May
28
2010

The BP Spill Is Not as Complicated as David Brooks Wants You to Think

David Brooks (New York Times, 5/28/10) informs us that the idea that "government should have more control over industry" is one of the "predictably partisan and often puerile" reactions to the oil spill. The lesson that smart people derive from the spill, Brooks says, is "that humans are not great at measuring and responding to risk when placed in situations too complicated to understand." What follows is, as Matthew Yglesias pointed out (5/28/10), largely cribbed from a 1996 New Yorker essay by Malcolm Gladwell (1/22/96) that argued that "accidents are not easily preventable" because of various psychological pitfalls that humans […]

May
27
2010

NYT: Credulous Pakistanis See U.S. as a Menace!

Are Pakistanis more gullible than other people? That's what the New York Times would have you believe. In a front page May 26 article, "U.S. Is a Top Villain in Pakistan's Conspiracy Talk," the Times reports that "Conspiracy theory is a national sport in Pakistan," where "the United States has taken center stage, looming so large in Pakistan's collective imagination that it sometimes seems to be responsible for everything that goes wrong here." As a video sidebar that runs in the Web version of the Times article reports, "In most of the world these conspiracies are the stuff of fringe, […]

May
27
2010

Managed News From the Gulf of Mexico

A troubling article from Newsweek (5/26/10) reports on efforts by both BP and government officials to limit media access to the aftermath of the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico: As BP makes its latest attempt to plug its gushing oil well, news photographers are complaining that their efforts to document the slow-motion disaster in the Gulf of Mexico are being thwarted by local and federal officials–working with BP–who are blocking access to the sites where the effects of the spill are most visible. More than a month into the disaster, a host of anecdotal evidence is emerging […]

May
27
2010

Washington Post (Again) on the Debt Revolt

Last week the Washington Post informed us that voters are "up in arms over the mounting federal debt"– and thus politicians were being forced to scale back a newbill that would, among other things, extend unemployment benefits and send money to state governments facing serious budget shortfalls. This made little sense, since polls do not show public urgency about the debt or deficit; in fact, dealing with jobs is considered a much higher priority. No matter. The Post has a piece today (5/27/10)–by the same reporter, Lori Montgomery–that begins, "Under fire from rank-and-file Democrats worried about the soaring national debt…" […]

May
26
2010

Baltic Money Is Doing Great! Baltic People, Well…

In a piece about European countries adopting austerity measures in response to the Greek financial crisis, the New York Times (5/26/10) acknowledges that some people think this is a terrible idea: In most European capitals, the case for fiscal rectitude is now trumping fears that pulling away those props will hobble the fragile recovery. The voices opposing the budgetary turnaround come from unions and some opposition parties, like Labour in Britain and the Socialists in France, as well as some analysts. "The euro area is adopting the wrong policy at the wrong moment and is thus making people suffer, which […]

May
26
2010

White House Whistleblower!

President Barack Obama does not like leaks coming out of his White House. Luckily, most of what is passed to reporters is not so damaging. Take this passage from the Washington Post (5/26/10): Although senior administration officials have voiced growing disapproval of BP, the company operating the rig and responsible for the cleanup, the mission of the Friday trip is not to declare war on the firm, said one senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal White House deliberations. Instead, the official said, the trip will demonstrate that Obama is "on top of it." […]

May
26
2010

Thomas Friedman Doesn't Get Much Uglier Than This

Thomas Friedman is upset in his New York Times column today (5/26/10) because Brazilian President Lula da Silva negotiated a nuclear deal with Iran. Asks Friedman, "Is there anything uglier than watching democrats sell out other democrats to a Holocaust-denying, vote-stealing Iranian thug just to tweak the U.S. and show that they, too, can play at the big power table?" And he answers himself: "No, that's about as ugly as it gets." Friedman quotes a source complaining that Iran had just executed "political prisoners who were tortured into confessions," but Lula "didn't mention a word about human rights." Friedman presumably […]

May
25
2010

Obama's War on the Press Continues

Another development in the Obama administration's unprecedented efforts to criminalize the leaking of information to the press: Politico's Josh Gerstein (5/24/10) reports that a former FBI contractor was given a 20-month sentence for giving five classified documents to a blog. The former contractor, Shamai Leibowitz, said he wanted to expose activity he believed was illegal. "This was a one-time mistake that happened to me when I worked at the FBI and saw things that I considered a violation of the law," he told the court as he received his sentence as part of a plea bargain. Were, in fact, illegal […]

May
25
2010

Cokie Roberts Defines 'Mainstream'

One of the most prevalent (and wrong-headed) interpretations of the recent elections is that both parties are dumping their respectable members in exchange for wild-eyed radicals. As Cokie Roberts explained it on ABC's This Week (5/23/10): COKIE ROBERTS: I'm not sure, Donna, that the voters this year care about somebody being out of the mainstream. I mean, the people they are choosing in these primaries are definitely people who are out of the mainstream, whether it's in Utah or whether it's in — Arkansas is still out, up for grabs, but it looks like it's going toward the more liberal […]

May
24
2010

Kristof's 'Simplest Option' for Ending Poverty: Blame the Poor

In his May 23 column–"Moonshine or the Kids?"–New York Times columnist Nick Kristof has hit upon the "simplest option" for keeping poor African kids in school (and ending malaria): getting their fathers to stop drinking, smoking and whoring. There's an ugly secret of global poverty, one rarely acknowledged by aid groups or U.N. reports. It's a blunt truth that is politically incorrect, heartbreaking, frustrating and ubiquitous: It's that if the poorest families spent as much money educating their children as they do on wine, cigarettes and prostitutes, their children's prospects would be transformed. Much suffering is caused not only by […]

May
24
2010

WaPo Editor Wants a War Debate–Somewhere Else

Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt wrote a piece today (5/24/10) headlined, "In the Absence of Debate, Iraq and Afghanistan Go Unnoticed." Hiatt laments the silence surrounding U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and ponders whether "the absence of debate reflects not full-bodied consensus but a wishful averting of eyes." Fair enough. But what kind of debate does Hiatt wish the country to have, anyway? His job gives him a chance to affect the national discussionabout these wars, and the evidence suggests that he's done little to provide a forum for dissenting views. As FAIR's Steve Rendall wrote in […]

May
20
2010

At the NYT, Some Pols Mislead, Others Imagine

The New York Times is being criticized for selective editing in its reporting on Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal's misleading accounts of his military record–the paper posted on its website a clip of a speech where the Democratic Senate candidate makes his most direct claim to have served in Vietnam, but it edited that clip to leave out a nearby passage where he accurately depicts himself as serving "during the Vietnam War." The Times rejected the criticism in a response to Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent: The New York Times in its reporting uncovered Mr. Blumenthal's long and well established […]

May
20
2010

Covering Africa Through Celebrities, Exhibit Eleventy Million

NBC reporter Ann Curry's fawning interview with actor Ben Affleck (NBC Nightly News, 5/19/10), about his celebrity activist work in the Congo, is downright embarrassing: CURRY: Why do you pick the place that people think is actually one of the worst places in terms of the number of atrocities, in terms of the level of suffering, one of the worst places on Earth? AFFLECK: I really do see tremendous hopefulness. I'm really moved by the power of folks to find solutions to their own problems. The Congolese sense of kind of strength and self-sufficiency and resilience. CURRY: And he's seen […]