17th, 2009 Comments off

It’s amazing how the right-wing establishment can still control and steer the “Liberal Media™” so adroitly. Despite more and more alarming revelations coming out about Cheney, Bush, and illegal torture, the media still seems more interested on whether or not waterboarding was mentioned in a CIA briefing to Nancy Pelosi years back–as if that somehow is just as compelling as the executive branch violating U.S. law and principle in a horrific manner.

In 2004, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell asked his chief of staff, Lawrence Wilkerson, to look into the Abu Ghraib scandal. After years of digging, Wilkerson, a retired Army Colonel and a Republican, has uncovered some alarming facts, the most jarring of which is that Cheney ordered torture not to protect the country, but rather to further a political cause. Cheney ordered the torture of an al Qaeda operative in order to manufacture some kind of link between al Qaeda and Iraq.

The usual justification of torture is to save lives and protect the country. The favorite scenario is the “ticking time bomb” where a terror suspect has information which could be used to stop an imminent attack, and torture is the only way to get that information. But the torture of al-Libi was not done for any purpose even resembling that. According to Wilkerson:

…what I have learned is that as the administration authorized harsh interrogation in April and May of 2002–well before the Justice Department had rendered any legal opinion–its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qa’ida.

So furious was this effort that on one particular detainee, even when the interrogation team had reported to Cheney’s office that their detainee “was compliant” (meaning the team recommended no more torture), the VP’s office ordered them to continue the enhanced methods. The detainee had not revealed any al-Qa’ida-Baghdad contacts yet. This ceased only after Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, under waterboarding in Egypt, “revealed” such contacts. Of course later we learned that al-Libi revealed these contacts only to get the torture to stop.

There in fact were no such contacts. (Incidentally, al-Libi just “committed suicide” in Libya. Interestingly, several U.S. lawyers working with tortured detainees were attempting to get the Libyan government to allow them to interview al-Libi….)

What we have here is a compelling case that the vice president of the United States illegally ordered torture to fabricate evidence that would help promote a costly, disastrous, and just-as-illegal war that has led to the deaths of thousands of Americans and has devastated our economy and our standing in the world.

And yet the media seems intent on focusing instead on the charge that Nancy Pelosi was briefed by the CIA in September of 2002 on the waterboarding of suspects when she claimed that she had not been. This news is insignificant for many reasons. First of all, it changes nothing in terms of the fact that officials in the Bush administration ordered the torture illegally for political purposes. Second, even if she had been so briefed, it would have meant little as Pelosi was not authorized to say or really do anything regarding what she was briefed on. And third, the claims appear to be wrong–inaccurate at best, politically-motivated lies at worst.

And yet, a Google News search on “Cheney Wilkerson torture” brings up only 66 hits, while “Pelosi briefed CIA torture” produces 3,752 hits–more than 50 times the coverage.

How, exactly, can that be justified by any reasonable standard?

Categories: "Liberal" Media Tags:

Coleman Getting a Huge Break in the Liberal Media™

April 2nd, 2009 Comments off

It has been pointed out in local commentary as well as many of the lefty blogs that Norm Coleman is getting a rather notoriously inexplicable free pass in the press, along with Republicans backing him up. True, this is not exactly the same stakes as Bush v. Gore, but it is not just an ordinary Senate election, either–this seat is the tipping point for a significant amount of vital legislation that is being blocked by the GOP with their continued extravagant abuse of the filibuster.

While Al Gore was commonly called out in the national media for being a “sore loser” because he challenged the highly questionable outcome in Florida, Norm Coleman and his GOP backers are being left alone despite rather blatant evidence that they are doing this for no other reason than to block Franken from being seated–not because the election was unfair or the vote count was wrong, but simply because they have political reasons for keeping the Democrats from getting a 59th seat in the Senate.

