Jan
31
2012

Loose Lips Sink Drones

Barack Obama did something yesterday that government leaders tend not to do: He talked about the CIA drone war in Pakistan. This admission–which, it should be pointed out, happened in a Google-sponsored Q & A with the public, not a session with reporters–made it into the papers. The New York Times (1/31/12) flagged civilian deaths as the most newsworthy aspect, headlining a report by Mark Lander "Civilian Deaths Due to Drones Are Not Many, Obama Says." Lander writes: Mr. Obama, in an unusually candid public discussion of the Central Intelligence Agency's covert program, said the drone strikes had not inflicted […]

Jan
30
2012

NBC's Curry on What 'Everyone' Knows About Iran

During an interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski (1/25/12), NBC's Today host Ann Curry said this: Well, one of the key topics that we have been hearing a lot about is all of this concern about Iran. You know what's been happening, the concerns, the tensions in the Straits of Hormuz, the concerns about Iran's rise in its efforts, everybody believes, in creating nuclear power–not only nuclear power, but nuclear weapons. Are we headed, in your view, based on all you know, for war with Iran? Of course "everyone" doesn't believe that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. More to the point, no […]

Jan
30
2012

Shameless Self-Promotion on NBC Nightly 'News'

No comment. NBC Nightly News (1/29/12) LESTER HOLT: And a sign of the times tonight on a football field in Hawaii. The NFL is relaxing its strict social media policy and allowing players to use Twitter to interact with fans during the Pro Bowl in Honolulu. There'll be one designated computer on each sideline, no smartphones allowed. Players will be tweeting with the hashtag probowl. And by the way, you can catch the game coming up next, here on NBC.

Jan
30
2012

David Gregory's House of Pain

At a time when millions of Americans are are experiencing massive unemployment, a painfully slow economic recovery, wage stagnation and the after-effects of the bursting of a multi-trillion dollar housing bubble, isn't it time someone demanded that they suffer a little bit? Of course not, you might say. But that's why you don't work in the media big leagues. Here's NBC Meet the Press host David Gregory yesterday (1/29/12), speaking to Obama adviser David Axlerod: But if you look at how dire the fiscal situation is in the country, we just came off a debt debacle this past summer. Alan […]

Jan
27
2012

When Experts' Bitter Medicine Is Really Snake Oil

Niall Ferguson is undoubtedly an expert. As the bio on his Newsweek column points out, he's "a professor of history at Harvard University. He is also a senior research fellow at Jesus College, Oxford University, and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution." His latest column (1/23/12) is about the need to sell the public on the policies recommended by experts: To the kind of people who spend their careers inside elite institutions, the technocratic turn is welcome. Decisions about economic policy, they reason, are too difficult to be entrusted to the people's elected representatives…. But there's a catch. The […]

Jan
27
2012

Pentagon Budgets and Fuzzy Math

By the tone of some of the media coverage, you might have thought Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced a plan to slash military spending yesterday. On the front page of USA Today (1/27/12), under the headline "Panetta Backs Far Leaner Military," readers learn in the first paragraph: The Pentagon's new plan to cut Defense spending means a reduction of 100,000 troops, the retiring of ships and planes and closing of bases–moves that the Defense secretary said would not compromise security. The piece quotes critics of the cuts like Sen. Joe Lieberman and an analyst at the right-wing American Enterprise Institute. […]

Jan
26
2012

The Japanese Nuclear Establishment vs. the Two-Thirds 'Minority'

There's a news article in the Washington Post today (1/26/12) that really captures that paper's view of the way the world works, and how it ought to work. Headlined "After Earthquake, Japan Can't Agree on the Future of Nuclear Power," Chico Harlan's piece begins: The hulking system that once guided Japan's pro-nuclear-power stance worked just fine when everybody moved in lockstep. But in the wake of a nuclear accident that changed the way this country thinks about energy, the system has proved ill-suited for resolving conflict. Its very size and complexity have become a problem. And what exactly is that […]

Jan
25
2012

Newsweek and That Neverending Liberal Media Bias

You may have heard last week that right-wing media critics were howling about this: "Those liberals are calling us dumb!" seemed to be the feeling on the right–a strange reaction to a piece written by conservative Andrew Sullivan. Newsweek is back on the case this week: The response to conservative Sullivan comes from…. conservative writer David Frum. When will the liberal media give conservatives a fair shake, I ask you?

Jan
25
2012

USA Today: Keystone Job Cops

With New York Times public editor Arthur Brisbane continuing to puzzle over whether (or how) the Paper of Record should factcheck politicians, one might wonder whether other newspapers worry about the same thing. Take USA Today (please!). Yesterday the paper reported on the very contentious matter of the Keystone XL pipeline and jobs–a favorite issue for Republicans. The paper (1/24/12) told readers: Obama hasn't been willing to ignore politics, says Bruce Josten, an executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He cites several instances–from the failure to reach a deficit-reduction deal with Republicans last year to the rejection […]

Jan
24
2012

Richard Cohen Wowed by Professor Gingrich

Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen wrote a baffling column today (1/24/12) praising part of Newt Gingrich's political persona–not the bad stuff, but man"of big ideas," as he put it (italics his). Cohen gives one example: Out of nowhere, he has exhumed Saul Alinsky, whose fame is limited to university sociology departments, and yet whose name is so perfectly evocative of old-style radicalism, vaguely European in sound, that it fits Gingrich's recent formulation, "people who don't like the classical America." Who dat, Newt? The reference, although a tad obscure, is nevertheless intriguing. It shows that Gingrich is familiar with the late […]

Jan
24
2012

Mother's Health News, Brought to You by Carcinogenic Baby Shampoo

Arianna Huffington had an announcement (1/19/12) about a new section in her Huffington Post: I'm delighted to announce the launch of Global Motherhood, a new section within HuffPost Impact dedicated to the health and well being of mothers and babies around the world, and sponsored by Johnson & Johnson. It goes without saying that it's a bad idea in general to have a corporation in the health industry sponsoring health coverage; the potential for conflict of interest is obvious. But given that these kinds of special sections are typically created to meet an advertiser's need–an impression strengthened by the fact […]

Jan
23
2012

Rooting for Newt?

To me, the most interesting observation after the South Carolina primary came from New York magazine reporter and regular TV pundit John Heilemann, who said this on MSNBC (h/t Nicole Belle at Crooks and Liars): Gingrich is going to get so much free media attention over the next few days. It is going to be wall to wall Gingrich, and I think it is fair to say that, in some ways, the "liberal media," as Gingrich would put it, is kind of rooting for Gingrich right now. They want this–they/we, want this race to go on, so he is gonna […]

Jan
23
2012

Nick Kristof and the School Reform Straw Man

A new research paper by a team of economists got a lot of pretty favorable press because it appears to deliver results that would seem to confirm what many in the media believe about American schools: If you could just use standardized test scores to weed out underperforming teachers, you would see serious improvement in school achievement. Media coverage often glosses over the core problem here, which is how you measure teacher performance in the first place. The "value-added" research that is touted by many pundits–using test scores to determine a teacher's effectiveness–is controversial in large part because critics don't […]