Feb
29
2012

Tom Friedman Is Waiting For Afghans to Shape Up

I think most sensible people understand that the current uproar in Afghanistan over the desecration of the Quran isn't really just about the defiling of a holy book. But if there's sense in the world, there's also nonsense. Enter Tom Friedman's New York Times column today (2/29/12): U.S. troops accidentally burned some Qurans, and President Obama apologized. Afghans nevertheless went on a weeklong rampage, killing innocent Americans in response–and no Afghan leader, even our allies, dared to stand up and say: "Wait, this is wrong. Every week in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq, Muslim suicide bombers kill other Muslims–holy people created […]

Feb
28
2012

No Fracking Way, CBS Evening News

The February 23 CBS Evening News segment on hydraulic fracturing gas drilling, better known as fracking, revealed how journalists can cover a highly controversial subject by removing the controversy. The report started off with references to high gasoline prices; the implication, then, is that domestic gas drilling will help solve that problem. As anchor Scott Pelley kicked things off: President after president has called for energy independence for America, but somehow it never seems to happen. But Anna Werner talked to an oil man today who is predicting that it's coming, and in just a few years. That oil man […]

Feb
27
2012

NYT on Diabolical Experiments: Better Than Being Eaten by Sharks

Imagine that there's a mad scientist living on an island surrounded by treacherous, shark-infested waters. When ships are wrecked on the hidden rocks, the survivors swim to the island to escape the sharks, where they become prisoners of the mad scientist, who subjects them to bizarre experiments for his own amusement. When people point out to him that he's a monster, the scientist disagrees, saying, "Hey, those people were going to be eaten by sharks!" That's pretty much New York Times technology writer David Pogue's defense of Apple and its treatment of workers at Foxconn (NYTimes.com, 2/23/12).

Feb
24
2012

NYT Public Editor on Anonymity and Drone Story

After our new alert (2/24/12), the New York Times public editor's office contacted FAIR to let us know that Arthur Brisbane responded to readers who complained about one of the articles discussed in the alert. Below is that response, which was emailed to readers. It was not published on the Times' site. Thanks for your message, one of a number I received about this story. I have had an opportunity to ask the reporter, Scott Shane, about it and reflect on the circumstances. On the positive side, I applaud the Times for covering the findings of the Bureau of Investigative […]

Feb
24
2012

NYT Sues for Right to Publish Bad Teacher Data

The New York Times, along with a few other media outlets, went to court to win the right to publish Teacher Data Reports–the "value-added" ratings for some 18,000 New York City public schoolteachers. The Times explains today–accurately–that the numbers are seriously flawed: Even before their release, the ratings have been assailed by independent experts, school administrators and teachers who say there are large margins of error–because they are based on small amounts of data, the test scores themselves were determined by the state to have been inflated, and there were factual errors or omissions, among other problems. So why publish […]

Feb
24
2012

Krugman: Actually, Romney's Insincerity Is a Bad Thing

There's this notion in the elite press that Mitt Romney's flip flops are a good thing–we've written about it here and here. In the latter post, I pointed to Nicholas Kristof's take: I'd much rather have a cynical chameleon than a far-right ideologue who doesn't require contortions to appeal to Republican primary voters, who says things that Republican candidates have all been saying and, God forbid, actually means it. This has never made much sense to me. It's based on the hunch that the "real" Romney–you know, the Massachusetts Moderate–would be the guy in the Oval Office and not the […]

Feb
24
2012

Tell the NY Times: Follow Your Own Rules on Anonymity

FAIR's new Action Alert points out that the New York Times has abused its own policies on anonymity to allow government officials to smear critics. We're encouraging people to write to the Times public editor. Please post your letters to the Times in the comments section below.

Feb
22
2012

New NYT Rule: Anonymous Govt Sources Can Call Their Critics Terrorists

In today's New York Times report (2/22/12) about Khader Adnan–the Palestinian hunger striker challenging Israeli "administrative detention" practices–reporter Isabel Kershner allows this: An Israeli official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, called the deal over Mr. Adnan "a workable arrangement" since ultimately he will be almost completing his four-month term of detention. "We faced a dilemma," the official said. "On the one hand we did not want any harm to come to him, or the wider danger in that. On the other hand it is not healthy to set a precedent that every time a Palestinian terrorist goes on hunger […]

Feb
22
2012

Media's Weird Ethics: Pretending to Be Someone Else Is Worse Than Facilitating Global Catastrophe

There's a popular verb in headlines about climate researcher Peter Gleick's admission that he used trickery to get damning documents out of the climate change-denialist group the Heartland Institute: "Activist Says He Lied to Obtain Climate Papers" (New York Times, 2/21/12); "Scientist Peter Gleick Admits He Lied to Get Climate Documents" (L.A. Times, 2/21/12); "Climate Researcher Says He Lied to Obtain Heartland Documents" (WashingtonPost.com, 2/21/12). What you wouldn't gather from all these pants-on-fire condemnations is that there is a long and honorable tradition, from Nellie Bly feigning madness to expose mistreatment of the mentally ill to the Chicago Sun-Times' Mirage […]

Feb
22
2012

James Traub Bids a Fond Farewell to an Era of Constant Warfare

James Traub seemed a little bummed in a Sunday New York Times op-ed ("The End of American Intervention?," 2/18/10), that military cuts and changing priorities will mean fewer humanitarian interventions in America's future. So we must accept, if uneasily, the future which now seems to lie before us: We will do less good in the world, but also less harm. A leading advocate of "humanitarian intervention," Traub doesn't waste many words on the "harm" produced the by two decades of them, but he seems pretty sure about the "good." For instance, he writes that the post-Cold War period "raised the […]

Feb
21
2012

Bombing Iran: A Real Headache for Israel

Bombing Iran could be a real strain for Israel, reports Elisabeth Bumiller in the New York Times ("Iran Raid Seen as a Huge Task for Israeli Jets," 2/19/12). No one's sure they can pull it off, what with the logistics involved: Should Israel decide to launch a strike on Iran, its pilots would have to fly more than 1,000 miles across unfriendly airspace, refuel in the air en route, fight off Iran's air defenses, attack multiple underground sites simultaneously–and use at least 100 planes. Everyone apparently agrees on the task in front of Israel, as Bumiller puts it: "Given that […]

Feb
21
2012

Apple's ABC Friends Get China Exclusive

With all the recent critical attention to Apple's manufacturing policies, it was perhaps only a matter of time before the company decided to push back.One way Apple might do this is by granting an "exclusive" to a media outlet that might put out a different kind of story than the one that people have encountered via the New York Times (1/25/12) or This American Life (1/6/12). So here we have the news that ABC has been granted "exclusive" access to the massive Foxconn facility that has been at epicenter of the controversy over Apple's labor practices. Why ABC? Forbes contributor […]

Feb
21
2012

Money Rules Politics? Robert Samuelson Busts That 'Myth'

It's possible that someone could write a column arguing that efforts to restrict the influence of big money on our political system do more harm than good. Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson tried to pull it off on Monday (2/20/12), but the results were pretty ugly. You don't need to read the whole column. All you need to read is his "Myth One," which appears about halfway through the piece: Myth One: The rich and corporate interests rule government through campaign contributions and lobbying. This is absurd. In 2009, $2.1 trillion (60 percent) of federal spending went for "payments for […]