Fat Steve's Blatherings

Saturday, February 26, 2005

News You Can Use

      Head over to IMAO, and find out what the top ten indicators that you may be left of "liberal" are.  If any three apply to you, or if number one applies at all, get psychiatric help immediately.

      Warning: if they don't apply to you, but you're eating or drinking when you read them, you may need the paramedics.


Thursday, February 24, 2005

What Liberal Media?

      "Study: Consumer-Confidence Data Useless"--headline, Associated Press, Feb. 20

      "Consumer Confidence Slips in February"--headline, Associated Press, Feb. 22

      Of course, it could just be a case of AP business writers not paying any attention to each other, because they know they're peddling BS . . .

      Hat tip: Best of the Web Today, February 22.


Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Stupidity of the Day

      Kofi Annan has a piece in the Wall Street Journal defending the UN.  Among many other imbecilic things it says, in re tsunami relief:
All of them recognize that the U.N. is the right body to lead, because it is in no one's pocket.

      Only the fact that we're talking about a world-historical natural disaster prevents me from ROTFLMAO.

      Oh, yeah, the UN will do something about the sex slavery by peacekeepers and the "abominable crimes in Darfur" Real Soon Now, as soon as the Security Council makes the necessary decisions.

      It is to vomit over.


Monday, February 21, 2005


      Well, isn't this interesting.  It seems that a German anthropology professor has been caught committing fraud -- massive fraud, extending for thirty years. (Hat tip: Brothers Judd; there are also some other examples of evolutionary fraud in the article)

      Remember this, the next time the evolution/creation debate comes up.  We are invariably asked to trust a scientific community that can be fooled very easily whenever you present 'facts' that fit with their pre-conceptions.

      You might also want to search Commentary's web site, for the fraud that Richard Dawkins pulled in one of his books.

      Now, I have no dog in this fight.  I don't believe in evolution/creation, or any other theory of the origin and diversity of life.  But wouldn't it be nice for someone in the scientific community to admit just how week the evidence in this area is?


The Case of Thomas L. Friedman

      Thomas Friedman remains one of the most intriguing, tragic figures of the mainstream media.

      Last Thursday, he published a column titled 'Hama Rules', reminding everyone of just what the Syrian Ba'athist dictatorship does when challenged: it kills all possible opponents, indiscriminately.

      Friedman makes it clear just how murderous the Syrians are, he says the Syrians probably murdered Rafik Hariri, he says the Syrians will defy the U.S. and Europe because they don't think anyone will have the will and ability to crush them, and then he says the Lebanese, in order to be free of Syrian occupation, must demonstrate in the streets against Syria.

      And what, Mr. Friedman, will stop the Syrians from murdering the demonstrators to keep control?  The question isn't even considered.

      Yesterday, Friedman had a column saying that this is the "Baghdad Spring."  Like the "Prague Spring" of 1968, I guess -- the one the now deceased Soviet Union suppressed with tanks (OOH!  I just LOVE typing "now deceased Soviet Union!").

      The only conclusion I can get draw from his remarks is that sooner or later, there will be civil wars and ferocious anti-democratic repression in the Arab world.  What then?  The Europeans will surely stand aside, letting the dictators do as they will to the people.  Does he want the U.S. to do something?  He can't bring himself to say.

      Friedman's head appears to be telling him that the only way to reform the Near East is with force.  His gut appears to be telling him that force is intolerable.  Too bad he can't figure out what he believes.


Democratic Party Abortion Ferment

      The Democrats are debating whether they can edge away from their 100% support for abortion on demand, and the debate is summarized here.

      It's all very interesting, but there's one thing that doesn't come up -- what curbs on abortion would the Democratic Party be willing to accept?  There's a sort of nervous whisper that the Dems might be able to support parental notification for teens, or bans on late-term abortions.  But will they really be able to do that?

      If so, they have the possibility of breaking out of the rut they're stuck in, and taking away an important part of the Republican base.  But I really don't think their own base will permit it.

      Whether I'm right or wrong, though, it will be fun to see this play out.


Pathetic, Funny Story From the Los Angeles Dog Trainer

      The Los Angeles Times, aka the the Los Angeles Dog Trainer since Patterico took after them, has done it again -- it being, made a fool of itself.

      The Dog Trainer has a column on Easongate.  Rearranging and summarizing a bit, it says (my words, remember):
Eason Jordan was in Davos, speaking off the record, when he said, well, damn!, I hate to admit this, said that the U.S. military has been deliberately killing journalists in Iraq.  He was immediately criticized, and tried to back down, but the story leaked into the blogosphere, and Jordan's craven bosses fired him.  This shouldn't have happened.  It was an innocent mistake, and he would have been allowed to apologize, or just ignore the whole incident, if it weren't for those evil right wingers.

      Those of you who've been following that story know that almost everything in the summary is false: Jordan has said similar things in the past; he apparently backed down only after Abovitz and Frank jumped on him; Jordan tells different stories to different audiences.

      And now, yet another mainstream media idiot has shown that he either doesn't know what the story is, or has decided to leave out facts to spin the piece in the desired way -- or both.  And now, we will jump on him, and inflict yet another wound on the MSM.

      This raises a good question for scientists: how did these institutions lose all sense of self-preservation?

(hat tip: Powerline)


Saturday, February 19, 2005

And in Truly Great News

      Steyn Online, the website of Canada's greatest journalist, is active again.

      No more hunting through the Daily Telegraph, the Spectator, the Chicago Sun-Times, and several other sites to get the wit and wisdom of Steyn.



Important Insights into Easongate

      Three stories have come up that may shed considerable light on the Eason Jordan story.

      What the stories say, in essence, is that Jordan was deliberately lying, and put his foot wrong.

      Rebecca MacKinnon points to stories in the Lunatic Asylum Nation and the Seattle Stupid As A Fence Post Post-Intelligencer showing that various chuckleheads do indeed believe that the U.S. military has been deliberately killing journalists. (Particularly stupid is the Post-Intelligencer, which notes the large number of journalists killed in Iraq, but never mentions that most have been slain by the terrorists; the P-I jerks also don't know the difference between censor and censure).

      MacKinnon has another story, this time a personal account from an Army Public Affairs guy.  The Army guy says he met Jordan in December, 2002, and Jordan gave his unit the impression that CNN, or at least Jordan personally, was gung-ho for the war:
When asked about the biased reporting of Arab media he said that all media reports from the Middle East should be looked on as being propaganda rather than reporting as we thought on[sic] it. He pointed to the fact that Al-Jazeera’s Iraq Bureau Chief was a former employee of the Iraqi Ministry of Information. He said that many of the Arab media reports were suspect or were known to have been staged. He said that these were facts that they were well aware of but couldn’t raise lest they seem to have a pro-American bias. He said that they tried to provide a balance to this reporting by showing the true positive reality of American interaction in the world and the US military in specific. I left thinking that somehow I had never realized that CNN and Fox were doing the same reporting but for the nuances. I was slapped back to reality during the war with CNN’s reporting.

      Ah, note that theme: 'We know the truth, but can't tell it.'

