Archive for the ‘Media’ Category
Interesting column in Salon by Patrick L. Smith:
“You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on a completely trumped-up pretext.” Thus spoke Secretary of State John Kerry on NBC’s “Meet the Press” last Sunday, just as Russia took control of Crimea in the latest escalation of the Ukraine crisis.
This extraordinary remark appears to have gone briefly viral. And surely I am not alone in requiring time to recover from the sheer ignorance and presumption of it. Ignorant because even by the standards at State, where the past must evaporate on an almost daily basis, it is hypocrisy unlimited on the very face of it. Presumptuous because it implies a degree of stupidity among us that not even P.T. Barnum would dare take for granted.
We have before us a full-dress campaign to persuade the world that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military advances into Ukraine this week come to an unwarranted intrusion into the affairs of a nation struggling to find its way to a remade polity on the model of the liberal Western democracies. This is the explicit part. Implicit are the clean hands of American and European policy cliques and the broad approval enjoyed by the provisional government that appointed itself after President Viktor Yanukovych was hounded across the border with Russia two weeks ago.
This is the Good Housekeeping perspective on Ukraine. Kerry’s silly remark last weekend is one among countless in the service of this wholesale rewrite of events.
The unapproved perspective is far more interesting and should be recognized for what it is. For the second time in less than a year we witness an American intervention that, in the age of social media and all the rest, is transparent such that we can actually study it in real time. This is new. In the old days—when Washington undermined Mossadegh in Iran, say, orArbenz in Guatemala, or even Allende much later in Chile—we had to wait years before the truth was unearthed beneath the macadam road of propaganda and lies laid quickly atop it at the time of events.
I should clarify. The first such occasion was last July, when the New York Times, in what was apparently deemed a one-off slip, provided a record of the telephone call Susan Rice, President Obama’s national security adviser, made to Cairo advising that the generals could go forward with the plan to depose President Mohammed Morsi. Morsi toppled within hours of the exchange.
And to clarify further, a third such occasion may shortly be upon us. This one, if it comes, will be in Venezuela, now ablaze with violent protests. Watch this space and know what you are watching: If the Maduro government in Caracas falls, it will mark the culmination of yet another American intervention.
This makes two, and maybe three, “19th century things” Americans insist upon doing in the 21st century. Not counting Iraq, Afghanistan, and threats of violence elsewhere, of course. Please speak into the microphone, Mr. Secretary.
Here is the strange part—or one of many oddities, I ought to say. In all three cases we are offered what evidence of the truth cannot be avoided, and then it is quickly dispatched to oblivion by those laying down the macadam.
In the Egypt case, the Times recounted the Rice telephone call and seemingly never again mentioned it. All it has since written amounts to a game of pretend.
In the Venezuela case, William Neuman, the Times’ man in Caracas (and an intellectually dishonest ideologue) recounted the press conference when the Venezuelan foreign minister read aloud the e-mail traffic revealing the covert American campaign to recruit students to the anti–Maduro cause. And then: Never again did he note it in his accounts of a supposedly spontaneous movement for the neoliberal democracy desired by everyone in the world, Ukrainians, too.
In Ukraine, we have the Victoria Nuland, “F the E.U.” tape, of course. This is the strangest of all. Amid all the tumult of the past couple of weeks, as the very people Nuland and her ambassador in Kiev were cultivating rose to the top, not a single mention of the tape and the red-handed evidence of American malfeasance. The coverage is all about the unjust intimidations of the Russian Bear, the silent, beady-eyed Putin being the perfect personification of the beast.
The media performance gives so astonishing an appearance of conspiracy at this point that you start to wonder if these people, correspondents and editors alike, are somehow getting dressed in the same locker room every morning. Please use the comment box if you can otherwise explain why not one correspondent finds it useful to cite prima facie evidence of American provocation on Putin’s doorstep.
(It is possible some are filing well from Ukraine and getting politically motivated edits in the newsroom. I know it happens because it happened to me, more than once, when I filed for the International Herald Tribune, a Times property.) . . .
With our adventure in Iraq—a completely unprovoked war based on lies from the Bush Administration—having ended so recently, it is curious to see so many in the US expressing outrage that Russia sent troops into Ukraine—which, it may be pointed out, is on Russia’s doorstep, whereas Iraq is far removed from the US. Worse, those expressing outrage never so much as allude to the US invasion of Iraq to explain what is different this time. They simply act as if the Iraq war never happened. It’s as if they have air-brushed that from their memory.
