Friday, February 29, 2008

Into The Absurd

Christopher McCandless, a recent college grad, angry at man's inhumanity to man, gave his life savings to feed the hungry, renounced materialism, and journeyed to Alaska in 1992. He died there in Denali National Park that summer from a tragic mistake.

That's the portrait the public is told of McCandless, first in a book by Jon Krakauer then in a recent movie, "Into the Wild," by that well known intellectual Sean Penn.

Before the pretentious intellectual narcissism took hold

I saw "Into The Wild" last weekend. My eyes were rolling like a slot machine's dials within 10 minutes, so heavy-handed was the leftist propaganda. (Learning about the joys of renouncing materialism is so much more meaningful when it comes from a Hollywood millionaire like Spicoli). Bored to tears with the torrent of leftist cliches, I took out my cell phone and began reading Web pages and sending text messages.

However, the elements of the story interested me, so I wanted to find out the truth behind McCandless. The real story is quite different from Penn's fanciful description, aided by Krakauer's wishful imagination.

McCandless' noble gift of $24,000 to Oxfam came from a trust fund. Yup, Christopher McCandless, disdainer of materialism, was a trust fund baby. How perfect.

McCandless died of starvation, not by mistakenly eating poisonous plants --
an invention of Krakauer for which an autopsy found no evidence.

And McCandless could have walked to safety at any time -- had he only brought a map. But infatuated with romantic nonsense about the wilderness from reading Jack London, McCandless didn't bother. Actual Alaskans generally aren't sentimental, and think of McCandless as a fool. They've seen too many folks from the Lower 48 come to Alaska thinking of it as some romantic refuge of wilderness and a place to reinvent themselves. Such folks are running away from themselves and like McCandless, find the reality doesn't match their dream.

As one Alaskan was quoted as saying in Men's Journal:

"He points to a clear pool in a stream not 50 feet from the bus, in which dozens of foot-long grayling swim against the current. "You could practically shovel those out with a spruce branch," he tells me. "And I just don't get why he didn't stay down by the Teklanika until the water got low enough to cross. Or walk upstream to where it braids out in shallow channels. Or start a signal fire on a gravel bar." He peers inside the bus and shakes his head at what he sees as a greenhorn in over his head who had retreated to the only sign of civilization for miles when he realized he couldn't make it. "Tough enough to live out here without trying harder," he says. "We're hard up for heroes if that's what it takes -- some guy who starved to death in a bus."

Here's another unsentimental take on McCandless

that kid had been alot of places and done alot of things in his short life but what it boiled down to is that he was a bum counting on the helping hands of others to get him out of tight spots. when there was no one there to bail him out he died, he obviously had zero skills needed to survive in the wilderness, he didnt even make the summer.

And another:

Krakauer makes a reference at the end of the book about how he thinks maybe McCandless wanted to find a blank place; that maybe he wanted to just disappear and come back with a story that no one else had. The problem with that is we've explored this world. As Krakauer says, there are no more blank places. Maps exist for a reason. That he considered nailclippers a necessity, but not a map...well, it's silly. A map would have ultimately saved him. Nailclippers just made sure his hangnails were taken care of. It's like he lacked the common sense he needed to have a real, true adventure, which made him a walking death wish instead. Bury the damn map until you need it to get out. At that, even with a map, you're still in the wild! What's the difference? He died never knowing that he wasn't even anywhere that wild...with cabins and highways within basic walking distance.

An instructive movie could be made of those facts: Trust-fund baby's narcissism, pretentious leftist intellectualism, ignorance of the wilderness, and callous disregard for family, leads to his death. Not the kind of movie that would have affirmed the certitude of leftist pseudointellectuals like Sean Penn and soft-headed McCandless acolytes. It would, however, have been true.

Today, Spicoli shows his profundity by cuddling up to leftists the world over.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

H-Rod's Arrogance Repaid

Heeere, voter, voter, voter!

Hillary Rodham Clinton could have learned a lesson from John McCain's stumble with controversy earlier on Tuesday. But she didn't, and went on making her characteristic mistakes in Tuesday night's debate against Barack Obama.

McCain (see below) defused a potentially embarrassing controversy by a full, free and absolute apology for nasty remarks one of his supporters made against Barack Obama. McCain offered the apology even before reporters asked him about the remarks. And Obama promptly accepted it.