Even in the Minnesota press, we see signs of the false equivalency caused by a weak-kneed press fearful of being labeled as “liberal,” so it looks for fault on both sides even when it clearly belongs only on the conservative side:

To be sure, the danger of seeming to be a sore loser has dogged both candidates in the topsy-turvy race: first Franken, when he pressed for a recount of Coleman’s narrow election-night lead; and then Coleman, when he challenged the recount that left him 225 votes behind.

Franken didn’t “press” for anything–the recount was legally mandated, and Franken couldn’t have stopped it even if he had wanted to. Saying that Franken had a “sore loser” stigma because he somehow pushed for a recount is a clear indication of either a right-wing tinge or the mindless acceptance of right-wing talking points. The snippet above not only creates a false fault in Franken, it ignores the greater fault from Coleman–not that he challenged the outcome, but that he clearly intends to challenge it to the most absurd levels possible.

The media has been, to put it lightly, a tad reluctant to call out the GOP for lots of stuff which it would have a filed day with had it come from the left–like the GOP openly rallying for unprecedented partisan rancor while the media still gives them equal credit for “bipartisanship.”

But that’s just what we get for having such a Liberal Media™. We can only blame ourselves.

Double Standard

March 25th, 2009 Comments off

Sheesh. There’s now a big deal going on because a brilliant 34-year-old computer guy Obama hired to be Chief Information Officer was arrested for lifting 4 t-shirts… when he was a 21-year-old kid. He paid his dues, and is now regarded an outstanding person. But the media is wondering how this filthy criminal could have been considered for a government job.

Need I remind you that at that age, George W. Bush was arrested for stealing a Christmas wreath from a hotel. I think he occupied a slightly higher office later. The media didn’t seem to give a damn about that, despite it being well-known. They even gave him a break for his drunk driving arrest at the age of 30, accepting his “Democrat Dirty Trick” excuse.

Perhaps a wee bit of a double standard? Not surprising–after all, this is still a Liberal Media, right?

Categories: "Liberal" Media Tags:

Mass Media: Obama Not Allowed to Defend Himself

March 15th, 2009 1 comment

Now the media is telling us that Obama is not allowed to point out facts that might acknowledge Bush’s faults:

In his inaugural address, President Obama proclaimed “an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics.”

It hasn’t taken long for the recriminations to return — or for the Obama administration to begin talking about the unwelcome “inheritance” of its predecessor.

Over the past month, Obama has reminded the public at every turn that he is facing problems “inherited” from the Bush administration, using increasingly bracing language to describe the challenges his administration is up against. The “deepening economic crisis” that the president described six days after taking office became “a big mess” in remarks this month to graduating police cadets in Columbus, Ohio.

“By any measure,” he said during a March 4 event calling for government-contracting reform, “my administration has inherited a fiscal disaster.”

Obama’s more frequent and acid reminders that former president George W. Bush left behind a trillion-dollar budget deficit, a 14-month recession and a broken financial system have come at the same time Republicans have ramped up criticism that the current president’s policies are compounding the nation’s economic problems.

And which one of these things is not a rock-solid fact? If people on the right work constantly and tirelessly to blame Obama for every piece of bad economic news despite the fact that he has barely had time to do anything to effect the situation, then should not Obama be allowed to point out the obvious realities? If Obama wants to have any chance of being effective in this crisis, he has to maintain a level of confidence from the American people; he cannot do a good job if he cannot defend himself against baseless charges of malfeasance which erode the public’s trust in him.

I don’t fault the Bush administration for having said in their first year or even year and a half that they inherited their fiscal state from Clinton; they did. I fault them for their bad policy decisions to correct it, and their continued attempts to blame Clinton even well into Bush’ second term. If Obama, two years from now, is still saying that every new downturn in jobs is all Bush’s fault and not in any way due to his administration, then he should come under criticism for similarly faulty incriminations.

The fact that Obama is not doing what he has every right to do–actively investigating and prosecuting the blatant illegalities of the Bush administration–has demonstrated a rather strong commitment not to go to lengths to attack the previous administration. The last administration clearly violated the Fourth Amendment as well as other Constitutional principles, condoned, conducted, and legitimized torture, started an illegal war, and made an absolute mockery of the legal system in a plethora of illegal ways. This goes way beyond what is covered in the usual gentlemen’s agreement not to kick the outgoing administration on their way out.