Glenn Greenwald points out this discrepancy and also applauds a reporter on RT who spoke against Russia’s invasion. (When reporters in the US spoke against the Iraq invasion, as did Phil Donohue (who had the most popular show on MSNBC), they were summarily fired. The US often does not, in practice, believe in free expression if the expression is contrary to government propaganda.) Greenwald writes at The Intercept:
The vast bulk of the commentary issuing from American commentators about the Russian military action in Ukraine involves condemning exactly that which they routinely advocate and which the US itself routinely does. So suffocating is the resulting stench that those who played leading roles in selling the public the attack on Iraq and who are still unrepentant about it, such as David “Axis of Evil/The Right Man” Frum, have actually become the leading media voices condemning Russia on the ground that it is wrong to invade sovereign countries; Frum thus has no trouble saying things like this with an apparently straight face: “If Russia acts the outlaw nation, can it be expected to be treated as anything but an outlaw?”
Enthusiastic supporters of a wide range of other US interventions in sovereign states, both past and present and in and out of government, are equally righteous in their newfound contempt for invasions – when done by Russia. Secretary of State John Kerry – who stood on the Senate floor in 2002 and voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq because “Saddam Hussein [is] sitting in Baghdad with an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction” and there is “little doubt that Saddam Hussein wants to retain his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction” – told Face the Nation on Sunday: “You just don’t in the 21st Century behave in 19th Century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped-up pretext.” The supremely sycophantic Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer – as he demanded to know how Russia would be punished - never once bothered Kerry (or his other Iraq-war-advocating guests, including Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Washington Post columnist David Ignatius) by asking about any of that unpleasantness (is it hard at all for you to sermonize against invasions of sovereign countries given, you know, how often you yourself support them?)
American invasions and occupations of nations halfway around the world are perfectly noble, but Russian interference in a part of a country right on its border is the supreme act of lawless, imperial aggression. Few things are worse than watching America’s militarists, invasion-and-occupying-justifiers, regime-change enthusiasts, drone-lovers, and supporters of its various “kinetic military actions” self-righteously wrap themselves in the banner of non-intervention, international law and respect for sovereignty. Does anyone take those denunciations seriously outside of the class of western elites who disseminate them?
American media elites awash in an orgy of feel-good condemnation in particular love to mock Russian media, especially the government-funded English-language outlet RT, as being a source of shameless pro-Putin propaganda, where free expression is strictly barred (in contrast to the Free American Media). That that network has a strong pro-Russian bias is unquestionably true. But one of its leading hosts, Abby Martin, remarkably demonstrated last night what “journalistic independence” means by ending her Breaking the Set program with a clear and unapologetic denunciation of the Russian action in Ukraine: . . .
Continue reading. Video at the link.
Eric Holder is not much of an Attorney General, IMO. Kevin Drum writes at Mother Jones:
On Friday, Attorney General Eric Holder issued a new set of guidelines designed to make it harder for law enforcement officials to seize the records of journalists:
Among other things, the rules create a presumption that prosecutors generally will provide advance notice to the news media when seeking to obtain their communications records….The rules also address a law forbidding search warrants for journalists’ work materials, except when the reporter is a criminal suspect. It says that the exception cannot be invoked for conduct based on “ordinary news-gathering activities.”
….The rules cover grand jury subpoenas used in criminal investigations. They exempt wiretap and search warrants obtained under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and “national security letters,” a kind of administrative subpoena used to obtain records about communications in terrorism and counterespionage investigations.
But Marcy Wheeler points out that most of the DOJ leak investigations that prompted media outrage last year and led to these new rules are, in fact, related to national security. And NSLs have the least oversight of any form of subpoena: they can be issued by just about anyone, and require no approval from a court.
Does this mean, as Wheeler pungently puts it, that these new guidelines are “worth approximately shit” in any leak investigation that’s actually likely to take place? I’m not sure about that. You can’t get a wiretap with an NSL, for example. Still, it certainly seems to be a Mack-truck-sized loophole in these new rules. There’s less here than meets the eye.