McCain did even more than he had to, because the slimy remarks were not his, nor did he order them. But since the offender was speaking on his behalf, McCain forthrightly seized the initiative and left no doubt he disagreed with the statements and was sorry for them.
So we move on, and I have a renewed respect for McCain and his willingness to do the right thing without being forced to.

Contrast this with the way Hillary Rodham Clinton's continual too-clever-by-half attacks against Obama keep backfiring. Tuesday night, Clinton took umbrage that she got the first question. She tried one of her obviously scripted lines.

"Well, can I just point out that in the last several debates, I seem to get the first question all the time. And I don't mind. I -- you know, I'll be happy to field them," Clinton said after taking a perfectly legitimate question about the trade policy issues that are so central to the Ohio primary fight that will be decided March 4. "But I do find it curious, and if anybody saw ‘Saturday Night Live,' you know, maybe we should ask Barack if he's comfortable and needs another pillow. I just find it kind of curious that I keep getting the first question on all of these issues. But I'm happy to answer it."

The Web site of the hard-left The Nation headlined its account: "Clinton's Cringe-Worthy Moment"

On a night when she needed to turn in the best performance of her political career, the former frontrunner instead seemed petulant, even desperate.

"Barack, you ignorant slut!"

They weren't the only ones. The conservative Web site Town Hall also called it a blunder.

Hillary should have relished the opportunity to go first. Explaining her position wouldn't even have been as important as using the opportunity of going first and framing the views of her opponent, since Barack Obama doesn't give views on anything except the war. He's a change guy. He's a hope guy. He's a big picture/concept guy. Obama doesn't get into specificity, so Hillary could easily have put him on the defensive.

She didn't. Hillary Clinton said she was curious about the media in the last few debates always going to her first, citing Saturday Night Live and offering to give an extra pillow to Obama to make him more comfortable. Groans and boos immediately erupted from the crowd. Want to know another signal that a campaign has come completely apart at the seams? Look at the debate prep. Hillary Clinton didn't just walk into the auditorium in Cleveland tonight and throw caution to the wind. She prepared for this debate. She had people coaching her on what to say. The 'change is something you can Xerox' line was scripted. It laid an egg.

A week later, she tries again to make another sarcastic joke about the media's love afair with Obama. Again, it was an awkward egg laid by Mrs. Clinton. If I were a campaign manager, and my candidate flopped like that in two consecutive debates, whoever was prepping her wouldn't just be fired, but probably sued for oratory malpractice.

It's painfully obvious that H-Rod is trying to find the magic combination of scripted words that will deflate the Obama balloon. Perhaps she was thinking of the way Walter Mondale devastated Gary Hart in 1984 with his own scripted "Where's the beef?" line. But H-Rod is terrible at delivering such scripted attacks. Their artificiality is obvious from the get-go, which deprives them of their punch.

At this point, H-Rod needs much more than clever words. Her entire campaign is suffering from a lack of organization, attention to detail, and an arrogant, top-down mentality that plays into the worst media-spread stereotypes about her phoniness. What good is all her alleged experience if she keeps screwing up like this?

Click the photo to hear H-Rod make her case against Barack Obama.

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John McCain understands what so many people in the public sphere don't -- when you apologize, make it a real apology. Not some mealy-mouthed "If anyone was offended . . ." non-apology. Just say it and get it over with.

It happened after a McCain supporter used very inflammatory language to attack Barack Obama at a speech in Cincinnati.

Republican John McCain quickly denounced the comments of a radio talk show host who while warming up a campaign crowd referred repeatedly to Barack Hussein Obama and called the Democratic presidential candidate a "hack, Chicago-style" politician.

Hussein is Obama's middle name, but talk show host Bill Cunningham used it three times as he addressed the crowd before the likely Republican nominee's appearance. . . .

Aside from using Obama's middle name, Cunningham also mocked the Illinois senator's foreign policy statements about his willingness to meet with the leaders of rogue nations. He said he envisions a future in which "the great prophet from Chicago takes the stand and the world leaders who want to kill us will simply be singing Kumbaya together around the table with Barack Obama." . . .

At one point, Cunningham compared Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Madeleine Albright, whom he said "looks like death warmed over." He also commented on the difference between former Ohio Rep. Rob Portman, whose wife is named Jane, and Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank, an openly gay member of Congress. "Jane's the main difference. But that's a different story," Cunningham said.

