Dec
16
2010

For Real Criticism of Holbrooke, Go Beyond NYT

In the proud tradition of objective journalism, the New York Times included both positive and negative views of Afghan envoy Richard Holbrooke in its December 14 obituary: Some called him a bully, and he looked the part: the big chin thrust out, the broad shoulders, the tight smile that might mean anything. To admirers, however, including generations of State Department protégés and the presidents he served, his peacemaking efforts were extraordinary. On the one hand, the big chin and a tight smile; on the other, the extraordinary peacemaking efforts. The Times leaves it to you, the reader, to decide for […]

Dec
16
2010

NBC Follows Comedic Code in Earmark Reporting

The earmarks story is a peculiar genre of journalism wherein you focus on how much government spending is directed to legislator-specified projects–generally without pointing out what a tiny fraction of total spending this is, or that without the earmarking this money would be spent anyway, on some project chosen by the executive branch. Then you rattle off a list of earmarked projects, often provided by a partisan source, which are generally chosen not for their inherent wastefulness but for their comedic potential. Thus NBC Nightly News' Kelly O'Donnell on December 14: Senator McCain's staff pointed to a few examples they […]

Dec
15
2010

Friedman's Half-Hearted, Inaccurate Defense of WikiLeaks

New York Times columnist Tom Friedman attempts to offer up some measure of support for WikiLeaks today (12/15/10): I read many WikiLeaks and learned some useful things. But their release also raises some troubling questions. I don't want to live in a country where they throw whistleblowers in jail. That's China. But I also don't want to live in a country where any individual feels entitled to just dump out all the internal communications of a government or a bank in a way that undermines the ability to have private, confidential communications that are vital to the functioning of any […]

Dec
15
2010

About That Holbrooke Quote….

Yesterday the Washington Post reported–and the Drudge Report heavily promoted–the idea that Richard Holbrooke's final words were, "You've got to stop this war in Afghanistan." Well, maybe not–at least according to Obama officials who have challenged that account. The Washington Post serves up a follow-up today,under the headline "Holbrooke's War Remark Called Banter, Not Entreaty," which apparently offers "a fuller account of the tone and contents of his remarks." The upshot of the piece is that this was a joke–one that some readers apparently took seriously: Holbrooke's statement was seized upon quickly by critics of the Afghan war debate, some […]

Dec
14
2010

Richard Holbrooke and Ending the Afghan War

ApparentlyRichard Holbrooke's final words were, "You've got to stop this war in Afghanistan."This is being highlighted in a big way on the Drudge Report, which meansmedia people will be talking about it. Revealing, in an entirely different way, was this part of a Washington Post story (12/14/10) about the state of the Afghan War post-Holbrooke: Holbrooke's death is the latest complication in an effort plagued by unreliable partners, reluctant allies and an increasingly skeptical American public. The war, in other words, is "plagued" by the public's disapproval of it. For a government to carry out a war that its citizens […]

Dec
13
2010

Obama's Best Week Ever?

On yesterday's Chris Matthews show on NBC, the assembled journalists all seem to agree that Barack Obama's decision to cut a tax deal with Republicans and come out swinging against the left was great news. Time's Mike Duffy: "These liberals may scream, but they've been screaming about Barack Obama since the beginning. This isn't anything new." Chris Matthews and NBC's Andrea Mitchell went back and forth about whether this was an actual "Sister Souljah moment" or a "mini moment." But Helene Cooper of the New York Times summed up the conventional wisdom best: I think President Obama just had a […]

Dec
13
2010

Obama Pulls a Clinton on the Liberal Base

One of the more annoying corporate media storylines since the midterms dwells on whether or not Barack Obama will move to the "center" in order to have better luck in the 2012 elections. The conventional wisdom is that Bill Clinton did this after terrible losses in the 1994 midterms, and his "triangulation" proved once and for all that successful Democrats move to the right. There are several reasons this is nonsense–Clinton was more or less the original DLC "New Democrat," so he was consciously and conspicuously to the right of the party base all along. The press wanted to nudge […]