I watch a lot of movies, and I note that in some bad movies the characters appear to be angry a lot, with nothing motivating their anger. (One title that in my mind is tagged with this characteristic is Showgirls, but I cannot now recall the specific instances—and I don’t want to watch it again.) My take on that is that the apparent anger is just a quick way to get emotion into a scene, even when the anger is unmotivated.
So I was interested in the study discussed in this article in Pacific Standard by Jesse Singal:
If there’s one thing American media does well, it’s outrage. Take a quick glance at your favorite news source, whether The O’Reilly Factor orPardon the Interruption, and you’ll see it: wide-eyed, incredulous, puffed-up outrage that anyone could be so stupid!
Despite our nation’s saturation with outrage, argue two Tufts researchers, we know very little about how the genre works. So Jeffrey M. Berry, a political scientist, and Sarah Sobieraj, a sociologist, assembled a research team and dove into the spittle-flecked world of outrage media. They listened to and read countless transcripts, coding it for content; interviewed fans of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and other superstars; and examined the regulatory and business shifts in American mass media that led to our current screamfest.
In a recent interview, Sobieraj spoke with Pacific Standard about the formula of outrage media, why the right wing dominates it, and the weirdly intimate relationship between talk radio hosts and their listeners. The below transcript is edited for length and clarity.
So what exactly is outrage media, and how do you differentiate it from a regular lack of civility?
When we think about outrage, we think of political speech that is intended to provoke an emotional response. So fear, anger, or moral indignation—that sort of thing. Most of the existing literature on incivility talks about interruptions or sighing or things like that, and what we notice is that outrage is such a muscular negativity that it’s not captured by those kinds of studies or questions. It’s just a whole different ballpark. The research on incivility tended to look at things like political advertisements, for example, and we were thinking about this whole other area, this genre where there is a mainstay of emotionally laden speech and behavior that is really designed to rile up the audience.
Emotion has a place in political speech. It’s actually quite important if you think about something like the civil rights movement or 9/11. People’s stories and the social problems they animate are often very important. But what’s different here are the calculated techniques that they use in an effort to evoke those emotions.
And it sounds like “calculated” is the right word, because you guys write that outrage media is pretty formulaic.
It is. It’s very predictable. In fact, sometimes when I’m having a better day or in a better mood or feeling more tolerant, I can find it in myself to find it amusing, the way that the techniques are so similar on the left and the right.
You know you could hear, for example, a host talk about the fringe far-left and if you’re on another network you can hear them talk about the fringe far-right, and so sometimes the language is literally the same. And not just the language, but the techniques, the things like misrepresentative exaggeration and belittling and conspiracy theories.
Are there any other big markers? Misrepresentative exaggeration, belittling….
Insulting language is another really important one. Calling people idiotic or pompous. Name-calling is definitely one too. I’ve heard, for example, bloggers refer to Obama’s supporters as “Obamatards,” things like that.
As for exaggeration, there is lot in political life, but this is a different level of a very dramatic negative exaggeration. For example, saying that something is intended to bring down capitalism. That would be a good example—very few things are actually designed to bring down capitalism. So I would say that misrepresentative exaggeration, mockery, definitely the ideologically extremizing language like “radical right-wing nut,” “socialist,” “fascist.” Those types of things are probably the most common.
I think a lot of people are skeptical of the claim that it’s as bad on the left as it is on the right, and you did a good job of pulling quotes from folks like Mike Malloy that really are angry and negative and out there. But you did find, overall, that there’s something about this sort of media that appeals more to folks on the right, and there’s a huge gap in the amount of outrage media between the two sides.
Yeah, so there are actually two different questions embedded in there. One is whether it’s the same or different in terms of the intensity and the volume and that sort of thing. Some people have suggested that when we point out that it happens on the left it’s a false equivalency. And that’s actually not what we’re doing at all.
What we notice is that the techniques are very similar on the left and the right. So something like belittling or exaggeration—you’re going to find that with Ed Schultz or Lawrence O’Donnell just like you’ll find it with Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity. But the volume is very different, in terms of the sheer number of platforms on the right. Talk radio is over 90 percent conservative so there’s just more of it.
