Apr
17
2012

Richard Cohen on Candidate Lying Is Half-Baked–and Half Cribbed

Richard Cohen says he envies people who are persuasive liars. He really ought to envy people who are persuasive writers. His column today (4/17/12) is ostensibly about how Mitt Romney is a big liar. It goes almost its entire length, though, before citing any compelling examples of Romney lying. (Cohen does say call Romney's claim "rubbish" that he doesn't watch the ads his Super PAC supporters make to attack his opponents–but is it really so hard to believe that a candidate might choose to remain strategically ignorant about such spots?) At the end, he points out that Romney claims Obama […]

Apr
16
2012

Pondering Bill Keller's 'Middle'

Nobody loves centrism, writes Bill Keller in the New York Times (4/16/12), but they should. "Centrism is easily mocked and not much fun to defend," writes, noting that critiques of centrism from the left and right have a certain appeal: The politics of the center–including the professional centrists and trans-partisans of groups like Third Way and Americans Elect–do not quicken the pulse. White bread, elevator music, No Labels, meh. So what's to love about white bread? Winning. Elections are, Keller writes, usually decided by voters who are not wedded to either party, who don't stay in any ideological lane. These […]

Apr
16
2012

Arabs and Democracy: A Question for Fareed Zakaria

Fareed Zakaria wrote in Time magazine (4/16/12) that "the Arab Spring is looking less appealing by the week." The problem is a "messier reality," and he zeroes in on Egypt: And now, as Egypt's presidential election approaches, we see the rise of two candidates from Islamic parties, Khairat al-Shater and Hazem Salah Abu Ismail. The former is often described as a moderate, the latter as a radical. Much of what we're seeing might well be the tumult that accompanies the end of decades of tyranny and the rise of long-suppressed forces, but it raises the question, Why does it seem […]

Apr
13
2012

On Drones and Democracy

Yesterday (4/12/12) Pakistan's parliament unanimously voted in favor of a resolution that, among other things, calls for an immediate end to CIA drone strikes in their country. The Washington Post's account of this news included this curious observation: From Washington's perspective, the debate in Parliament was a healthy exercise in democracy but one that is unlikely to affect the drone war. The military leaders of both nations see the drones as efficient and effective in eliminating hard-core Islamic militants that plague both the U.S. and Pakistani armies. I know that the Post is merely conveying "Washington's perspective," but let's think […]

Apr
13
2012

Are Apple and Publishers Helping Readers by Ripping Them Off?

Apple iPad (cc photo: Tom Raftery)

The Justice Department alleges that Apple's collusion with book publishers to fix ebook prices has cost readers $100 million. So why are so many news reports on the anti-trust suit suggesting that the Apple/publisher alliance is actually good for consumers? The New York Times' David Streitfeld (4/12/12) warns: Amazon, which already controls about 60 percent of the ebook market, can take a loss on every book it sells to gain market share for its Kindle devices. When it has enough competitive advantage, it can dictate its own terms, something publishers say is beginning to happen. Likewise CNN's Doug Gross (4/11/12): […]

Apr
12
2012

Buffett Rule Bores, Annoys Washington Post Reporters

The "Buffett rule"–as in Warren Buffett–suggests that super-rich should pay a tax rate comparable to middle-income earners. In Buffett's case, this grew out of his observation that he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary. Seems straightforward enough–and the public thinks so. But the Washington Post seemed to feel otherwise on April 12. A news story by David Fahrenthold kicked off with this observation: The great moral debate of the 2012 campaign is turning out to be as inspiring as drunks arguing over a bar tab. Really? The "debate" he's talking about pits those who believe in raising tax […]

Apr
11
2012

A Racist at National Review? Do Tell

Conservative Forbes columnist Josh Barro is happy that John Derbyshire was fired for writing a racist column: I'm pleased to see that National Review has fired John Derbyshire as a result of his racist screed in Taki's Magazine last week. Derbyshire's remarks were beyond the pale, and this severing of ties is important for the credibility of one of the pillar institutions in conservative publishing. Barro, a contributor to National Review (NR) and National Review Online (NRO), was one of the first conservatives to call for Derbyshire's ouster, arguing that keeping company with a racist like Derbyshire presented a "problem […]

Apr
11
2012

Winners of the 2012 Election Revealed

Forget the polls and the horserace for a second. In this election season, the big winners will be big media. As most people should know–but media don't tell you very often–much of the money that flows into and around the campaigns is used to buy advertising. Which means that television and radio stations make a lot of money during the campaign season. There are attempts to shine a light on this arrangement–such as the effort to make TV stations post advertising data online (something that–surprise, surprise!–TV stations don't care for). That's what made this exchange on public television's Nightly Business […]

Apr
10
2012

Samuelson's Social Security Screed

Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson really doesn't like Social Security and Medicare. And he'll go a long way to argue that they're wasteful, inefficient forms of welfare. (See Extra!, 10/11.) But his arguments rarely hold up. His most recent column (4/9/12) is no exception; in fact, it recycles a totally misleading factoid from a column he wrote last year. Samuelson's column has problems from top to bottom–you can read Dean Baker's dismantling of it at his Beat the Press blog: There is no trust fund, benefits cuts are necessary and inevitable, there are too many retirees supported by not very […]

Apr
05
2012

All the Smart People Love Bowles/Simpson–Says Bowles

The corporate media love bipartisanship. So the news that a "bipartisan" budget failed a vote in the House was something to be mourned. Under the headline "Budget Plan's Defeat Shows Hurdles to Compromise," New York Times reporter Jonathan Weisman (4/2/12) explains that this budget proposal modeled on the media-beloved Bowles/Simpson plan failed because "Washington's conservative and liberal influence machines swung into action." By that he seems to mean think tanks that were critical of the plan. He adds: The Bowles/Simpson deficit plan–named after the former Clinton White House chief of staff Erskine B. Bowles and former Sen. Alan K. Simpson, […]

Apr
05
2012

Bill O'Reilly: Muffin but the Truth

Heard the one about the $16 government muffin? That story originated with a Justice Department inspector general report that claimed $16 muffins were served at a conference for immigration judges and attorneys. That was reported on the front pages of the September 21 Washington Post. But the story fell apart in a matter of days, after the hotel explained the paperwork was being misinterpreted. Post ombud Patrick Pexton (9/30/11) explained that both the original report and the paper's story were at fault. The real bill was for continental breakfast and afternoon snacks–not a bad price for a D.C. hotel, it […]

Apr
03
2012

No Protests From the Left–According to Progressive TV Guest

Here's something you don't see very often–a progressive person of color on a Sunday morning chat show. There was Van Jones on ABC's This Week on April 1. Also there? Right-wing firebrand Ann Coulter. Huh. But it was something that Jones said that caught my attention. Well, you know, I think that probably the majority of people who are in the Democratic Party, progressive independents or what I would call post-hope Democrats–we're Democrats, we did the vote and hope. And when we–what happened was, we sat back and we let the Tea Party crowd dominate the protests world in the […]

Apr
03
2012

When War Is in the Air on PBS

One of the most troubling aspects of all the media coverage of an attack on Iran is that it can make a radically destabilizing act of unprovoked war seem like just another policy choice. I thought of this when I saw a PBS NewsHour segment (3/28/12) that set out to ponder the consequences of an Israeli attack on Iran. PBS reporter Margaret Warner oddly framed Israeli public opinion this way: Though the Iranian regime has vowed to destroy the Jewish state, recent polls in Israel show only 19 percent would support their government attacking Iran unilaterally. Hearing that, you might […]