McCain's response was as decent as it was emphatic:

"I apologize for it," McCain told reporters, addressing the issue before they had a chance to ask the Arizona senator about Cunningham's comments.

"I did not know about these remarks, but I take responsibility for them. I repudiate them," he said. "My entire campaign I have treated Senator Obama and Senator (Hillary Rodham) Clinton with respect. I will continue to do that throughout this campaign."

It's heartening to see McCain still has a basic core of honor, even after his nauseous pandering to the religious right. I can't imagine Hillary Rodham Clinton making anywhere near as forthright an apology.

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The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.
Click the illustration to see more great political cartoons at

That's as in the arrogance of Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign toward the press. An undifferentiated arrogance can come back to bite, as it did in this tale of journalism students seeking to cover various presidential campaigns. (H/T to the indispensible Romenesko).

"Because the Obama campaign treated us like pros — they called us back within minutes, set up interviews, got us press passes, went out of their way to make the campaign accessible. The Clinton campaign, in contrast, didn’t return a single phone call, didn’t provide press access, and did virtually nothing to encourage our coverage. It was either arrogance or disorganization on the Clinton campaign’s part.
Here’s one example: Jeff Giertz, the Obama team’s on-the-ground point person for the press, answered my phone call when I called to ask about press access to the Obama event on Feb. 8 at KeyArena. He said he’d check on getting passes for my students. I figured I’d wait and see if he actually did. Within five minutes he e-mailed me back, saying it was a go, and he could provide four press passes for my students. I was impressed. Clearly he had a vested interest in getting college students into the press area — and he did what a campaign person should do: He treated us well and welcomed us to his candidate. He told me to call him anytime.
So I did.
Lots of my students wanted to cover this event, so I called Giertz back six hours later and asked for four more passes. He said yes. The next day, when some of my students arrived at KeyArena after the local police had locked the doors and weren’t allowing anyone in — including reporters from local TV and radio outlets — the students dialed up Giertz and he personally came and vouched for them. He followed up the day after the event with an e-mail checking in on how I thought things went.I don’t for a moment think he did all this just to be a nice guy. He had motives, of course. Still, it’s telling that I made the exact same pitch about “access to college students” to the Clinton campaign, and they didn’t do anything to facilitate our coverage."

And it wasn't just Obama's campaign that was nice: the Ron Paul, McCain and Huckabee campaigns were also helpful:

The Obama and Clinton campaigns weren’t the only ones to come to town. On the Republican Party side, Ron Paul held a rally on the UW campus. Janet Huckabee held a rally at Northwest University, and her campaign team reached out to my students covering her husband’s candidacy — returning calls and making sure they had press access. McCain’s campaign aides went out of their way to let my students know about his press event at the Westin, and to get them in. For those scoring at home, five presidential campaigns came to town — and four reached out to my students, treating them like what they are: journalists and citizens.

Responsiveness and niceness doesn't guarantee victory. But contemptuous treatment hurts -- multiply these examples by the hundreds and word gets out. H-Rod was supposed to be inevitable, so her organization prepared for a coronation, not a campaign. This was a big miscalculation. And so when the Clinton campaign began taking on water, fewer voters were available to bail her out than she counted on.

Another factor is the role of Romenesko's Web site, widely read by journalists. What would have been just a local story of the Clinton campaign's arrogance is now known across the country. Other accounts of similar treatment will get wider notice now than before. Hillary Clinton's struggling campaign has just got a bitter lesson in the power of the Web. Had it not been Romenesko, some other Web site would have spread the tale. What's amazing is that even at this late date, a major political campaign needed this reminder.

Hillary just can't wash that Obama man out of her hair.

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Talk Show Hosts Falling?

UPDATE: Here's a Luke Yelasdi Thompson video from Super Tuesday:

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We've got a lively thread going here, so I'm going to add on top of it. Also, the lack of a new post for Thursday from me may encourage our newest poster, Lewis Fein, to make his virgin post. If Lewis has trouble losing his post virginity, we can arrange for some coaching from David E.