Now the other question that you’re asking is whether outrage is more attractive to those on the right, and I think it is for a number of reasons. It’s actually kind of complicated—there are a lot of things going on. One is that the left is less distrustful or more accepting, depending on how you want to say it, of conventional news. So the right has historically been less comfortable with the major networks or The New York Times, for example, and the left is more comfortable in those spaces.
Another thing that comes into play is that there is some research that suggests that conservatives have a personality type—this is, of course, not all of them—and that there’s a greater propensity for comfort with black-and-white argumentation, which is very common in the outrage genre. There are good guys and there are bad guys. You are with us or you are against us. So there is that type of appeal.
But also, and I think probably most interestingly, since the rise of multiculturalism, with words like “tolerance,” “inclusion,” and “diversity” being viewed as good and important, for those who are conservative, to share your political views on things like same-sex marriage or immigration—those views can be viewed as intolerant and you can feel as though you are being judged and stigmatized. So we think that these shows, or what we hear when we talk to fans, are that these shows and blogs really become a safe space where their views are validated and they’re not criticized.
That struck me actually, because I really did like the interviews you had with fans of Beck and Limbaugh and some other conservative hosts, and there was this genuine fear that I found surprisingly easy to empathize with. They said they feel like they can’t talk about these issues or they’re going to be tarred as racist. . .
Excellent column by Glenn Greenwald:
As my colleague Ryan Devereaux reports, a lower UK court this morning, as long expected, upheld the legality of the nine-hour detention of my partner, David Miranda, at Heathrow Airport last August, even as it acknowledged that the detention was “an indirect interference with press freedom”. For good measure, the court also refused permission to appeal (though permission can still be granted by the appellate court). David was detained and interrogated under the Terrorism Act of 2000.
The UK Government expressly argued that the release of the Snowden documents (which the free world calls “award-winning journalism“) is actually tantamount to “terrorism”, the same theorynow being used by the Egyptian military regime to prosecute Al Jazeera journalists as terrorists. Congratulations to the UK government on the illustrious company it is once again keeping. British officials have also repeatedly threatened criminal prosecution of everyone involved in this reporting, including Guardian journalists and editors.
Equating journalism with terrorism has a long and storied tradition. Indeed, as Jon Schwarz has documented, the U.S. Government has frequently denounced nations for doing exactly this. Just last April, Under Secretary of State Tara Sonenshine dramatically informed the public that many repressive, terrible nations actually “misuse terrorism laws to prosecute and imprison journalists.” When visiting Ethiopia in 2012, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burnspublicly disclosed that in meetings with that nation’s officials, the United States “express[ed] our concern that the application of anti-terrorism laws can sometimes undermine freedom of expression and independent media.” The same year, the State Department reported that Burundiwas prosecuting a journalist under terrorism laws.
It should surprise nobody that the UK is not merely included in, but is one of the leaders of, this group of nations which regularly wages war on basic press freedoms. In the 1970s, British journalist Duncan Campbell was criminally prosecuted for the crime of reporting on the mere existence of the GCHQ, while fellow journalist Mark Hosenball, now of Reuters, was forced to leave the country. The monarchy has no constitutional guarantee of a free press. The UK government routinely threatens newspapers with all sorts of sanctions for national security reporting it dislikes. Its Official Secrets Act makes it incredibly easy to prosecute journalists and others for disclosing anything which political officials want to keep secret. For that reason, it was able to force the Guardian to destroy its own computers containing Snowden material precisely because the paper’s editors knew that British courts would slavishly defer to any requests made by the GCHQ to shut down the paper’s reporting.
That such repressive measures come from British political culture is to be expected. The political elite of that country cling desperately to 17th century feudal traditions. . .
See also the Ryan Devereaux report that the link in hte story.
This, of course, is merely the beginning. And in the meantime the Sunday talk shows—particularly the idiotic David Gregory—”debate” climate change as though it were an open issue (after 99% of climatologists agree that it is happening, and more rapidly than we projected). That’s when they mention it at all: NBC news went an entire year (2013) with no mention. And of course creatures such as George Will believe that if winter still occurs, then climate change cannot be happening.
We are following fools to our own destruction.
The article at the link is worth reading.
It’s not at all what people have generally been told: heartless strangers observing a woman’s murder without lifting a finger to help. The actual events were quite different.
He’s unrepentant. But the story of his unmasking is very interesting.
