"USAID Develops a Bad Reputation Among Some Foreign Leaders," read a May 7 Los Angeles Times headline, followed by the subhead: The U.S. Agency for International Development doesn't just offer aid to the poor, it also promotes democracy, which is seen as meddlesome or even subversive. Fighting poverty and spreading democracy–what's not to like? And so, the report seems to suggest, there's something a little off about foreign leaders, nine in recent years, who've expelled the agency. Why else would Bolivian President Evo Morales expel an anti-poverty group from his "impoverished" country, if he wasn't just a little bit crazy? […]
It's no secret that U.S. media loathed the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Much of that was purely political; sure, Chavez could have given shorter speeches and been nicer to his political opponents–but it's hard to imagine that would have mattered much to, say, the Washington Post editorial board. One thing that turned up constantly in Chavez coverage over the years was his suspicion that the United States government was looking to undermine his rule. As a Washington Post news article (1/10/13) put it: A central ideological pillar of Chavez's rule over 14 years has been to oppose Republican and […]
The headline of a recent article posted at the website of the Atlantic–"David Miscavige Leads Scientology to Milestone Year"–probably tipped readers that something was more than a little off. It wasn't an article, really; above the headline, in a yellow box, was the phrase "Sponsor Content." But is what the Atlantic did–and quickly apologized for–really unusual?
It's always difficult to report on someone's death. If they've had a lifetime of accomplishments, how do you sum that up in a few brief paragraphs? When a life has been cut cruelly short, it's even worse–trying hopelessly to convey the sense of lost possibilities. With Aaron Swartz, who died this past weekend, reportedly by his own hand, you have the worst of both worlds
Asked about the pre-election sense that Mitt Romney might win the election, CNN reporter Candy Crowley told viewers (11/7/12): There was an optimism in the Romney camp. But it wasn't based on the numbers. It was based on the feel of things. And one thing you know when you cover a campaign, the feel of things can be really deceiving. She's not alone–others had the same sense that the numbers couldn't be what they were. A Politico story (10/31/12) reported that this feeling was fairly widespread among elite media: Gov. Mitt Romney's campaign says it still has momentum. President Barack […]
After establishing that Republican operative Karl Rove is a terrible political prognosticator, Dana Milbank (Washington Post, 11/2/12) does the false-balance thing and attacks polling blogger Nate Silver: Rove is an easy target because his motive–conveying a false sense of momentum for Republicans–is so transparent. But he has plenty of company among prognosticators who confidently predict that which they cannot possibly know. There's Nate Silver, a statistician-blogger at the New York Times, who predicts with scientific precision that President Obama will win 303 electoral votes and beat Romney by 2 percentage points in the popular vote. He gives Obama an 81 […]
The gossipy, horse race-obsessed outlet Politico ran a story on October 29 about the credibility of polling expert Nate Silver, whose 538 blog at the New York Times is a must-read for people interested in election forecasting. What Silver does isn't, on one level, all that tricky–his model combines national and state polls and generates probabilities about election outcomes. This model finds it highly likely that Barack Obama will win the election. It's probability, not a crystal ball or a bet. Politico's Dylan Byers notes that Silver's model says this "even as the polls have [Romney] almost neck-and-neck with the incumbent." […]