I am going to expand on a point I made earlier about the failure of Rush Limbaugh, Hugh Hewitt and other conservative talk show pundits to derail John McCain. I have a theory -- and it is mine! -- that the talk show hosts became the kind of big media they originally were an alternative to. Bemused by their legacy trappings of power, the Limbaughs and Hewitts of the world failed to notice they were out of step with their listeners, and ended up showing that while they have lots of listeners, their ability to influence followers who don't want to be influenced is not very profound.

The word "legacy" is the key here, because Limbaugh & Co. are Old Media, a characteristic they share with the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CBS, ABC and other traditional media outlets. Despite their ideological differences, Old Media is distinguished by a scarcity of voices, controlling assets of great value, that provide a barrier to entry to competitors. They form an oligopoly.

When Limbaugh became big in the late 80s, he seemed like a revolution, only because he catered to conservatives, who the leftist media often ignored. Ditto for Fox News. But the top-down we-will-tell-you-the-news model continued. Limbaugh and Fox didn't so much destroy the leftist media oligopoly as they brought conservatives into the mixture.

However, the Internet has busted this oligopoly wide open. Opinion influencers don't need a multi-million dollar broadcast license or a newspaper. All they need, like Matt Drudge, is a modem and computer. And if the people tire of Matt Drudge, or Daily Kos, there are an unlimited supply of competitors, with a nearly zero barrier to entry. This is what blogs have brought us. Thanks to blogs, the media is more democratic than anytime in American or human history. You can read a blog, download a podcast, and find the information you want. People once restricted to a limited supply of prefabricated news and views can now go shopping from an infinite bazaar of information.

This has devastated Old Media's economic model, not just in newspapers, but in radio. Clear Channel, for example, became notorious for firing DJs and centralizing broadcasts in studios hundreds of miles away from their audiences. And of course, they crammed in increasingly annoying commercials. People had no choice. But with satellite radio, digital music and podcasts , people no longer had to listen to Clear Channel's audio garbage. By destroying any local connection to their audiences, Clear Channel's greedy, contemptuous executives paved the way for the creative upwelling of alternatives such as podcasts.

After years of seeing this Internet-driven democratization, Old Media types should by now have come to grips with it. If they want to survive, they have to adapt to the end of information scarcity and make their products more appealing to customers.

Yet perverse pride still reigns in many of America's newsrooms. Fusty editor and reporter types can't let a mention of the Internet pass without some derogatory reference

"Unlike the home page on your computer, a newspaper can't be customized. It's a mass medium that strives to satisfy a broad audience with as much information -- news, commentary and features -- as it can," wrote Ben Marrison, editor in the Columbus Dispatch, in a typical lament. Marrison was responding to a reader of the print edition who threatened to cancel because he read a column he didn't like.

"Maybe we as Americans have become spoiled in expecting everything tailored to our preferences.
After all, we can find radio talk shows that match our political viewpoints. We have cable television shows to feed any hobby you can imagine. We are a nation of choice, and maybe we expect the headlines, news, columns and photographs to be exactly what we want every day."

Forget the false humility of the "we as Americans." Marrison is really telling his readers that they are "spoiled" by too much "choice". In the eyes of the monopolist, choice and competition are evil words. Predictably, this Luddite editor is off on his technology. Computers don't have home pages -- Web sites do. And his newspaper's Web site could be reader-customizable. Marrison could have told that disgruntled reader to read the Dispatch online, and make sure the reader can read only what he wants. Everyone's happy.

I'm not suggesting newspapers (or radio talk show hosts like Limbaugh) are going to disappear. There will be a place for them for the forseeable future. Printed matter beats the Web when it's inconvenient to access a computer (or cell phone, where, Mr. Marrison, you can also get the Web).

But telling customers they are "spoiled" by competitors is a losing proposition. The proper response is to offer the alternatives your customers want. That's a timeless fact of business even a Luddite should be able to understand.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Besides the journosaur cluelessness about what customers want, there's a deep arrogance in traditional media types, an arrogance turning into bitterness as customers flee. Many editors are rethinking journalism to find out what they're doing wrong, or how they can do better. Others prefer to remain bitter, pretending to wear their robe of virtues, heedless that onlookers see no robe, just the naked pretenses of a dishonest fool.