      Summing it all up is Doug McGill (hat tip:
Jay Rosen
).  McGill says that Jordan:
needed to be able to say things that made foreign leaders feel that, yes, Jordan really understood them. Or at least that they could work with him. There is no doubt that this made him say things in foreign capitals that, should these things ever be replayed for his colleagues back at the home office in Atlanta, would cause shock and alarm.

Because things that are accepted as inoffensive and obvious truisms in one part of the world, can be considered outrages in another. Such as the assertion that the U.S. military targets journalists from time to time in its operations. That's a truism in much of the Middle East. And it's an almost treasonous claim in today's U.S.

Every U.S. executive who has a foreign posting for a U.S. multinational knows what I am talking about. When you live overseas, you live in a society with a different set of laws, mores, and cultural understandings. And you have no choice but to go along with them. These understandings are often 180 degrees at odds with U.S. laws and understandings, which in turn requires both sides to maintain a polite facade of agreement that often masks total disparities and contradictions underneath.

There is still apparently no trascript[sic] of what Jordan said at the Davos forum, but people who were there who blogged the event, make it appear there's little doubt that at Davos, Jordan was facilely presenting to the Middle Eastern figures in the crowd what to them was a truism -- that U.S. forces target journalists from time to time. On Al Jazeera and other Middle East news sources, this is an entirely uncontroversial claim, because everyone accepts it as obvious.

My sense is that Jordan, when he made his remarks to the high-level crowd at Davos, was casually showing to his high-level foreign friends that he, too, accepted it as an uncontroversial fact that the U.S. military targeted journalists, including U.S. journalists. Whether he really believed it or not, I don't know; but it's the kind of thing that would immediately get him "buy in" with an otherwise potentially hostile crowd. And under normal circumstances for him -- halfway around the world, behind close doors -- there would be no potential downside.

      So there we have it.  CNN says whatever will be popular with the people it is dealing with, and the truth can go hang.  No wonder Jordan quit.  He doesn't want this can of worms opened up.

      So it looks like I may have been wrong?  I thought Jordan was crazy, but it looks like he was crazy as a slightly clumsy fox.


Damning With Faint Praise

      In the controversy over Ward Churchill, hired as Prof. of Being a Leftwing Injun Scholar, there's the following from a fellow faculty member:
There was some analysis that some people would have thought of as scholarly.


Hmm, Maybe This is why They're So Angry

      We've heard a bit lately about the allegedly dispicable attempt of the White House to present "phony" news stories that were actually Pentagon propoganda.  Here's a typical link.

      But while reading it, a thought occurred.  Maybe the real threat to the mainstream media is how easy it was for the "phony" news to be convincing.  "In Washington, I'm [whatever her name was], reporting."  What's the difference between that and regular news shows?

      Supposedly, that the "phony" Pentagon news items were pre-written with advocacy in mind, while the MSM is objective, following the story where it leads, doesn't decide in advance what they will say. . . .

      Yeah, I'm laughing out loud too.  Uh, maybe the real difference is that the "phony" news items did have a small disclaimer on them, admitting that the Department of Defense sponsored them, while the "real" news doesn't.  But they both seem approximately as objective, balanced, and thorough to me.

      So that might be the real fear: the MSM is worried that anyone might get into the propoganda game.


Some More Easongate Background

      Captain Ed has an article in the Weekly Standard, and during it, he gives some more background on CNN and Eason Jordan that I'd missed before.  You can find it in more detail here and here.

      Briefly, Jordan has been accusing people of targeting journalists since about 1993, but usually, in the earlier accusations, was accusing terrorists of doing the targeting.  As late as April, 2004, though, it was the Islamofascist terrorists (and the Israelis) that Jordan was accusing.  Capt. Ed wants to know what happened between then and Nov. of 2004, when he was accusing the U.S. media.  So would I.

      You also get the story of CNN groveling to get an interview with Saddam Hussein, including reading Iraqi propoganda over the air without identifying it as such.



Thursday, February 17, 2005

Can't Get It?  Or Won't?

      Yesterday, Hugh Hewitt had Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal on his radio program, and the transcript of the exchange is here.  Stephens is remarkable for his blindness.  Does he really not get the issues involved, or is he simply refusing to address them?

      The interview started with a good question from Hewitt, 'Was the panel off the record?', to which Stephens replies, 'I didn't think so.'  Glad to have confirmation of Rebecca MacKinnon's statement that everything in those rooms was supposed to be on record.

      But early on, Stephens shows his problems: complete mental inflexibility, self-righteousness, and double standards.  He says:
First of all, there's an argument that somehow I was soft on Eason Jordan. I don't know how any fair-minded reader of my February 10th piece can think that this is a piece that is soft on the guy.

      Hmm, just a thought, but why don't you ask some of the people who criticized you why they think you were soft on Jordan?  I thought that was basic journalism.  And I note that you say:
Now at a minimum, it would seem to me that Mr. Morrisey had an obligation to call me up maybe before he republished that and say, "Well, hey. Is this fair? Am I quoting some crank here? Or do you have anything to say before I quote this?" This is what we here at the Wall Street Journal try to do. If someone is going to get attacked, and attacked really viciously, I think there is an obligation to give the other guy a chance to give his side of the story.

      Have you tried talking to any of the people who have criticized you, Mr. Stephens.

      Stephens makes much of the fact that he reported on Jordan's remarks.  What did he say in that report?  Who knows?  It went out only to people who subscribe to the Journal's "Political Diary."  With all the fuss about who said what, with the WSJ writing two different editorials on bloggers and their reactions to the Easongate "kerfuffle," why not bring it out from behind the subscription wall and let us see what you said at the time?

      Stephens said on the program that the WSJ was criticizing only those who "campaigned against Mr. Jordan."  And that would be whom?  He never says.  Why not?

      Hewitt brought up Jordan's Nov. 2004 claim of the military arresting and torturing journalists, and asks Stephens what he thinks.  Uh, nothing.  Stephens won't take a position, or comment on the fact that, with nearly three months since this claim was made, CNN has never run a story on it.

      I lack patience to go on.  Suffice it to say his entire attitude can be summed up as 'We have been infallible in reporting this story, and in evaluating its significance.  Anyone who dares question us is a moron.  Shut up and get with the program.'  At the same time, Stephens keeps saying 'Everyone goofs occasionally.'  Indeed they do.  If, at any time, you'd said 'Hmm, maybe I am the one that's wrong,' a productive dialogue might have resulted.

      Sad.  Get over yourselves, media people.


Fascinating Jordan Speech

      Eason Jordan gave a speech in 1999, reproduced here, where he explains his philosophy for CNN.  The dishonesty and self-congratulation is breathtaking:
That means CNN must try to be there, wherever the news is, not just in times of crisis, but preferably year round. If Iraq shoots down a U.S. warplane tomorrow, for instance, the place to be is Baghdad. It's not London.

CNN is determined to have as many bureaus as possible, in as many countries of the world as possible. And CNN is determined that its staff reflect the diversity of CNN's audience, which is a global audience. There is no adequate substitute for having first-rate journalists who report from the region in which they are based, where they know the players, and where they speak the language.