A NY Times editorial today omitted a word in one sentence, which seriously changed the meaning, but it did produce the familiar “he said/she said” formulation so beloved by the Times.
Sentence as printed:
A group called the Marijuana Policy Project has even bought space on five billboards in New Jersey, where the game will take place on Sunday, asking why the league disallows a substance that, the group says, is less harmful than alcohol.
Sentence without the “he said/she said” twist:
A group called the Marijuana Policy Project has even bought space on five billboards in New Jersey, where the game will take place on Sunday, asking why the league disallows a substance that, as the group says, is less harmful than alcohol.
The fact that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol is well established. Alcohol damages the body in many ways, is much more addictive than marijuana, and is lethal in overdose while marijuana is not. This is not in dispute.
Perhaps the editors could try to be less timorous about embracing well established facts. It would be a nice change. (I’m not holding my breath.)
In the meantime, one-fourth of the male population of Russia dies before age 55. The reason: vodka.
Interesting post at Daily Kos by Egberto Willies:
Common knowledge to those who follow the ins and outs of Obamacare is that there is an industry out there to destroy it at all cost. The traditional media has been the major conduit of the lies and misinformation.
It isn’t only the smaller media outlets that are generating the barrage of misinformation. CBS News whose ‘60 Minutes’ has been compromised with Benghazi and NSA misleading stories has been a major culprit. After-all CBS’s Jan Crawford reported a story about a woman losing the insurance she loved and could afford. It turned out had CBS made one telephone call or just checked healthcare.gov they could have informed the woman that she could get much better and reliable insurance for a comparable price.
It is a new day in media. Corporate owned major media that sometimes seem to purposely allow themselves to be a conduit to lies and misinformation are being challenged. Bloggers and other independent media that previously had little reach are now fact checking. They are using the power of the internet to inform with fact based information and not hit pieces that is now endemic in the traditional media.
Maggie Mahar, a prolific blogger at HealthBeat Blog and author of ‘Money-Driven Medicine: The Real Reason Health Care Costs So’ wrote the blog post Anatomy of an Obamacare ‘horror story’ detailing yet another misinforming story. It turns out the story in the Fort Worth Star Telegram was not only biased, it was simply not true. Maher writes.
For months, health reform’s opponents have been feasting on tales of Obamacare’s innocent victims – Americans who lost their insurance because it doesn’t comply with the ACA’s regulations, and now have to shell out more than they can afford – or go without coverage. Trouble is, many of those stories just aren’t true.
Yesterday I posted about a Fort Worth Star Telegram article that leads with the tale of Whitney Johnson, a 26-year-old new mother who suffers from multiple sclerosis (MS). Her insurer just cancelled her policy, and according to Johnson, new insurance would cost her over $1,000 a month.
That claim stopped me in my tracks. Under the ACA, no 26-year-old could be charged $1,000 monthly – even if she has MS.
Obamacare prohibits insurers from charging more because a customer suffers from apre-existing condition. This rule applies to all new policies, whether they are sold inside or outside the exchanges.
At that point, I knew that something was wrong.
Maggie Mahar did not just read the story, discount it, and go off to something else. She did something about it. She got involved. She checked healthcare.gov and found out that a comparable policy with much better and secure coverage would cost Whitney Johnson $7 more than she was currently paying.
Maggie Mahar went further. She called the Fort Worth Star Telegrram. After calls not being returned, she finally got a callback. She was informed that the newspaper received an email stating Whitney Johnson did find insurance at a similar price. The newspaper would not confirm that they would correct the story. It is evident the newspaper either has an agenda or is scared of revealing the truth for reasons that can be assumed. They came out with a defense of the story as well as a mea culpa for a less than complete story.
Maggie Mahar discovered that Whitney Johnson was a member of the Tea Party. The newspaper did not attempt to do any background checks. She finally reached the reporter of the story. The reporter told her that she had no experience covering healthcare. Moreover her assignment was to find people who were having problems with Obamacare. When she suggested doing a story on people helped by Obamacare she was not given a green light to do so from her editor.
The Fort Worth Star Telegram has over 200,000 readers. They chose to misinform these users maybe negligently, maybe willfully. What is sure is that so far they have chosen to willfully keep them misinformed.