John Carroll, former editor of the Los Angeles Times, is one such unclothed emperor who is too busy in his invincible ignorance attacking the Internet and blogs to learn from them. In 2006, Carroll gave a typically definitive screed, pontificating with the absolute certitude of the invincibly ignorant

Look at how Carroll frames the problem:

Young readers are going online and not coming back. Circulation revenues are dwindling. The equivalent of circulation revenues on the Web is negligible. Circulation itself is falling. Ad revenues are weak – not a good sign in a growing economy – and Web-based competitors are stealing our advertisers. Some of these competitors are even helping themselves to our stories and our photographs, which we have produced at great expense.

"Stealing our advertisers." What a perfect way to encapsulate the arrogant, entitlement mentality of newspapers. Newspapers own advertisers, and for Web competitors to win away their business is "stealing" newspaper advertisers.

Carroll's understanding of blogs is equally informed:

The blogs, noisy as they are, have virtually no reporters. They may be keen critics, or assiduous fact checkers, but do they add materially to the nation’s supply of original reporting? No, they don’t.

Trent Lott could have told Carroll otherwise. In 2002, Lott lost his job as Senate majority leader after bloggers kept after the story of his praise of Strom Thurmond -- a story that the Los Angeles Times (when Carroll was editor, btw), and other media outlets at first ignored. Today, in the Middle East, bloggers Michael Yon and Michael Totten supply reporting not often found in the traditional media.

But even someone in such denial as Carroll can't argue away the fact that the public doesn't trust journalists.

"Recently there have been efforts to clarify our beliefs, and to put them into plain language. A notable effort in this regard is the book The Elements of Journalism by our colleagues Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel.
It is important for us to understand, in clear English, what, exactly, a journalist is, and what a journalist is not. It is important for us to live by those beliefs, too, and to condemn those who use the trappings of journalism to engage in marketing or propaganda. And, finally, it is important for us to explain to the public why journalism – real journalism, practiced in good faith – is absolutely essential to a self-governing nation."

So to Carroll, it's all just a communications problem: We journalists need to speak to the public in "clear English". Next thing you know, Carroll's going to suggest hiring a PR agency, to do all the communicating us tongue-tied communicators are apparently incapable of doing with the public.

The real answer is something Carroll hasn't faced up to. Journalists are not trusted because too many are, like Carroll, untrustworthy. They dodge, evade and lie about their own biases and error and hope the public will believe their propaganda.

I'm not saying Carroll doesn't believe his own propaganda. I think he does. The most effective agent of a false message is often someone who has deluded himself into believing his own lies.

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Rush Limbaugh used to be a conservative kingmaker. Bush I recognized the power of His Rushness, and deferentially courted his support. Since then, it's been an article of faith that conservative talk show hosts can mobilize millions of fans who act on their every word.

Yesterday's Super Duper Tuesday severely tested this faith. John McCain dominated the primaries, despite the most bitter opposition from Limbaugh and the Mini-Mes like Hugh Hewitt. So perhaps the talk show hosts' influence is overrated. They are good at mobilizing people who are predisposed to act in a certain fashion, but they don't seem particularly apt at persuading people to vote for or against a candidate.

Here's a sampling of comments along that line from Hugh Hewitt's blog. Notice how Hewitt and his fellow talk show hosts are branded with the dreaded "elitist" label once reserved for the leftist MSM:

McTex writes: Wednesday, February, 06, 2008 12:23 AM
McCain and Huck
both won even though Rush and the other talk radio crazies were all aligned against them as you said Hugh.
What does that say about their influence and yours?

johnnyboy writes: Wednesday, February, 06, 2008 12:24 AM
Talk Show Hosts are NOT the Rep. Party
Hugh, I am just totally sick of all the talk hosts trying to "force" this election for Romney. Mitt Romney was so far left of McCain 4 years ago, I swear he was a democrat. But you, Rush, Laura, Coulter, Hannity and the other jabber-mouths think you know better than us poor, dumb, regular people.
Well, wake up dude. The REAL Republican party is speaking right now, you just refuse to hear it.

Barnvette writes: Tuesday, February, 05, 2008 10:10 PM
Conflict of Interest
I love how the elitist, Hewitt, Rush, Hannity try to build up a slick Romney who has been fickle on his positions based on what race he's running for; stating he's the real conservative....
That is a bunch of crap. Huckabee is the real conservative. Reagan passed amnesty for Mexicans. I don't see Hewitt, Rush and Hannity talking about this. How about Bain Capital buying Clear Channel and how much revenue the talking heads get from Clear Channel.
I disagree with Karl Rove about McCain picking Huckabee. Huckabee would an excellent fit as a VP candidate.