Because CNN aggressively covers the world, CNN's international reporting occasionally comes under fire from officials of the U.S. government, the Iraqi government and other governments around the world.

      Remember, this is the man who said CNN didn't report accurately from Iraq.

      And later, there's this:
Question: I want to ask about access in Iraq.

Eason: Look, CNN is imperfect, as are all news organizations. We would like to have entirely unrestricted and unfettered access everywhere around the world, but this is not an ideal world; it's a real world, and that's not the way it works.

CNN has had tremendous difficulties with the Iraqi government, a government that's accused me during my own trips to Baghdad of being a CIA station chief for Iraq. I feel lucky to have emerged alive from that. But it's very difficult working from Baghdad. It was during the war, and it continues to be today.

Our view is, first of all, we will not consciously pull punches. If I ever find anybody doing it, then those people will be history at this network, as well as with our Iraq coverage.

      How do they think they can get away with this?  Read the whole thing, and marvel.


Thoughts on Davos

      From a participant (Hat tip to David Winer via Glenn Reynolds).


The Real Reason Blogs Scare the Mainstream Media

      There's a pretty good story up in The Australian, about blogs and their influence.  In turn, Glenn Reynolds, who was quoted in the article, has a long post reflecting on the story, and Easongate.

      Which brings up a thought I've had before, but haven't blogged.  Reynolds said:
I just listened to the WSJ's Bret Stephens on Hugh Hewitt's show, and his basic line seemed to be that everybody screws up, so nobody should be criticized too harshly.

Well, everybody does screw up, and there's nothing unforgivable about screwing up. What's unforgivable is either deliberately misleading, as with the Rather bogus-document story, or following a screwup with denials and stonewalls as with Rather or Jordan. The defensiveness with which a lot of Big Media folks are responding to this topic suggest to me that either they're unable to imagine a swift and open correction, or that their work is even worse than we think . . . . At any rate, as I said on Charlie Rose, they could easily incorporate bloggers as unpaid fact-checkers and assistant editors, improving their product and making friends. All they need to do is get off those high horses for a while.

      Yup, that's the root of it: "highhorses."  I've long believed that the main problem with the mainsteam media is that they aren't nearly as smart as they think they are.

      Most reporters seem to have an automatic assumption that they know 'what the story is' before they research it.  So if someone sets up an 'Independent Center For Consumer Good Safety,' the reporter assumes the group is made up of people that really care only, or at least primarily, about preventing harm with consumer goods, and assumes that the group is competent.  'Consumer safety' is a good thing, so the group must be good as well.

      In fact, the 'Independent Center For Consumer Good Safety' may be a front for lawyers looking for someone to sue, anti-capitalists trying to make a political point, or some other bunch with a hidden agenda.  And regardless of their motives, their analyses of what is and isn't 'safe' may be dishonest or incompetent.  The only way to find out is to investigate them, as well as whomever they've currently targeted.

      This should not be such a big deal.  'If your mother tells you she loves you, confirm it,' is supposed to be a journalistic axiom.  But in recent years, it has apparently been forgotten.  Professional journalists acquire a swelled head somewhere in their training, leading to a conviction that they're all Mr. Science ("He knows more than you do.")

      In truth, most journalists are fairly ignorant, and entirely too cocksure.  Look at Rathergate.  Nobody at CBS knew what an Air National Guard memo was supposed to look like, none of them knew and remembered what typewritten documents looked like, none of them knew enough about National Guard procedures in the immediate aftermath of Viet Nam to figure out whether or not the lack of pay records from the Alabama ANG meant Bush hadn't been showing up.  None of that would have mattered it they'd realized their limitations, and researched the subjects.  But instead they went into the story certain they knew what had really happened ('Bush used political pull to get into the Guard.  Then he used political pull to avoid doing his duty.')  A high school paper reporter would probably have done a better job, by being aware of her own limitations.

      Overestimating their own competence also leads to errors in judgment about what is and isn't news.  For instance, I believe John Kerry was supposed to serve two years reserve duty after he came home from Viet Nam.  There's no record I know of that he did so.  The MSM hasn't followed up on that 'dereliction of duty' story, though.  They've decided that what's important is the fact Kerry served in Viet Nam, and agrees with them politically.  Everything else is trivia.

      Of course on some level, the MSM have always known that they are fallible.  They do run corrections, after all.  But they tend to limit corrections to mistakes in names and dates.  When they make a major error, their first instinct is to say 'We stand behind our story.'

      Once, that worked.  Now, they get fact checked by a hoard that collectively knows more than they do.  In my arrogant opinion, it distresses them to get called on their errors.  That's why Bret Stephens ended up defending Eason Jordan, and why the WSJ keeps defending its poor news judgment in initially almost ignoring the story.  They just can't bear to admit they were wrong.

      Well, they'd better get used to it, because they're going to make mistakes, and they're going to get called on them.


Wednesday, February 16, 2005

What Do the Democrats Stand For?

      I couldn't resist any longer.  I read Paul Krugman's column in the New York Times, proclaiming Howard Dean a moderate Democrat.

      As expected, it was idiotic.  Particularly stupid was a quote from CounterPunch, a far-left website, saying Dean was a "Clintonesque" Democrat.

      But what I really liked was this quote:
In fact, by taking on Social Security, Mr. Bush gave the Democrats a chance to remember what they stand for, and why.

      I guess the Democrats stand for not allowing us to make our own decisions about our own retirement money -- something members of Congress and other Federal employees are allowed to do.

      'The Democratic Party: Defending the view that you're stupid!'


A Blast From the Past

      I found a copy of Eason Jordan's notorious 'We didn't report honestly from Baghdad,' essay here, and there's a very interesting paragraph in it:
Last December, when I told Information Minister Muhammad Said al-Sahhaf that we intended to send reporters to Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, he warned me they would "suffer the severest possible consequences." CNN went ahead, and in March, Kurdish officials presented us with evidence that they had thwarted an armed attack on our quarters in Erbil. This included videotaped confessions of two men identifying themselves as Iraqi intelligence agents who said their bosses in Baghdad told them the hotel actually housed C.I.A. and Israeli agents. The Kurds offered to let us interview the suspects on camera, but we refused, for fear of endangering our staff in Baghdad.

      Think about that.  Jordan knew that Saddam's regime tortured and murdered anyone who annoyed it.  He spends the previous six paragraphs of his op-ed saying so.  But when he really wanted a story, he endangered the lives of his people to get it.  And if you look at the Reporters Without Borders site, you find that almost all the reporters who've died in Iraq did so at the hands of the terrorists, or got caught in a crossfire during miltary operations against the terrorists.  Yet I've never heard of Jordan indignantly denouncing those scummy murderers.

      I wonder why not.



      The Archives of Internal Medicine and the Los Angeles Times report that flu shots for the elderly show absolutely no discernible benefit at all.  It seems that elderly bodies don't react as well to vaccines in the first place.  Also, past studies of vaccination effectiveness apparently didn't have proper controls.