If this isn’t yet another reason to disregard most of corporate and traditional media, what is? The consequences of misinforming the public are grave. It can even be fatal. The public must be informed constantly that the media that use to be the source of unbiased information that could be depended on is no more.
Mr. and Mrs. Keller offered a pair of columns (his is here, hers is here) lamenting how a woman in Stage 4 breast cancer is handling her illness: not as they would, they assure us (with the clear assumption that the Kellers’ way is the right way). The depth of Bill Keller’s understanding of the woman’s situation is revealed by a correction to his column: he wrote originally that she has two children; she has three.
The Public Editor of the NY Times has a good column on the Keller columns, and the comments are interesting as well. Similarly, Alexander Petri in the Washington Post explicitly tags the Kellers’ columns as concern trolling.
I do want to point out how Mrs. Keller tips her hand. She writes:
The obvious step for a columnist to take when wanting to know the reaction from the hospital would be to call the hospital and get a quote that tells what they think about it. They probably would say, “Anything that helps the patient, costs nothing, and harms no one is all to the good.” Indeed, perhaps she did get that reaction, which doesn’t fit her preconceived agenda, so she fell back to “wondering.”
I point out the two columns because it’s unusual to see such high-placed concern trolling so clearly done.
(The link to Emma Keller’s column goes to the archive because the Guardian editors withdrew the column when it became clear that Mrs. Keller had used private communications from the patient in her column.)
UPDATE: Wow. Read this piece. She nails it. And Bill Keller’s protest that his writing is just fine, people have just misread it ignores the sage dictum that it’s not the chef who is judge of the cooking. It never seems to have occurred to Keller that perhaps people are not misreading, but it’s simply that his writing conveyed more than he realized. I think people have read it pretty well, particularly the writer at this latest link.
UPDATE 2: It occurs to me that the Kellers could (like almost all of us) profit from reading Daniel Goleman’s Vital Lies, Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self-Deception. It’s a fascinating book (link is to secondhand copies) and in the very opening it gives an excellent example of a young woman at a dinner party who communicates more than she realizes:
I am very close to my family. They were always very demonstrative and loving. When I disagreed with my mother, she always threw what was nearest at hand at me. Once it happened to be a knife and I needed ten stitches in my leg. A few years later my father tried to choke me when I began dating a boy he didn’t like. They really are very concerned about me.
I think the people at the table probably understand much more from the anecdote than the woman realized or was able to recognize. That seems to be what’s up with the Kellers: they cannot recognize that which they have communicated. (It’s also a general lesson that when people offer facts along with interpretation, it’s generally a good idea to pay particular attention to the facts and work out your own interpretation.)
Another “60 Minutes” program that gets its topic completely wrong and distorted, though satisfying to a right-wing viewer. Joe Strupp reports at Media Matters:
A 60 Minutes segment claiming that federal government efforts to encourage clean tech — the production and use of alternative energy sources and more efficient technology — have failed drew some harsh disagreement among reporters covering the energy beat who say the negative report ignored many successes and focused too narrowly on a few unsuccessful companies.
Correspondent Lesley Stahl concluded in the January 5 piece that while stimulus spending including the Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program was invested in the industry, ”instead of breakthroughs, the [clean tech] sector suffered a string of expensive tax-funded flops.”
Stahl’s segment has drawn criticism from observers who have noted that 60 Minutes focused on Solyndra and a handful of other failed companies whose loans made up a tiny fraction of federal loans and ignored the clean tech breakthroughs and the explosive growth in the sector that have occurred.
The report was only the latest in a series of 60 Minutes reports that have been subject to stinging critiques in recent months. The program has been excoriated by media observers and accused of “check[ing] its journalistic skepticism at the door” by The New York Times.
Journalists who cover the same energy industries took issue with the clean tech report in interviews with Media Matters, noting that it did not take into account the long-term development needs of clean energy and the many ongoing successes.
“I thought it was a pretty poor piece of journalism, frankly,” said David Baker, a San Francisco Chronicle reporter covering clean tech and energy. “There are areas of this field that are hurting, but there are others that are doing very, very well.”
Baker added that 60 Minutes‘ error begins with its conception of the story: “The problem really begins when you just talk about clean tech as one thing – it is a bunch of things and a lot of it is energy generation and energy use. In a report like this where you look at clean tech in general, you have difficulty because it is not the same for each sector.”