There are many more comments in this vein. What do you think -- is the influence of Rush & Co. declining, or was it overrated to begin with?


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Super Duper Tuesday And The Super Duper Lyin' LA Times

TV Gasbag Makes Sense!

I feel faint . . .

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UPDATE III: Exit polls project that Obama will win Georgia by a landslide; on the GOP side, McCain narrowly leading Huckabee, with Romney third.

Hillary Rodham Clinton comes up dry in Georgia, while Barack Obama swims in votes.

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McCain scurrilously attacked Romney for the latter's comment about not wanting a letter of recommendation from Bob Dole. Thanks to Brett for bringing this to my attention. I thought Romney's comment was ungracious and unwarranted. But McCain exceeded that, by implying that Romney's attack on Dole, a World War II hero, was somehow a worse insult because of Dole's military record:

"Governor Romney's attack on Bob Dole is disgraceful, and Governor Romney should apologize. Bob Dole is a war hero who has spent his life in service to this nation and nobody has worked harder to build the Republican Party. Bob Dole deserves the respect of every American and certainly every Republican."

As I said, the attack on Dole was "ungracious". But it wasn't disgraceful. McCain's refuting criticism by wrapping himself in the flag is disgraceful.

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UPDATE: Unexpectedly, Mike Huckabee wins all 18 of West Virginia's 30 delegates at stake today. Expectedly, Romney supporter Hugh Hewitt is whining.

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Today's the day we've been fixating on. It's Super Duper Tuesday, when 28 kajillion states hold their primaries to select presidential candidates. Most of the drama appears to be on the Democratic side, where Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama are close to even in polls.

As the candidates made a last-minute push, a CNN?Opinion Research Corp. poll out Monday showed Obama erasing Clinton's lead among Democrats nationally. The two were in a virtual tie, with Obama at 49 percent and Clinton at 46 percent, the poll found
With a sampling error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points, that margin is too close to say which Democrat is leading.

On the GOP side, John McCain holds a strong but not insurmountable lead over Mitt Romney, and is slightly behind McCain in California. In a desperate attempt to stop McCain, Romney has been campaigning non-stop, sleeping on the floor of a plane as he made one last appearance in California. But cruelly for Romney, even a narrow win in California wouldn't help much, because delegates are now awarded proportionately. In many of the other states Romney appears likely to lose, delegates are awarded on a winner-take-all basis. And as of this date, delegates begin to speak more loudly than polls.

Romney has been getting testy lately, comparing McCain's tactics to that of Nixon's, and responding to Bob Dole's defense of McCain in a letter to Rush Limbaugh by saying Dole was the last person he'd want to write a letter on his behalf.

As for McCain, his reputation for "straight talk" has been taking a beating of late, as Matt Welch's book on McCain has gotten more notice. An article by Welch in LA Weekly says McCain's image is largely a myth.

Newspaper endorsements — many featuring errors of fact — are gaining momentum: The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, the L.A. Daily News, The Sacramento Bee, the San Jose Mercury News, and on and on.

As a direct result of his long media honeymoon, much of what we think we know about McCain is wrong. Exit-poll numbers out of the early states showed that McCain was doing especially well among primary voters who were antiwar. The numbers say something disturbing about our capacity to believe that independent antiwar voters are seriously considering a man who championed pre-emptive war three years before it ever occurred to George W. Bush, who personally told me that the U.S. share of defense spending — more than one-half of the world's total — was much too small, and who has demonstrated repeatedly these past weeks that he doesn't understand why any American would question the deployment of U.S. troops in Iraq 100 years from now. After more than seven years of increasingly unpopular war, Americans look poised to nominate the most explicitly pro-interventionist presidential candidate since Teddy Roosevelt. Don't say you weren't warned.

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Newspapers printing errors of fact about politicians? Say it ain't so, Matt! Unfortunately, doughty blogger Patterico has just documented another one, a bald-faced lie about President Bush that the Los Angeles Times is refusing to correct.

The L.A. Times is refusing to correct a blatant error — again.

Regular readers will remember that, on January 1, I wrote about an L.A. Times end-of-the-year political quiz that resurrected a viciously false canard: that George W. Bush “[e]rroneously said Nelson Mandela was dead.” . . .