      Does anyone benefit from flu vaccines?  Yes, the young -- the ones the govt. decided not to give it to when supplies were short.  Oh, baby, bring me my socialized medicine NOW!

      Oh, by the way, the vaccination of the young benefits the elderly ;-).  School children are the primary spreaders, and young adults are caregivers for nursing homes, so the if you stop members of those two groups from getting the disease, the elderly are less likely to be exposed in the first place.  God definitely loves irony. (HT: Michelle Malkin)

      Meanwhile, I can't help wondering why no one is working on ways to improve the immune functions and vaccination response of the aged . . .


Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Still no fact checking

      In the many stories I've read concerning Eason Jordan and his fall these past few days, I've repeatedly seen references to the 'four CBS employees' dismissed as a result of Raththergate.

      Turns out, all except Mapes still work there.  The story is on today's Drudge, and will be in tomorrow's NY Observer (when that story comes up, I'll post a link).

      Apparently, the MSM no longer even tries to get it right.


Jimmy Carter: Traitor?

      I realize that's a strong word, but consider this:
John Hawkins: Let me ask you this: True or false -- Jimmy Carter's administration approached the Soviets and asked for help in getting elected in 1980?

Peter Schweizer: They did. They actually did it twice, in 1980 in the waning days of the election fearing that he would lose to Reagan. Carter sent an emissary to the Soviet embassy to meet with Anatoly Dobrynin and Dobrynin, the Soviet ambassador, writes about this.

This is his account and basically the deal was: if you demonstrate some sort of grand gesture whereby it would make us look good and help us beat Reagan, we will return the favor; we'll give you something in exchange. The Soviets decided not to do it because at that point they thought Carter was so unpredictable and they thought that Reagan perhaps would end up being another Richard Nixon, somebody they could deal with, so they didn't take it.

In 1984, Dobrynin says that Carter approached him at the Soviet embassy and said that, you know, Reagan was a dangerous man who needed to be defeated and that he wanted to have them work together to accomplish those ends. So, you know, you have to say there's at the least an unusual and really quite horrific situation where an ex-President of the United States is pledging to work with our enemies on the international stage to defeat an incumbent President.

      I haven't verified this by checking Dobrynin's writings, but if Carter tried to conspire with the Soviets to influence our elections, that seems like treason to me.


Monday, February 14, 2005

Is Eason Jordan Sane?

      I ask that question seriously.

      On three occasions, Jordan has accused the Israeli and U.S. military of deliberately attacking journalists.

      I live in Minneapolis, and frequently visit it's suburb, Edina.  Suppose I accused the Minneapolis and Edina cops of wanting to destroy me, and cited as proof a pair of traffic tickets.  You'd think I was paranoid, and you'd be right.

      I'm beginning to think Jordan was asked to resign from CNN because his bosses realized he was off his chump.


World Economic Forum caught lying

      Kudos to Captain Ed and commenter Dishman.  They've exposed a Davos falsehood.

      The spin coming out of the WEF is that the panel "Will Democracy Survive the Media?" was semi-off the record.  Opinions expressed could be reported, but not attributed to the speaker in any way.

      Bull.  The official summary of the conference is here, and it violates their supposed rule.

Will Democracy Survive the Media?
Annual Meeting 2005
If the frank exchange of views between the media and politicians that characterized this session is anything to go by, the answer to the theme question was an emphatic "no". In a discussion that ranged from the disappearance of the county hall news bureau to the killing of journalists in Iraq, an informal consensus was reached that a healthy media makes for a robust democracy and one cannot survive without the other.

Which is not to say that everything is rosy. Moderator David R. Gergen, Director, Center for Public Leadership, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, USA, opened the session by suggesting that the trivialization of the press means that the public is becoming increasingly disengaged and is less inclined to vote. And because too much of the media is owned by corporations, much of the world isn’t being covered because of the costs.

Barney Frank, Congressman from Massachusetts (Democrat), USA, agreed. "Essentially there’s less news," he said. "Reporters used to come to the city hall and that is a thing of the past. The biggest change is in the corporate ownership. People used to put out newspapers because they wanted to be journalists. Nobody is doing that these days; they do it because they want to make money. Papers are in a circulation race."

The commercialization of the press is having its effect on the TV channels, too. Eason Jordan, Chief News Executive, CNN News Group, USA, said that his organization is under pressure to compete against entertainment-led cable outlets. For his part Richard Sambrook, Director, World Service and Global News, BBC World, United Kingdom, said that the suicide of David Kelly and the subsequent Hutton Report which criticized the BBC had resulted in a new commitment to the journalistic values of objectivity, transparency and accountability. "I think it’s going to become more important to divide the serious media from the others who are driving the bottom line," he said.

The importance of the media to democracy is nowhere more graphically illustrated in the world today than in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. As Gergen had pointed out in his introduction, the press has taken cameras to various dangerous places.

But it was the fifth panellist who reminded the largely Western audience of the key role that the media has to play in democracy. Abdullah Abdullah, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan, said his country now has its first free press since before the Soviet invasion. "The right of expression is now ensured for our citizens. We have 160 newspapers with only about 5 or 6 publicly supported," he said. "During the election there were debates going on that nobody would have believed possible a few years ago." And did he feel more accountable with a free press? "Certainly."

      So off-the-record in Davos means 'We censor the reports for our own purposes.'  "A healthy media makes for a robust democracy," my ass.  Feh!

      Update, Feb. 17th: The Blogfather has a comment from a Davos insider:
Although the Forum has long claimed non-plenary sessions are off the record, this is followed far more in the breach than the observance. Much of the reporting from Davos comes out of so-called off-the-record sessions, without the journalist obtaining the consent of all involved. Further, most people recognise that it is futile to claim an event attended by more than a few people can truly be off the record. Larry Summers, when he was deputy Treasury secretary, told me in Davos that the first thing he learned in Washington was that any conversation with more than two participants would never be off the record (a lesson he has had to relearn recently). . . .

      Memo to elitists: Your ability to control information has diminished drastically.  Deal with it.


Sunday, February 13, 2005

Do they really think they can get away with this?!?!

      The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (registration required) has a story about Jordan's fall, which contains the following:
Jordan was reported to have said that a dozen journalists who died in Iraq were targeted by the U.S. military. When participants challenged his comments, he quickly backpedaled, but apparently not nearly far enough or fast enough.

Bloggers pushed CNN to ask the World Economic Forum for a transcript of the discussion. The network did not do so, spokeswoman Christa Robinson said, because there's no dispute over what Jordan said and because he tried to clarify his comments.

CNN executives were concerned about his statements, though he was not threatened with firing, one said. . . .

In an e-mail response to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he declined to be interviewed for this story.

      THERE'S NO DISPUTE OVER WHAT JORDAN SAID!?!?!?!?  That's a flat lie, as the first paragraph quoted shows.  CNN just told a blatant untruth, and the AJC let them get away with it!

      Who do they think they're fooling? (hat tip: Instapundit)


My own snark on Easongate

I posted this at The American Street, coment 52.