So to fall all over Obama for stating truth in defense of smears as a means of allowing him to do his job, that’s going more than a tad too far. For some reason, there is a persistent meme out there that Obama, in order to be bipartisan, has to not only extend a hand, but he has to allow those on the right to bash him incessantly while he just stands there and takes it.

I noted this story in Google News and wrote the post in reaction to it. After writing this and getting ready to publish, I noticed that Steve Benen in The Washington monthly wrote a similar post.

The Right Wing Media

February 27th, 2009 Comments off

Yet another study demonstrating the fallacy of the whole “liberal media” canard. This one focused on the visual coverage of politicians, analyzing which party’s members were covered using techniques that made them look better or worse. For example, far more Republicans were shot from lower angles, giving viewers the impression of “looking up” at the candidate. Democrats were more commonly shot from greater distances, giving a feeling of less familiarity, and were also far more likely to have their images presented without accompanying audio, whereas Republicans were much more often shown last, which causes viewers to remember them better.

This joins a wide range of other data, such as one that finds rather pronounced bias in the selection of news show guests, and a more recent one demonstrated that coverage of Obama was far more negative than was McCain’s despite Obama’s superlative campaign and McCain’s disastrous one. This in addition to rather obvious evidence in terms of outright coverage: Fox News is blatantly and unabashedly right-wing through and through, and there is no corresponding bias of that degree found elsewhere. MSNBC is as close as you’ll get, but they can’t hold a candle to the depth and strength of Fox’s political bias; furthermore, Fox’s financial success caused other networks, most notably CNN, to tilt strongly to the right. Then there is the preponderance of right-wing pundits. Before Olbermann and Maddow got their own shows, there were barely any liberals who had their own mainstream soapboxes, while conservatives with their own shows flooded both television and radio. And despite the few recent liberal breakthroughs, opinion and discussion shows are still predominantly right-wing.

It also helps to remember that the whole “liberal media” lie gained popular acceptance based on no evidence other than a study which found that 60% of journalists who responded to a survey had liberal leanings in their personal politics. To take this and conclude a liberal media is ludicrously inaccurate; such a survey might only demonstrate, for example, that liberal journalists participate in surveys more often. And it did nothing whatsoever to prove that personal politics of journalists had any effect whatsoever on the bias in their reporting. Conversely, there was another study which demonstrated that 66% of editors and publishers were conservative–much more significant as editors and publishers have far more influence on the political slant of the news reporting as a whole.

Not that any of this will change the common perception of the media being liberal, of course. The right wing is far too skilled at presenting this distortion–not to mention the fact that, after all, the media itself has a definite conservative slant, which means that they control the message, and the message they want to put out is that there’s a liberal slant.

Categories: "Liberal" Media Tags:

Blame Obama

February 25th, 2009 Comments off

It started really early: just a week or so after Obama won the election, right-wingers were already calling our current economic crisis the “Obama Recession.” Remember, these are the same people who were still blaming Clinton for the recession for years into Bush’s term. They couldn’t even wait for Obama to actually step into office, they had to start blaming him for the economic woes a full two months before he could even start doing anything about it.

Apparently, right-wingers are applying the Pottery Barn rule, only in reverse: “you bought it, you broke it” seems to be their new motto. Hell, there are right-wing bloggers out there saying that we should measure the “Obama economy” based on the economy’s performance from the time of his nomination in June last year. Give them time, and they’ll find a way to pin the blame for the Great Depression on him.