“The other biggest problem with the CBS story is it looked at some of the flops and really seemed to turn a blind eye to the success,” he continued. “That is one of the most fundamental mistakes Lesley Stahl and her producers make.”
Baker pointed to several west coast examples of successes, including the recently created California Solar Ranch, the largest solar plant in the nation that went online late last year.
“We are going to have a huge amount of power going on the grid from solar,” Baker explained. “Some of those projects were funded in part through the Department of Energy loan program, the same one that funded Solyndra.”
Ken Paulman, editor of Midwest Energy News, offered a similar critique. . .
The Wife and I have been binge-watching The Wire, and last night finished Season Three, in which Bunny Colvin, a major in the Baltimore Police Department, in effect legalized drugs (unbeknownst to his superiors). Pressure to bring down the crime statistics, with a strong push to massage the data, downgrading felonies so that the statistics look better, he decides to report the actual truth.
In the Police Department meeting of all departments, he is strongly criticized because his statistics went up as a result and he is threatened with reduction in rank if the statistics do not go down. So he finds three vacant lots, which are relatively remote from residences, businesses, and schools, and has his men force the street dealers to get off the street corners and deal in those three areas only. If they do that, the police will ignore them.
The results: with a concentration of addicts in three specific areas, public-health people set up needle exchanges, condom distribution, and clinics to treat illnesses. The crime rate goes down 14%, an unheard-of drop—so much that his bosses believe that he must be fiddling the data. But he’s not. And he also gets a stack of favorable letters from residents who like having their street corners back, and feel safer on the streets now that the drug dealers are gone.
Of course, the drugs are being used, but then they were being used before. The only change that use is now limited to three spots, and thus can be monitored. (The “free zones” are overseen by police who allow no weapons or violence, so the sites simply become drug sales and use, with the rest of the district now free of drug dealers.)
Needless to say, the Department of Justice and the Federal government immediately take a very aggressive attitude, threatening to shut off half-a-billion dollars of Federal money that Baltimore receives in various ways, if the city does not end the “free zones” and return drug trafficking to the streets. The anger at the change is evident and completely ignores the good outcomes. The focus is totally on the illegality of drug sales. (You can see the same sort of anger and pressure directed at, e.g., Uruguay, which legalized the sale of marijuana. That has outraged the US, which is bringing to bear all the pressure that it can, given that two US states have done the same.)
It’s a very good season—though best seen following Seasons One and Two: the story builds.
I was thinking of this with regard to the incredibly strong condemnation visited on Edward Snowden by Obama and the Right. For an example with an astonishing amount of venom and hostility, read Ruth Marcus’s column in the Washington Post: she has really nothing good to say at all about how Snowden has shown us what our government is doing. “Ad hominem” is insufficient for the viciousness of her rhetoric. And how is she able to completely ignore what Snowden has revealed. It’s very much like the way officialdom in the Hamsterdam incident are able to completely ignore what Colvin’s experiment revealed: that what we are doing is enormously less effective than an alternative approach. At least the NY Times recognizes what is going on beyond Snowden breaking his nondisclosure agreement.
And again: Snowden took no “oath”; he signed a nondisclosure agreement—a contract. Legal penalties do apply, but Obama has ramped this up beyond all reason, as we’ve seen with how Obama has treated other whistleblowers: with a level of persecution that reveals an inordinate desire for vengeance—mainly, I suppose, to send a message. And Snowden got the message.
BTW, the NY Times Public Editor has an interesting comment on that editorial.
News organizations demand (rightly) transparency in government. However, news organizations are highly secretive about their own organizations and routinely stonewall any inquiries. Eric Wemple in the Washington Post provides a somewhat discouraging look at how news organizations fail to practice what they preach.
The NY Times this morning has a strong editorial in support of Edward Snowden:
Seven months ago, the world began to learn the vast scope of the National Security Agency’s reach into the lives of hundreds of millions of people in the United States and around the globe, as it collects information about their phone calls, their email messages, their friends and contacts, how they spend their days and where they spend their nights. The public learned in great detail how the agency has exceeded its mandate and abused its authority, prompting outrage at kitchen tables and at the desks of Congress, which may finally begin to limit these practices.