      Oh, gee, our conspiracy has been exposed!  You know that we all take orders from the Hidden Master of News Manipulation, whipping up on-line lynch mobs to go after media figures.  And you've even figured out our sinister, unscrupulous method of attack: asking for an examination of the evidence.

      As a result, "By the outcome of this latest lynching, the totality of 1st amendement freedom, along with American trust in openness, frankness, and truth from members of the press, has been damaged."

      You got it in one!  We ask for frank discussion and a view of a videotape, so that the issue can be settled, and it doesn't happen.  That does indeed damage the "trust in openness, frankness, and truth from members of the press."  Even more unfairly, the only way the press could have been avoided our tarnish would have been to demonstrate "openness, frankness, and truth."  Whether they cover up or come clean, they damn themselves.

      So tell me, lefties, watcha gonna do?  Next time, jump right in at the beginning, and demand that no one ask to see the tape, get statements from witnesses, or doubt the word of the accused?  That'll be fun for us to watch.

      To quote our patron saint, Margaret Hamilton:


      Choke on it, lefty swine.  We get Lott, Rather and Jordan, you get Jeff Gannon. *snicker*



Best snark awards, Easongate division

      So far we have Mickey Kaus, who heads his story on the resignation Eason Down the Road, and commenter Anonymous at Ankle Biting Pundits, who reminds us whom we should thank for all this new power: Al Gore, the inventor of the Internet.

      Further nominations welcomed.

      Update: Ace of Spades has nice satire: "Eason Jordan: Reporters 'Deliberately Targeted' by Bloggers."


More absence of fact-checking, and massive bias

      The New York Times reports on the resignation of Eason Jordan.  In the course of the story, they remark "Mr. Jordan was then challenged by Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, who was in the audience."

      Wrong.  Rep. Frank was on the panel with Jordan.  Sen. Chris Dodd was in the audience.  See here.

      Does the Times just not care about accuracy anymore?  Are some stories so upsetting that they can't think straight?

      My guess is that the Times was too pre-occupied by the necessity for spin.  They say:
Ann Cooper, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said that 54 journalists were killed in 2003 and 2004 . At least nine died as a result of American fire, she said.

Among Mr. Jordan's responsibilities at CNN was be an advocate - often a forceful one - in discussions with the Pentagon on issues concerning the security of journalists in Iraq.

      Nicely done, Times.  You imply the U.S. military is killing journalists, either deliberately or carelessly.  You also quote only one witness to Jordan's remarks, David Gergen, and not the others who like Abovitz, Frank, and Dodd, who heard Jordan's remarks quite differently.

      The Los Angeles Times has a rather good piece, although they mistake Roger L. Simon for Roger Simon of U.S. News and World Reports, and uncritically accept that the panel was off-the-record (see next paragraph).

      The Washington Post runs a story by Howard Kurtz.  The second paragraph claims:
Jordan was being pounded hourly by bloggers, liberals as well as conservatives, who provided the rocket fuel for a story that otherwise might have fizzled.
Kurtz never mentions the demands for the release of the videotape or a verbatim transcript, though, contenting himself with saying in the fourth paragraph:
No definitive account of what Jordan said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 27 has been made public, including the forum's videotape of the off-the-record session.
In fact, there's some doubt the session was off-the-record originally.  And given Jordan's connections with the WEF (Jordan is on the board of the WEF's subsidiary organization, "The Forum of Young Global Leaders,") it certainly seems likely that the WEF would have given Jordan a tape or transcript, of his remarks at least, if he'd asked for them.  No, the missing transcript/tape is almost down the memory hole.

      Except the blogosphere keeps its own copies, making the memory hole ineffective.  Nor is editing as a way of keeping the lid on working anymore, as Kurtz notes:
As of yesterday, the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and USA Today had not carried a staff-written story, and the CBS, NBC and ABC nightly news programs had not reported the matter. It was discussed on several talk shows on Fox News, MSNBC and CNBC but not on CNN.

      In a special 'Let's embarrass ourselves a little more' episode, the Post lets Kurtz say that part of the reason CNN let Jordan go was:
Several CNN staffers say Jordan, who was distraught about the controversy, saw the handwriting on the wall in tendering his resignation. But top executives are also said to have lost patience with the continuing gossip about Jordan, including his affair with Marianne Pearl, widow of the murdered reporter Daniel Pearl, and subsequent marital breakup.
      Then, after letting that out on the internet, they edit it to:
Several CNN staffers say Jordan was eased out by top executives who had lost patience with both the controversy and the continuing published gossip about Jordan's personal life after a marital breakup. Jordan's authority already had been greatly reduced after a management shakeup.

  Apparently, they didn't know the Net would lovingly preserve the original, for example here.

      All in all, a truly bad performance by the Main Stream Media.  How many times will we bloggers have to do this to them before they wake up and adjust to the changing enviornment?


Saturday, February 12, 2005

Don't they fact-check anything?

      The Washington Post has a story about Free Republic and the Baltimore mayor controversy (hat tips to Rand Simberg and Glenn Reynolds).  In passing,the Post claims:
CBS later fired three executives and a producer over their work on the National Guard story.

      Uh, no.  CBS fired Mapes, the producer, and asked the others to resign.  They didn't, and when last heard of, were still working for CBS.

      Can't these people get anything right?


Friday, February 11, 2005

Stupidity of the Day

      Do you recognize the name "Terry McAuliffe"?  Mr. McAuliffe was elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee in February, 2001.  Today, a new chair will be elected.

      In a ceremony honoring him:
Both Clinton and Sen. John Kerry, the 2004 presidential nominee, urged Democrats to build on McAuliffe's work.

      Yeah, in 2001, the Democrats had just won control of the House for the twentieth straight election, and won control of the Senate for the seventeenth time in the past twenty elections.

      On McAuliffe's watch, they haven't won either House of Congress in the past six elections, and they've seen the Republicans win everything except the 1996 Presidential election.

      As someone enrolled in the Republican Party in the womb, I too hope they build on McAuliffe's work.


Rationality Deficit Disorder

      You've heard of Attention Deficit Disorder, which keeps kids from concentrating on what they are doing for more than a few minutes.  There's a parallel phenomenon in adults, Rationality Deficit Disorder.  It limits your ability to think straight to a few minutes or sentences.

      Perhaps the most prominent victim of RDD is Thomas Friedman of the New York Times.  Consider his latest column as an example.

      He starts by talking about Democratic disparagement of the Iraq elections.  Then he says:
But those who suggest that the Iraqi election is just beanbag, and that all we are doing is making the war on terrorism worse as a result of Iraq, are speaking nonsense.

Here's the truth: There is no single action we could undertake anywhere in the world to reduce the threat of terrorism that would have a bigger impact today than a decent outcome in Iraq. It is that important.
      Excellent thinking.  But he promptly blows it.  The next sentence is:
And precisely because it is so important, it should not be left to Donald Rumsfeld.