Now that they have established that every economic downturn since people even heard about Obama is all his fault, the question now becomes, how much can we bash Obama if the economy fails to boom within x number of months or years? Remember, for Bush this was not supposed to be an issue. Remember back in 2004 when Bush was claiming that a recovery was “just around the corner”? That was almost four years after Bush took office, and Bush’s commerce secretary was still saying stuff like, “The president inherited a Clinton recession and turned it into the early stages of Bush prosperity.” That was for a recession that started two months after Bush took office (though they tried real hard to apply revisionist history on that), as opposed to this recession, which started in December 2007–a full thirteen months before Obama took office.

And yet, just a month into his presidency, and the pundits are coming down on Obama every time bad news comes out. Somehow, bad economic news in a recession that began after he left office was Clinton’s fault for years after he was gone, and yet somehow Obama is responsible for a recession in its 14th month despite just barely having unpacked his suitcases.

Of course, I should not be surprised. Goodness knows I have never faulted conservatives for their relentless sense of consistency.

Your Liberal Media, At Work

February 2nd, 2009 1 comment

Remember before 2007, when the news networks had mostly Republicans as guests on prominent talk shows and Democrats seemed few and far between? The networks claimed that it was because Republicans controlled the White House and had majorities in the House and the Senate. The stated message was that more Democrats would be similarly featured in greater proportion were the situation reversed. In fact, network representatives said that more Democrats were favored when Clinton was in office. However, that wasn’t true–guests’ party affiliation was more or less evenly split in the late 90’s. However, you could argue that while Clinton held the White House, Republicans held the Congress, so an even split was justified.

Well, the situation is now truly reversed–in fact, Democrats now have a much stronger presence in D.C. than the Republicans ever had at their peak. So, are Democrats now dominating the talk shows?

ABC’s “This Week”Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass.

CBS’ “Face the Nation” – Sens. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

NBC’s “Meet the Press” – Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and John Kerry, D-Mass.

CNN’s “State of the Union” – Govs. Tim Pawlenty, R-Minn., and Jennifer Granholm, D-Mich.; Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and John Ensign, R-Nev.

“Fox News Sunday” – Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.; Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Almost evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, with Fox News tipping it rightward, as can be expected.

Were claims of a “Liberal Media” true, then Democrats would have dominated even when Republicans held power; that Republicans still get the mic more than Democrats even when Democrats now hold a far stronger position is not really a great argument for the media being tilted to the left.

I would even be tempted to say that the media seems to be tilted pretty noticeably to the right–but that couldn’t possibly be true, could it?

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An Example of Right-Wing Observation

February 1st, 2009 Comments off

One of the highlighted “news” articles at Google News came from the right-wing American Thinker blog, with the eye-catching headline, “Obama’s Hypocritical Law,” referring to the Lily Ledbetter Act. The charge:

In a windfall for trial lawyers nationwide, President Obama struck a blow for employees who want to sue their employers for alleged pay discrimination. However, an inconvenient report from CNSNews.com last September indicates that candidate Barack Obama paid the women on his staff 78% of the salaries of his male staff members from October 2007 through March 2008. Coincidentally, this is almost exactly the same pay disparity that President Obama himself decries in the “Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act” he just signed into law Thursday.

Two questions arise: 1) Will the mainstream media pick up this story of presidential hypocrisy? 2) Will any of Obama’s female staff members sue him for discrimination? Sadly, the answer to both of these questions is most likely NO.

If you follow the link to the cited “inconvenient report,” however, you find out that the “report” is little more than right-wing spin from a conservatively-biased news site. A complete reading of the story demonstrates how the article’s headline and thesis are critically flawed: the analysis did not take into account differing job positions. In fact, the third paragraph in the story even said plainly, “Women occupy seven of the top 10 highest-paid positions on McCain’s staff, and five of the top 10 highest-paid positions on Obama’s staff.” The writer of the article clearly did not mind the fact that the data rather plainly contradicted his thesis, even though that contradiction was clearly stated in the article.

The Lily Ledbetter Act addresses the illegality of men receiving higher pay for the same position. Clearly, the discrepancy in payment on Obama’s staff (if it is indeed as reported) is not, as suggested, a result of violating that principle, but simply due to differences in how much different positions are paid.