Dec
09
2010

Obama's Tax Plan Giveaway Wins Crucial David Broder Support

The Dean is happy. Washington Post columnist and "dean" of the Beltwaypress corps David Broder was one of the few people (not counting Republicans) who stood up to applaud Barack Obama's tax deal. Under the I-am-not-making-this-up headline "Centrist on the Rise," Broder (12/9/10) congratulated Obama, who has"separated himself from the left of his own party and staked a strong claim to the territory where national elections are fought and won: the independent center." Obama has"begun to regain focus as the pragmatic liberal that he is–not the hard-line socialist Republicans make him out to be but a president far more practical […]

Dec
09
2010

Remembering to Forget Israel's Nonexistent Settlement Freeze

The big news in the U.S.-guided Israel/Palestine talks is that a renewal of a so-called "settlement freeze" in the West Bank is basically dead. Ethan Bronner has a post-mortem of sorts in the New York Times (12/9/10), where he describes the backdrop for the previous round of negotiations: The Israelis had insisted that the only way forward was through direct talks. Yet when those talks began in September, the Israelis engaged in little substance. The Palestinians had insisted that there could be no direct talks without a settlement freeze, yet they waited nine months into the last such freeze before […]

Dec
09
2010

Dubious Math in the Case for Amazon's 'Evil'

In AlterNet's article "Is Amazon Evil?" (12/8/10)–reprinted from the Boston Review (11-12/10)–the description of the economics of e-books is seriously dubious. Reporter Onnesha Roychoudhuri writes: If Amazon had asked publishers what they thought about locking in e-book prices at $9.99, it would have been subjected to a chorus of outrage. That's because the math behind publishing is seldom in a publishers' favor. The sale of a $20 hardcover nets a large publisher about $10. Royalties run the publisher about $3, and the costs of printing, binding, and paper are a further $2 (more for low-volume titles). Take $1.20 for distribution, […]

Dec
08
2010

A Benefit for Half of America–but Mostly the Top 0.2 Percent

CNBC's Erin Burnett discussing the tax deal on the Today show yesterday (12/7/10): "With capital gains and dividend taxes staying low, the half of Americans that own stocks get a benefit there as well." Oh, really? Here's some figures from the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities (1/30/06): Over half–54 percent–of all capital gains and dividend income flows to the 0.2 percent of households with annual incomes over $1 million. More than three-quarters–78 percent–of this income goes to those households with income over $200,000, which account for about 3 percent of all households. In contrast, only 11 percent of capital […]

Dec
08
2010

The Self-Inflicted Nonpartisan Problems at CNN

Internal problems at CNN have jumped from the gossip pages to the New York Times. Brian Stelter reports today (12/8/10) on behind-the-scenes clashesat the new program Parker Spitzer, which is co-hosted by liberal-leaning former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer and conservative columnist Kathleen Parker. Stelter writes: The ratings for CNN's latest experiment are stagnant. The show has been troubled by backstage tensions that have spilled out in gossip columns and have given rise to speculation–and some wishful thinking among his supporters–that CNN could make Mr. Spitzer the sole host. CNN executives and the co-hosts flatly ruled out that outcome in […]

Dec
08
2010

Evan Thomas: Only People Like Me Can Save America From the Internet's Lies

Newsweek's Evan Thomas visited Germany recently, and came away thinking the United States is headed for some serious trouble. The country is falling apart–polarized, susceptible to populist demagoguery and so on. Forces on both sides are to blame;they're not all bad ("I think the Tea Partiers, despite their contradictions, are not all wrong about Big Government," he writes), but some should be singled out for criticism: Cable-TV and talk-radio personalities and bloggers have risen up to speak for the people. But as they pander for clicks and ratings, their standards of factual accuracy are often low. This is not by […]