      Friedman struggles back to rationality for a moment:
if Iraqis can't forge a social contract, it would suggest that no other Arab country can - since virtually all of them are similar mixtures of tribes, ethnicities and religions. That would mean that they can be ruled only by iron-fisted kings or dictators, with all the negatives that flow from that.

But - but - if Iraqis succeed in forging a social contract in the hardest place of all, it means that democracy is actually possible anywhere in the Arab world.
      Correct, but then Friedman goes on to say:
Democrats do not favor using military force against Iran's nuclear program or to compel regime change there. That is probably wise. But they don't really have a diplomatic option. I've got one: Iraq. Iraq is our Iran policy.

If we can help produce a representative government in Iraq - based on free and fair elections and with a Shiite leadership that accepts minority rights and limits on clerical involvement in politics - it will exert great pressure on the ayatollah-dictators running Iran. In Iran's sham "Islamic democracy," only the mullahs decide who can run. Over time, Iranian Shiites will demand to know why they can't have the same freedoms as their Iraqi cousins right next door. That will drive change in Iran. Just be patient.
      Sure, right, they fund terrorists, they kill 'infidels,' they're going for atomic bombs, but if some of the population gets restless, they'll fold like a cheap tent, allow elections, and stand aside when they lose.

      It gets worse.  Friedman writes:
Palestinian suicide bombing has stopped not because of the Israeli fence or because Palestinians are no longer "desperate." It has stopped because the Palestinians had an election, and a majority voted to get behind a diplomatic approach. They told the violent minority that suicide bombing - for now - is shameful.
      Sure, that's why the bombings went down while Arafat was still breathing.

      The last few sentences show Friedman struggling to think, and sometimes making it:
What Arabs and Muslims say about their terrorists is the only thing that will protect us in the long run. It takes a village, and the Iraqi election was the Iraqi village telling the violent minority that what it is doing is shameful. The fascist minority in Iraq is virulent, and some jihadists will stop at nothing. But the way you begin to drain the swamps of terrorism is when you create a democratic context for those with good ideas to denounce those with bad ones.

Egypt and Syrian-occupied Lebanon both have elections this year. Watch how the progressives and those demanding representative government are empowered in their struggle against the one-man rulers in Egypt and Syria - if the Iraqi experiment succeeds.

We have paid a huge price in Iraq. I want to get out as soon as we can. But trying to finish the job there, as long as we have real partners, is really important - and any party that says otherwise will become unimportant.
      Friedman's right that in the long run, turning the Muslim world against the pretend "Holy Warriors" is the big necessity.  But it won't be "ideas" that suppress the jihadis, it will be bullets, just as with any group of thugs.  The democrats in Egypt and Lebanon will probably be encouraged by the Iraqis, but the dictators oppressing them may have to be taken out by force.  Finally, getting out of Iraq "as soon as we can," and making whether we do the job of nurturing democracy dependent on whether we have "real partners" is just idiotic.

      I hope psychiatrists develop a treatment for RDD soon.  It's horrible to watch people in Friedman's condition make fools of themselves like this.


Thursday, February 10, 2005

Medium class and low class

      I recently posted on the Minneapolis Star-Tribune's op-ed piece by Bill Moyers, in which Moyers claimed that Watt had said something in front of Congress that he never in fact said. I mentioned in an update that Moyers had called Watt on the phone to apologize, and promised to repeat the apology publicly.

      The Strib shows a medium amount of class in all this.  It doesn't say anything about how it picks opinion pieces without making any effort to check the alleged facts in them, or attempt to contact people for rebuttal before publication, but it does open it's op-ed page to Watt, lets him have his say about how stupid the whole thing was, and then says, flat out, that they made an error and they're sorry.

      Moyers shows low class.  He offers excuses for saying what he said ('Other people said it too'); he doesn't ask why he believed something preposterous (Watt's rebuttal makes the point that Moyers was Lyndon Johnson's press secretary; he should know that the Senate would never confirm someone who expressed Watt's alleged attitudes); he doesn't reflect on why he, Moyers, and other sources Moyers trusts make dumb errors so easily; nor does Moyers correct any of the other errors in his op-ed.

      Moyers does say this:
I talked to Mr. Watt on the phone and expressed my own regret at using a quote that I had not myself confirmed. I also told him that I continue to find his policies as secretary of the interior abysmally at odds with what I, as well as other Christians, understand to be our obligation to be stewards of the earth.
      So, Moyers was wrong, but Watt is a bad Christian.

      Moyers, you're a fucking disgrace as a journalist and as a human being.  Eat shit and die.


Good to see people are listening

      I'm a former motorcyclist, and the only reason I'm alive and capable of typing this is because I was wearing a helmet on the last day I rode.  While I support unreservedly the right of people to risk their lives and minds by riding without helmets, it's gratifying to see people do the smart thing and wear them.  So I was very glad to read this story, concerning appropriate helmet usage:
February 9, 2005 -- A pair of motorcyclists were caught with their pants down — but their helmets still on — along a quiet Brooklyn street. . . .

Robert Wallendorf, 45, and his fiancée Demetra Decolvenaere, 46, were spotted by a cop having sex in the median of a Shore Parkway service road, police said.

She then saw Wallendorf and Decolvenaere in the median "with their buttocks exposed and their helmets still on, having sex," said a police source.


Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Book alert

      Bjorn Lomborg,author of The Skeptical Enviornmentalist, has a new book, Global Crises, Global Solutions.  As a liberal with a very soft heart, and a very hard head, it will certainly be worth reading.


What's at stake in "Easongate"?

      Gerard van der Leun (capitalization?) has a brilliant analysis.  Key point: CNN is not a USAmerican corporation, it's a transnational corporation that happens to be based in Atlanta.

      Go read it.  Then check out the rest of his site.


Hilarious quote of the day

      John Kerry talks to political journalist Roger Simon (not to be confused with Roger L. Simon):
ME: Many are now pointing to the last election and saying that the Democratic party is in deep trouble and needs fundamental change. What do you think?
KERRY: Those naysayers are completely out to lunch. They don't know what they are talking about. On every issue that speaks to the qualities of people's lives, we won and will continue to win.
      Hat tips: David Corn, via Glenn Reynolds.


Learning to read between the lines

      I haven't been posting about the "Easongate" story.  If you came in late, on Jan. 28th, there was a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Swtzerland.  During it, Eason Jordan, News Chief of CNN, apparently said that the U.S. military deliberately targets and kills journalists working in Iraq.  He was challenged on this, and seems to have waffled a bit.  A blogger present in the audience posted on all this.  Other blogs picked it up and ran with it, especially Captain's Quarters, Rebecca MacKinnon, and Michelle Malkin.

      Since then, Jordan has been trying to claim that he never said what most of the witnesses heard thought they heard him say.  This could all be cleared up if a transcript were released, or the videotape of the discussion, but the WEF has declined, and Jordan apparently hasn't pressed them for it.

      The MSM ignored this story for a long time, then tried to help out Jordan.  Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post had a piece on this subject, the Boston Globe had another.  Both are remarkably similar.