Reading through the comments to the Thinker blog post, however, you get the usual right-wing knee-jerk replies–everyone uncritically accepting the flawed premise without checking the information, reinforcing their erroneous presumptions. This is how conservatives often lather themselves up into indignant umbrage, proving to themselves how unfair the system is to themselves and how dishonest the other guys are. Had the ideological reverse of this been up on even as slanted a site as DailyKos, it would have been shot down as unfounded by its own liberal audience within minutes. But then, we’re less gut-based and more fact-based.

I posted a response in the comments, which are moderated. It’ll be interesting to see if they let it pass, and how people there react to it.

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In the Tank… for Whom?

November 26th, 2008 2 comments

The liberal bloggers are buzzing about a rather sensationalist claim being made by TIME Magazine’s Mark Halperin about the election:

“It’s the most disgusting failure of people in our business since the Iraq war. It was extreme bias, extreme pro-Obama coverage.”

When asked for examples of this bias, he pointed to two pieces on the wives of the candidates, citing one piece blasting Cindy McCain and another piece admiring Michelle Obama. (Just a note as a writer–if you make a charge, best to back it up with direct evidence–stories about wives is about as weak as you can get in this case.) When asked why the media was so biased, he replied that they wanted to see Obama simultaneously “etched in glass” and “on Mount Rushmore.” Uh huh.

Now, E&P did a pretty good job pointing out multiple pieces of direct evidence that Halperin has been pretty right-wing this election, and normally I would simply let this kind of thing pass. But that’s what I thought about the whole “center-right” thing, and yet it seems that the media–er, the “Liberal Media™”–is picking up the meme and running with it. It’s certainly a natural theme for right-wingers to try to inflate for the next four to eight years; it has worked very well for them for the past fifteen or so years, they might as well pump it up even more, now that the Democrats will be in charge.

The basic idea, of course, is to “work the refs.” If you complain that the media is too leftist, this benefits you in at least two ways. First, the media, wishing to avoid the appearance of favoring the left, will create false equivalencies–in effect, creating positive news for the right if the news is good for the left, or negative news for the left if the news for the right is bad. They do not do this in reverse, as they do not fear being labeled a ‘conservative media.’ As a result, in general, media coverage favors the right, even with news organizations that are not overtly right-wing.

The second benefit is to create the impression among the public that whatever they see in the media is tilted to the left. Combined with the first benefit, this creates an enhanced effect: the public gets news that leans to the right, but believes that it leans too far to the left, and so has the impression that the truth is even farther to the right.

But what about the basic charge? Is it possible, in fact, that Obama got better coverage? Halperin is not alone; Deborah Howell wrote such a story in the WaPo a few weeks back claiming bias in favor of Obama; the right-wing blogs jumped all over that one. E&P again, however, competently debunks the claims Howell made.

One basis for the general claims of a tilt toward Obama is the fact that there were more headlines about Obama than there were about McCain. A few problems there. First, many of these tallies start long before Obama’s protracted fight with Hillary Clinton ended, so of course there was more coverage of Obama. Second, more news is not necessarily good news: a lot of those stories about Obama were on topics like Jeremiah Wright or William Ayers; the press did not similarly focus as much on McCain’s negative associations. In fact, studies found that the media ran more negative stories about Obama in terms of percentages–which means that more coverage about Obama meant even more media coverage showing him in a bad light. Finally, there was the source of the focus itself. A study found that while the most common word used on Obama’s web site was “Obama,” it also found that the most common word used on McCain’s site was… “Obama.” The media covered Obama more in part because McCain directed them to; while Obama was focusing more on the issues, McCain was focusing far more on Obama. You can’t call the media biased for Obama if they are following McCain’s lead and focusing more on Obama’s negatives.