. . . I finally heard from the Readers’ Representative today. As for my prediction, I’ll say only this: damn, I’m good. Here is her e-mail:

I’m sorry, I thought I’d already responded a while ago with this note: Editors in the opinion section did not believe that the point warranted correction. They say (and I agree) that the piece was a parody, and so that reference was within the bounds of that sort of opinion piece.

Jamie Gold
Readers’ Representative

You get that? It’s a parody!

I sure did, Patterico. Jamie Gold is a parody of a Readers' Representative and the LA Times is a parody of honest journalism. Nothing we didn't already know, but it's good to see the evidence keep piling up.

Paging Sam Zell! Stop cursing and start firing the lying journalists at the LA Times. Talk to Patterico, who has been taking names.

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Monday, February 4, 2008

Journalspace Down

Journalspace was down much of the weekend. Not only that, but Charlotte from South Africa has not been able to access The Festering Swamp at all.

As a temporary solution, I am going to copy the content of posts to a Blogger Web site I created, called The Festering Swamp. Bookmark this address. If you have trouble getting to the primary site, go to the backup site. You'll still be able to comment, as I'll provide the Haloscan link.

Journalspace usually works very well, and for free we can't be too demanding. But the periodic outages are very inconvenient -- once Cathy's World was out for five days -- so we need a backup. Come to think of it, why just one backup? Others can do just what I did. Make sure to provide the Haloscan link for the current thread, and we're back in business.

Other than that, I'm going to write more later today about ABC's Jake Tapper's egregious misrepresentation of a Clinton comment on global warming.

Here is what Clinton said:

Everybody knows that global warming is real," Mr. Clinton said, giving a shout-out to Al Gore's Nobel Peace Prize, "but we cannot solve it alone. And maybe America, and Europe, and Japan, and Canada -- the rich counties -- would say, 'OK, we just have to slow down our economy and cut back our greenhouse gas emissions 'cause we have to save the planet for our grandchildren.' We could do that. But if we did that, you know as well as I do, China and India and Indonesia and Vietnam and Mexico and Brazil and the Ukraine, and all the other countries will never agree to stay poor to save the planet for our grandchildren. The only way we can do this is if we get back in the world's fight against global warming and prove it is good economics that we will create more jobs to build a sustainable economy that saves the planet for our children and grandchildren. It is the only way it will work.

I think that's pretty understandable. Clinton discusses one possible solution for global warming, cutting back economic growth, then dismisses it because the poor nations of the world will never go along with it. So "the only we we can do this", he says, is to "prove it is good economics." IOW, find ways to produce more jobs through environmental technologies.

Here's how Tapper described it:

In a long, and interesting speech, he characterized what the U.S. and other industrialized nations need to do to combat global warming this way: "We just have to slow down our economy and cut back our greenhouse gas emissions 'cause we have to save the planet for our grandchildren."
At a time that the nation is worried about a recession is that really the characterization his wife would want him making? "Slow down our economy"?
I don't really think there's much debate that, at least initially, a full commitment to reduce greenhouse gases would slow down the economy….So was this a moment of candor?

I guess that for Tapper, "long and interesting" means "I didn't really understand it and am straining to get a headline".
Tapper's blatant misrepresentation earned him the scorn of hundreds of commenters on his own blog. A semiliterate followup post by Tapper failed to settle the matter.

Lots of you -- and the Clinton campaign -- argue that it's obvious that Bill Clinton was spelling out that last point, he was describing what would happen if there isn't a worldwide effort, that he was setting up a straw man, because this is a false argument.
I can certainly accept that's what he meant. I don't think it was clear. But I wasn't certain.
That's why I provided the video links, the full quote, and gave a number of options as to what he meant.
And again, I think the larger point -- bigger than me, bigger than one president's comment -- is what would it cost to take action against global warming?

Digby said it well:
Actually, the important issue here is that most journalists not only have a misunderstanding of the issues, but are perpetually convinced of their own brilliance despite all efforts to the contrary. Admitting that they're wrong is like exposing themselves to kryptonite. And so journalistic standards brush up against arrogance and intransigence. The funny thing is that, despite claims that they are objective purveyors of the facts, it's ALL personal when it comes to these guys. They'd rather peddle a lie than be seen as wrong.