      Note this paragraph from the Globe:
Representative Barney Frank, who was on the panel, told The Boston Globe yesterday that attendees "perked up" after Jordan made remarks that ''sounded like accusing the military of deliberate targeting." Frank said Jordan then backed off a bit, saying he wasn't indicating that such targeting represented US military policy.

      There are two quotes from Rep. Frank, then the last sentence, which isn't in quotes.  That's the Globe's paraphrase of Frank.  There are other partial quotes in the article, but the long quotes, in complete sentences, are all from CNN, saying Jordan was misunderstood.  No doubts are raised about this, no mention of the videotape, no mention that most witnesses understood Jordan to say the U.S. military deliberately kills journalists.

      Howard Kurtz isn't much better.  He wrote nothing on the story for days, then he too selectively quotes to make Jordan look good.  David Gergen, the reporter moderating the panel, is said to support Jordan's account.  But Gergen gave a signifigantly different account to Malkin.  Kurtz also neglects to mention that a videotape was made, but isn't being released.  And there are no links in Kurtz's story, or the Globe's, so you can't conveniently find any dissent from what they say.

      Friends, those are the tell-tale signs of a journalist spinning a story.  It's another example of Editing as Lying.  Learn those signs: lots of quotation in sentence fragments, mixtures of quotes and paraphrases, a great deal from one side but not the other, no sources cited for followup, stories ignored at first and then "clarified."

      If you can think of any others, add them in comments.

      It's amazing the MSM still think they can get away with this stuff.  Do your part to re-educate them.

      Update: To see what real journalism on this issue looks like, go read this article in the New York Sun.    No links, but two bloggers names are mentioned, detailed statements from the witnesses are quoted, and other information relevant information is noted.  Bravo, Sun!

      2nd Update: A good comment from Jim Geraghty:
What we need from the Davos conference organizers is simple - the tape of what Jordan said. It would be good to get the entire event, but really, what is at issue here is what Jordan said, and how much he backtracked.

If the Davos organizers refuse to release it, and CNN refuses to call for its release, and the BBC refuses to call for its release, and every other news agency refuses to call for its release...

...then remember this, the next time the media gets up on a high horse about the public's right to know. Remember this the next time Dick Cheney has a meeting with energy executives. Remember this the next time reporters complain about Bush not holding enough press conferences, and not doing enough interviews. Remember this the next time they talk about the importance of a free press, and an informed citizenry.

Because it's all conditional. None of this applies when the situation includes a media executive says something in a big forum that he later realizes he doesn't want the public to hear. Then all of a sudden, none of this matters, because it's bad form for other news agencies to look into the story if he wants it to go away. "Bad manners, old chap. We journalists have to stick together."

Also, remember the top excuse of Dan Rather and the CBS memos? Those infamous, all-powerful "competitive forces." Mary Mapes, Dan Rather and company just had to do the sloppy, unfair, and shoddy work that they did, because they were just so worried about being beaten by another news agency.

And yet in this case... it seems like no news agency is rushing to be first on this. Everybody's taking their time. Nobody wants to be the first to demand Davos release the tape. For days, it seemed like nobody wanted to be the first to write about this, or put it in their news section.

Just where the heck are these powerful, intense, unavoidable, healthy "competitive instincts" now?

      Third update: Another Geraghty post:
We’ve got two dramatically different interpretations here – the account of Rony Abovitz and Rebecca MacKinnon and Barney Frank, and the account of Eason Jordan. (Dodd’s statement appears to confirm Rony & Company but is brief; Gergen mostly confirms Rony but is sympathetic to Jordan; Richard Sambrook’s account is pretty close to Jordan’s.)

These accounts are so contradictory on so many key elements that one has no choice but to conclude one side is dramatically misrepresenting what happened.

The videotape that the Davos authorities are sitting on would solve this issue immediately.

Either Rony, MacKinnon, and Frank are passing on inaccurate accounts that will trash Jordan’s reputation, or Eason Jordan’s denial is a lie.

      The fact that Abovitz wants the tape released, and Jordan isn't saying anything, tells me who's almost certainly lying.


Monday, February 07, 2005

A question

      Lately, there's been a lot of discussion about the "Intelligent Design" issue.  "Intelligent Design" is the theory that the known facts of biology render it impossible for Darwin's theory of evolution to be true.  There are, allegedly, just to many things that have to work together for accidental mutation and selection to create them.  Therefore, some intelligent entity created life as we know it.  The Intelligent Design advocates put this forward as science, not religion.

      In response, many critics say that science deals only in physically measurable causes and effects, and therefore Intelligent Design is non-scientific by definition.  In other words, science is "all materialism, all the time."

      Now, I favor no theory of the origins and diversity of life.  Darwin, Intelligent Design, and all other explanations I've seen proposed leave me unconvinced.  But try a thought experiment:

      Suppose that a supernatural Intelligent Designer of Designers did in fact create life on earth.  Then, by the definition of science as "all materialism, all the time," science can't tell us anything about the origins of life.

      So here's my question: how often have you heard any scientist say 'Science can only go so far in explaining the material world, and may never have a complete picture"?

      I have real trouble recalling anything like that.  What I always hear and read is "Just wait, and we'll explain everything."  That seems like as big an act of faith as anything the theologians ever asked for.

      So hey, fellas, why don't you all start distinguishing what you can prove, and what you just believe because it makes you feel good.


Like calls to like

      The Minneapolis Star-Tribune editorial board can almost always be depended on to say something stupid.  When it doesn't, it almost always compensates by printing a stupid op-ed article.  The latest example, truly breathtaking in its idiocy, was written by Bill Moyers (hat tip: Powerline).

      According to Moyers:
Theology asserts propositions that cannot be proven true; ideologues hold stoutly to a worldview despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality. When ideology and theology couple, their offspring are not always bad but they are always blind. And there is the danger: voters and politicians alike, oblivious to the facts.

Remember James Watt, President Ronald Reagan's first secretary of the interior? My favorite online environmental journal, the ever-engaging Grist, reminded us recently of how James Watt told the U.S. Congress that protecting natural resources was unimportant in light of the imminent return of Jesus Christ. In public testimony he said, "after the last tree is felled, Christ will come back."

Beltway elites snickered. The press corps didn't know what he was talking about. But James Watt was serious. So were his compatriots out across the country. They are the people who believe the Bible is literally true -- one-third of the American electorate, if a recent Gallup poll is accurate. In this past election several million good and decent citizens went to the polls believing in the rapture index.

      Right, Watt publicly shot himself in the gut, and the press just ignored it.  And I've got a special offer for you this week: buy the Brooklyn Bridge from me, and I'll throw in Buckingham Palace at half price.  Unsurprisingly, Grist has since published a correction, saying that Watt didn't say that to Congress, and may never have said it at all.

      Moyers then goes on to discuss the "Left Behind" series.  He says:
Its outline is rather simple, if bizarre (the British writer George Monbiot recently did a brilliant dissection of it and I am indebted to him for adding to my own understanding): Once Israel has occupied the rest of its "biblical lands," legions of the antichrist will attack it, triggering a final showdown in the valley of Armageddon.