Then we get to the fact that there was a lot more negative material about McCain out there than there was about Obama–and yet the media covered most of Obama’s and very little of McCain’s. A few examples: first, campaign financing. Early in the year, McCain clearly violated campaign finance law by using public financing as collateral on a loan, using the loaned money, then claiming they were no longer participating in public financing, exceeding legal limits on spending. Even the Republican FEC chief balked at that–and was rewarded with a pink slip, as a more pliant FEC head was appointed by Bush before the FEC could take any action. This was one of the big under-reported stories of the year: a candidate who touted himself as a campaign finance champion committing a federal felony with campaign finance evasions. And there was virtually zero coverage in the news. In contrast, when Obama, who had promised only to discuss public financing, decided to take the wholly legal route of private financing, there was an avalanche of bad press about him for a while.

Another example was religious connections. While Obama’s relation to Jeremiah Wright was front-and-center for months, McCain’s association with right-wing religious figures, people he pursued for their endorsements, were not covered except briefly when they made similarly outrageous comments. There was even video of Sarah Palin herself being blessed by a priest who talked of witchcraft, and had persecuted innocent women in Africa as witches. That got almost no coverage as well.

Yet another example is flip-flops; McCain had significantly altered or even reversed his stands on almost every single issue of importance, and yet not only did the media ignore this, it often claimed that he did not flip-flop on the issues. Even though McCain changed from “more drilling won’t help” to “drilling is absolutely vital” within just a few months, with video to mark both the flip and the flop–the media virtually ignored it. Contrast that with Obama reiterating his Iraq policy–with no changes or reversals–leading to a week of media coverage on how he was flip-flopping.

And one more example was McCain’s being neck-deep in lobbyists. Whenever some big story broke, it had links to lobbyists on McCain’s campaign staff, usually people high up. When the whole Georgia crisis erupted, it was learned that McCain’s foreign policy advisor was still being paid to lobby for Georgia. When the Freddie Mac and Fanny Mae scandal broke, it was learned that McCain’s campaign manager was still receiving lobbyist paychecks from both firms. And yet somehow, the media never picked up on this story–they instead created false equivalencies, saying that “both” campaigns had lobbyist ties, as if that meant both were equally corrupt.

So the media was often absent when McCain had bad news surrounding him, but almost never passed up a chance to report on bad news about Obama. In fact, there was that one time when CNN had video of McCain making a rather notable gaffe–and they re-edited the video to cover up the gaffe. They later claimed it was a “mistake,” as if it were accidental–I mean, what, did they trip over something?

Similarly, the media took very seriously the idea that one could not criticize McCain on a variety of issues because he was a veteran and a former POW. Bob Schieffer, on more than one occasion, became visibly angry when people suggested that McCain might not be presidential material; Tom Brokaw had similar man-crush moments regarding McCain.

Then there is the fact that all too often, there simply was no equivalent news to be covered. Take the day when Obama was delivering a stirring speech to 200,000 Germans in Europe, while McCain was giving a lame photo op outside the “Fudge Haus.” The media cannot be blamed for covering grand events as grand events and lame ones as lame ones. If Obama drew crowds of tens of thousands and McCain couldn’t fill a medium-sized room, if Obama gave brilliant oratory and McCain laughed with hideous awkwardness in front of an appalling green screen… there is no media bias if they simply cover what happened.

And finally, there were McCain’s atrocious decisions and performance. It was bad enough early on, but Sarah Palin was the turning point. Choosing someone who was so clearly unqualified and even disastrously unprepared after having gone on for months about Obama not being “experienced” enough, choosing such a blatantly political running mate who only jeopardized the nation’s future leadership while running under a “country first” banner, going before reporters and claiming himself that living near the outer reaches of Russia’s tundra really did qualify Palin in terms of foreign affairs and national security… these were not just gaffes, these were intended actions which demonstrated catastrophically bad judgment.

Add to that the fact that McCain refused to allow media access to Palin, held back medical records and other documents considered necessary for public review, and kept pulling badly managed and even bizarre publicity stunts, and you begin to realize that, if anything, the media’s coverage of McCain in the final month of the election was actually far better than McCain deserved from an objective standpoint.