As one commenter on Tapper's blog wrote,
It's easy Jack: statements that follow the word "maybe" are hypotheticals. Statements that follow the word "but" address the shortcomings of the previous statement.
It's called "English" and is usually considered a useful skill for a reporter in an English-language publication. ABC obviously feels otherwise.

Over at the National Review, Iain Murray weighed in -- defending Clinton.

Jonah, that video is actually (and again, I can't believe I'm saying this) really unfair to Bill Clinton. The biter bit, you may say, but I don't believe this sort of manipulation by the media is in any way helpful. The clip is out of context. What Clinton actually said was:

And maybe America, and Europe, and Japan, and Canada — the rich counties — would say, 'OK, we just have to slow down our economy and cut back our greenhouse gas emissions 'cause we have to save the planet for our grandchildren.' We could do that. But if we did that, you know as well as I do, China and India and Indonesia and Vietnam and Mexico and Brazil and the Ukraine, and all the other countries will never agree to stay poor to save the planet for our grandchildren.

The bold section is what ABC chose to highlight in that video, plucked from the middle of words that have the opposite meaning. That's not good journalism in any sense.

How true. I used to think highly of Jake Tapper. My bad. Tapper is just another dimwit Roland Hedley type, pretending to have some profound insight and intelligence he doesn't have.

Journalists who persist in their delusions of inerrancy in the Internet age are not only making themselves fools before the world, they are bringing discredit onto the entire profession in the public's eyes. ABC is doing itself and journalism no favor by letting Tapper get away with his mealy-mouthed non-apologies.

UPDATE: Grist, an environmental journal, points out Tapper's evasive, dishonest attempt to retroactively restate what he said

Andy Revkin has a Dot Earth post today that reflects on Jake Tapper's hackery and, in my humble opinion, lets Tapper off way too easily. Look at this:

For his part, Mr. Tapper posted a series of updates through Thursday clarifying his intent, saying he found Mr. Clinton's speech confusing and was posing questions more than offering criticisms. And his main point, he told me over the phone late last night, was to examine whether Mr. Clinton was portraying efforts to curb greenhouse-gas emissions as something that would blunt the economy. This is a point that other proponents of gas curbs have sometimes downplayed.

"I didn't think I was accusing him of anything other than candor," Mr. Tapper said.

That is rank bullshit, on its face. Tapper's updates did not "clarify" anything, they just replied to an entirely just accusation with catty snaring meant to make his Village buddies giggle. There was nothing confusing at all about Clinton's speech -- unless, like Tapper, you are so immersed in shallow Beltway conventional wisdom that someone saying something different is like a foreign language. And he wasn't "raising questions" -- he straightforwardly portrayed Clinton as saying the opposite of what he actually said. Tapper did not "accuse him of candor." Clinton was quite candidly saying that he thinks we can make money shifting to a green economy. Tapper is convinced that environmentalism means economic pain, because that's what his right-wing sources keep telling him, so he was convinced that that was what Clinton was secretly saying. But that just means that Tapper's a vapid dunce.

I don't know enough about Tapper's sources or motives to agree with Grist that his misstatement of Clinton's speech came from right-wing sources. But I don't have to do mind-reading to conclude that Tapper is indeed a "vapid dunce."

Indeed, Tapper's kind of glib stupidity seems to be popular among media political analysts. I wonder how that works. Did ABC give Tapper a lobotomy, so he could only. Write. And. Understand. Short. Sentences? Anything requiring the least subtlety of thought or reflection seems to short-circuit the synapses of political analysts, especially shouters like Chris Matthews.

As Don Henley sang:

"And when it's said and done they haven't told you a thing."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Hugh "Cherrypicker" Hewitt seems not not care that he's blatantly misrepresenting facts in his role as a Mitt Romney shill. His latest distortion is to select one poll from a bunch and talking about a growing Romney lead in California's Super Tuesday primary.

Here's Hugh:

And here's what Hewitt's link reveals:

Click on the photo above to read the result more clearly. Even without doing so, you should be able to see that Hewitt based his comment about Romney increasing his "lead" on one poll out of five. This is getting close to Jake Tapper territory, Mr. Hewitt. You should think about the long-term damage cherry-picking the facts to give a misleading impression does to your reputation. And I say this as someone who admires your advice to newspapers.

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