As the Jews who have not been converted are burned, the messiah will return for the rapture. True believers will be lifted out of their clothes and transported to Heaven, where, seated next to the right hand of God, they will watch their political and religious opponents suffer plagues of boils, sores, locusts and frogs during the several years of tribulation that follow.

I'm not making this up. Like Monbiot, I've read the literature. I've reported on these people, following some of them from Texas to the West Bank.

      Only one little problem.  I read the "Left Behind" series (OK, I have low taste; sue me), and what Moyers describes isn't the plot.  For example, the Rapture is the first thing that happens in the first book of the series.  I might also mention that the question of just what exactly the Book of Revelations predicts is a subject of controversy within the Christian community (source: a "born-again" of my acquaintance).  Apparently, when Moyers read and reported, he didn't actually understand anything he learned.

      Moyers goes on to assert that Christian fundamentalists are positively looking forward to the destruction of the environment, because it will hasten the second coming of Christ.  He notes:
Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia, who recently quoted from the biblical book of Amos on the Senate floor: "The days will come, sayeth the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land." He seemed to be relishing the thought.

      So I google the book of Amos, and the quote, and find this:
8.11 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD:

12 And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it.

      Moyer's source, by the way, appears to have been the online journal Grist, and they at least quoted all of verse 8.11.  Moyers just truncated it, to make it mean something it doesn't say.  Moyers is, remember, a distinguished journalist.

      There's more, all about how the Bush administration is going to destroy the environment with the help of the crazy fundamentalists.  They have to be resisted, blah, blah, blah.  For this stuff, no sources are cited.

      I don't know what's weirder: that liberals take Moyers and his kind seriously; that Moyers thinks his unsupported assertions and downright falsification will be believed; that the Strib can't be bothered to do a little fact checking on the articles they run;  or that the liberal/left wing of the Democratic Party thinks they can win with this nonsense.

      Update: it appears Moyers has apologized to Watt by phone, and promised to make his apology public.  Good for Moyers so far, and better if he follows through.


The dumbest quote I've read lately

      Was in this news story:
In the Jordanian newspaper Ad-Dustour, columnist Oraib al Rintawi wrote: "The election in Iraq was dictated by American arrogance against the will of most of its people."

      Yeah, those 60% of the eligible electorate who voted did so because they were herded to the polls by the occupation forces.  Riiiiiiiight.


Just shut up about "The Scream," please

      Howard Dean will probably be elected National Chairman of the Democratic Party next week, and a lot of people think that decision will be a mistake.  They think Dean will lead the Dems in exactly the wrong direction.

      OK, that's legitimate criticism.  But almost all of them bring up "The Scream," Dean's ending to the speech he gave after losing the Iowa caucuses.  He was giving a 'pump up the troops' speech, and he "yee-haw"ed at the end.  So what?  If W. did something like that, they'd put it down to his being Texan.

      I would never have voted for Dean, and think he may be bad for the Democrats, but let's keep the discussion on things relevant, OK?


Beldar's back!

      During and immediately after the electoral campaign, one of my favorite sites was BeldarBlog, "The online journal of a crusty, longwinded trial lawyer, bemused observer of politics, and internet dilettante"

      Then, in December, he stopped posting.  I missed him.  Now, he's back.  Go read him, he's in fine form.


Saturday, February 05, 2005

Good article on demographics

      Over at Policy Review there's an excellent book review/article by Stanley Kurds on demographics and what it means for the future of the world, especially the U.S.:
The question of the cultural and economic consequences of declining birthrates has been squarely placed on the table by four new books: The Empty Cradle: How Falling Birthrates Threaten World Prosperity and What to Do About It, by Phillip Longman; Fewer: How the New Demography of Depopulation Will Shape Our Future, by Ben Wattenberg; The Coming Generational Storm: What You Need to Know About America’s Economic Future, by Laurence J. Kotlikoff and Scott Burns; and Running On Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It, by Peter G. Peterson. Longman and Wattenberg concentrate on the across-the-board implications of demographic change. Kotlikoff and Burns, along with Peterson, limn the economic crisis that could come in the absence of swift and sweeping entitlement reform.

Taken together, these four books suggest that we are moving toward a period of substantial social change whose tantalizing ideological implications run the gamut from heightened cultural radicalism to the emergence of a new, more conservative cultural era.
(hat tip: Real Clear Politics).

Some comments:

      First, it's surprising to me that anyone should be surprised at this.  Back in 1988, I was in a college class in which the professor was very alarmed about the "population explosion."  As evidence, he showed us a graph of the world's birth and death rates.  By definition, the gap between them, if any, is the rate of population expansion/contraction.  The birth rate had fallen for years, but the death rate had fallen even faster -- especially among non-whites.  In other words, the coming 'population bomb' was largely a way of saying 'Them brown peoples' children ain't dying enuf.'

      It's also worth noting that Peter F. Drucker was writing about the 'baby bust' of the sixties by 1969.  He drew the appropriate conclusion: an aging, slowly growing population in the industrialized countries.

      Now, outside of science fiction novels, it doesn't seem possible for the death rate to fall forever.  But once the death rate stopped falling, it looked like the birth rate would catch up to the death rate, or even fall lower.  In short, the population would level out, then fall.  It's worth remembering this simple fact the next time a bunch of 'experts' tell you to take something on faith.

      As you might surmise from above, the birth rate is lowest in the industrialized countries.  Only in the United States is the birth rate above or near the replacement level, and that's including immigrants.  Without them foreigners coming in, we'd have near stable population.  But in all industrialized societies, the population is getting older.  That leaves a lot of people asking how govt. pension plans will pay off.

      The short answer is, they won't.  The retirement age will rise, and the benefits will be cut.  This seems to panic some people.  It shouldn't.  Nor will the economic collapse feared by several of the authors occur (they confusion the habit of third world govts. borrowing foreign currency with the industrialized countries' borrowing their own currency; can't go broke when you can just run the printing presses).

      What's really interesting is the idea that:
whatever might raise fertility rates above replacement level will almost certainly require fundamental cultural change.

      We already know that parents tend to live and vote differently from childless adults (DUH!).  What will happen as the singles increasingly die out?  Kurtz thinks that a rerise in the birth rate:
would almost certainly involve greater cultural conservatism. Married parents tend to be more conservative, politically and culturally. Predictions of future dominance for the Democratic Party are based on the increasing demographic prominence of single women. Delayed marriage lowers fertility rates and moves the culture leftward. Reverse that trend by stimulating married parenthood, and the country grows more conservative whether in a religious mode or not.

      I doubt it.  The baby boom took place in the fifties, when the Democrats were the majority party, and big govt. was seen as a good thing.  We don't know what will happen on this front.

      Kurtz also has some interesting science-fictional speculations about artificial wombs, and the possibilities of eugenics.  They're probably coming, and like all new technology, there will be "cropdusters," that is, applications and effects that no one saw ahead of time.  The future will be one heck of a ride.

      Meanwhile, go read the article.  It's past time that we thought about these things seriously.