Not only was there not a media bias for Obama, there was a demonstrable and sharply noticeable media bias in favor of McCain. And if you hear anyone say differently, shut them down. There’s a wealth of examples, only a few of which I have outlined above, to prove the case beyond any doubt. Let’s not let this meme go unchallenged.

Media Check on the Bridge Lie

September 10th, 2008 2 comments

As both Palin and McCain continue to repeat, again and again, the baldfaced “Bridge to Nowhere” lie, I checked the major news outlets: only one, CBS, had a story on the bridge lie on their front pages. Everyone else had stories about McCain and Palin getting big crowds (I thought that was a “celebrity” thing) and enjoying their post-convention poll bounce. A few other major news sources–including, surprisingly, Fox–have stories in their databases fact-checking the claim (MSNCB and CNN don’t show such a story after a cursory search), but none feature the story–a story which should be a big one, because McCain and Palin continue to repeat it, often, even after it has been wholly discredited and shown up for an outright lie–and the McCain campaign is even basing their major theme–“a pair of mavericks”–on this claim.

There They Go Again

September 10th, 2008 Comments off

I thought that this time there would be a chance of some light being cast: an article which promised a “fact check” on whether the charges against McCain and lobbyists were true. The piece started out OK, but quickly started making unnecessary equivocations.

The first is limiting the attention only to “top advisors,” ignoring the fact that the campaign hires dozens of other lobbyists at all levels of the campaign.

The second comes when the article stresses McCain’s BS line about how none are “currently registered,” a distinction without a real difference, as the New York Times pointed out. For example, one lobbyist who is mentioned, Randy Scheunemann, received payments from Georgia just months earlier despite being currently “unregistered”; additionally, while Scheunemann is unregistered, the firm from which he is on a “leave of absence” is still highly active. In short, “none are currently registered” is a false front meaning that they made some changes on paper to make it look like they aren’t lobbying–but they obviously are.

However, the kicker comes in the end of the article, when the author makes the same old stupid argument of equivalency:

But the bottom line is, both sides have ties to lobbyists, meaning whomever wins will have a hard time backing up the rhetoric about change and shaking up Washington.

“Both sides”? True in a technical sense, but wildly inaccurate in a quantitative and qualitative sense. Saying that “both sides have ties to lobbyists” is like saying “both sides have candidates of advanced years.” In the case of one candidate, the statement is barely true; in the case of the other, it is far more strongly the case than is made to appear.

The Liberal Media™ at work again, remaining ever-vigilant.

Update: Steve Benen points out another example of CNN equivocating and refusing to do the most fundamental tasks of journalism, this time on the “bridge to nowhere” lying issue.

McCain Gets More Convention Air Time

September 6th, 2008 1 comment

I thought so. I recall that the networks pulled back to pundits yakking and failed to show John Kerry’s speech at the Democratic convention–but when I was flipping through channels here and hit CNN, they were showing the Republicans airing a “Country First” video–not even a speech, but a canned video which was purely for promo purposes–without comment.

But that’s the Liberal Media™ for you.

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A Little Bit Similar is not “Similar”

August 29th, 2008 1 comment

The latest inanity from the AP:

John McCain and Barack Obama share common ground on a surprising selection of issues where the age-old Republican-Democratic divide doesn’t cut it anymore.

Both want the United States to join the campaign against global warming in earnest. Both want to cut taxes for the middle class.

Yeah, Obama and McCain are pretty similar… just like Bush and Gore were pretty similar. Does the media ever tire of this old turn-off-the-voters whopper?

Let’s set aside the environmental “earnestness” issue for the moment. As for “cutting taxes for the middle class,” I guess that depends on what the “middle class” is; if you take McCain’s definition, that you’re not rich unless you make $5 million a year, then yeah, I guess you could say that McCain wants to enrich the “middle class.”

However, most views of the middle class are not quite as stratospheric as McCain’s bizarre view suggests. A common range is quoted as $25,000 to $100,000, with the actual middle 20% of the country making between $40,000 and $95,000. The mean annual income for the U.S. in 2005 was $33,000.

By these measures, McCain and Obama are not on the same page. At the $33,000 level, Obama wants to give tax cuts eight times bigger than McCain. McCain’s tax cuts are meager for the poor and only grow as incomes grow, and up to $112,000, McCain still doesn’t give as much as Obama. Only when you go above $112,000–arguably the “upper middle class”–does McCain even begin to out-give Obama. But McCain does not even double what Obama offers until after $250,000, where Obama ends his tax cuts.

If you were able to go through the $25,000 to $100,000 range and compare each plan’s averages, then you’d find that while both “want to cut taxes for the middle class,” one of them wants to do it a lot more than the other one. Painting them as “similar” on this is like saying that they are “similar” on abortion rights because neither likes the ideas of abortion per se. Everyone has “similarities” on just about every issue; what is key is whether the similarities outweigh the differences. Here, they don’t.

Categories: "Liberal" Media, Election 2008 Tags:

Is This Why the Media Helps McCain?

August 29th, 2008 1 comment

Is it because they’re terrified of the prospect of reporting anything negative about a man who was a POW?

Don’t laugh or scoff; remember, the media played into the Iraq War because they were terrified of being seen as anything less than 200% patriotic. And we have Tom Brokaw now announcing that Democrats can’t “rough up” John McCain since he was a POW. Even though every major Democrat prefaces their criticism of McCain by stating that he is (a) a good man, (b) a war hero, and (c) a patriot, and the criticism is not of his war record, but of his political policies and actions.

If Brokaw’s statement is a window into the mindset of the media, then that explains a lot. That they perhaps have fallen, hook, line, and sinker, for the McCain suggestion that any criticism of McCain is blasphemy because you are besmirching a man who lived in a prison cell in Hanoi for five and a half years.

Which, of course, is pretty ludicrous. Not just because if it were a Democrat who went through that then Republicans would have no problem swift-boating him as a liar and a traitor, and not just because Democrats already prostate themselves to McCain’s war-herodom every time they make any criticism about him. It’s mostly ludicrous because the idea simply has no logic to it. We’re talking about electing a president who will determine the country’s fate for the next four years here, not choosing a Senator-of-the-Month who just gets his photo on the wall. This is not just about image.

So when a venerated news anchor says that McCain’s POW history makes any difference when criticizing his policies, you become aware of a disturbing mindset: McCain can get away with just about anything and the media won’t report on it.

Categories: "Liberal" Media, Election 2008 Tags:

The Refs Throwing the Game

August 28th, 2008 1 comment

From Kevin Drum at his new digs:

Was Chuck Todd even watching the same speech as me? Yeah, Biden flubbed a couple of lines in a minor way, but jeez. Even seen through the lens of my political speech autism (hereafter PSA) I thought it was a pretty moving performance. And Marian thought he was great, which counts as my “woman in the street” opinion since she’s not a political junkie like everyone else I know.

And then Brokaw followed up by saying that the convention sagged today compared to Monday and Tuesday? Did I hear that right? He must have been watching a different bunch of speeches too. Between Bill Clinton, John Kerry, and Joe Biden, I thought this was by far the best night so far.

I thought the same thing. Yeah, Biden could have expected a crowd response and worked the crowd’s willingness to chant in response, but in truth, the beginning of his speech almost brought me to tears, it was that moving. Clinton was great, Kerry was great.

I am beginning to think that the anchors and pundits won’t be happy unless they find some way of disapproving or noting something negative about any given day of the Democratic Convention. After Brokaw’s comment the other night about how McCain never re-invented himself, that he panned this very good night for the Dems is unsurprising. According to some, Kerry’s speech wasn’t even broadcast.

Here’s a prediction and a bet: most nights of the Republican Convention, the anchors and pundits will give glowing reviews, about how McCain and his surrogates are revitalizing the party and the race. Any takers?

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