The revelations have already prompted two federal judges to accuse the N.S.A. of violating the Constitution (although a third, unfortunately, found the dragnet surveillance to be legal). A panel appointed by President Obama issued a powerful indictment of the agency’s invasions of privacy and called for a major overhaul of its operations.
All of this is entirely because of information provided to journalists by Edward Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor who stole a trove of highly classified documents after he became disillusioned with the agency’s voraciousness. Mr. Snowden is now living in Russia, on the run from American charges of espionage and theft, and he faces the prospect of spending the rest of his life looking over his shoulder.
Considering the enormous value of the information he has revealed, and the abuses he has exposed, Mr. Snowden deserves better than a life of permanent exile, fear and flight. He may have committed a crime to do so, but he has done his country a great service. It is time for the United States to offer Mr. Snowden a plea bargain or some form of clemency that would allow him to return home, face at least substantially reduced punishment in light of his role as a whistle-blower, and have the hope of a life advocating for greater privacy and far stronger oversight of the runaway intelligence community.
Mr. Snowden is currently charged in a criminal complaint with two violations of the Espionage Act involving unauthorized communication of classified information, and a charge of theft of government property. Those three charges carry prison sentences of 10 years each, and when the case is presented to a grand jury for indictment, the government is virtually certain to add more charges, probably adding up to a life sentence that Mr. Snowden is understandably trying to avoid.
The president said in August that Mr. Snowden should come home to face those charges in court and suggested that if Mr. Snowden had wanted to avoid criminal charges he could have simply told his superiors about the abuses, acting, in other words, as a whistle-blower.
“If the concern was that somehow this was the only way to get this information out to the public, I signed an executive order well before Mr. Snowden leaked this information that provided whistle-blower protection to the intelligence community for the first time,” Mr. Obama said at a news conference. “So there were other avenues available for somebody whose conscience was stirred and thought that they needed to question government actions.”
In fact, that executive order did not apply to contractors, only to intelligence employees, rendering its protections useless to Mr. Snowden. More important, Mr. Snowden told The Washington Post earlier this month that he did report his misgivings to two superiors at the agency, showing them the volume of data collected by the N.S.A., and that they took no action. (The N.S.A. says there is no evidence of this. [That's the sort of statement that's made when the N.S.A. wants to deny the fact but is worried that Snowden has evidence that will contradict a lie. - LG]) That’s almost certainly because the agency and its leaders don’t consider these collection programs to be an abuse and would never have acted on Mr. Snowden’s concerns.
In retrospect, Mr. Snowden was clearly justified in believing that the only way to blow the whistle on this kind of intelligence-gathering was to expose it to the public and let the resulting furor do the work his superiors would not. Beyond the mass collection of phone and Internet data, consider just a few of the violations he revealed or the legal actions he provoked:
■ The N.S.A. broke federal privacy laws, or exceeded its authority, thousands of times per year, according to the agency’s own internal auditor.
■ The agency broke into the communications links of major data centers around the world, allowing it to spy on hundreds of millions of user accounts and infuriating the Internet companies that own the centers. Many of those companies are now scrambling to install systems that the N.S.A. cannot yet penetrate.
■ The N.S.A. systematically undermined the basic encryption systems of the Internet, making it impossible to know if sensitive banking or medical data is truly private, damaging businesses that depended on this trust.
■ His leaks revealed that James Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, lied to Congress when testifying in March that the N.S.A. was not collecting data on millions of Americans. (There has been no discussion of punishment for that lie.)
■ The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court rebuked the N.S.A. for repeatedly providing misleading information about its surveillance practices, according to a ruling made public because of the Snowden documents. One of the practices violated the Constitution, according to the chief judge of the court.
■ A federal district judge ruled earlier this month that the phone-records-collection program probably violates the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. He called the program “almost Orwellian” and said there was no evidence that it stopped any imminent act of terror.
The shrill brigade of his critics say Mr. Snowden has done profound damage to intelligence operations of the United States, but none has presented the slightest proof that his disclosures really hurt the nation’s security. Many of the mass-collection programs Mr. Snowden exposed would work just as well if they were reduced in scope and brought under strict outside oversight, as the presidential panel recommended.
When someone reveals that government officials have routinely and deliberately broken the law, that person should not face life in prison at the hands of the same government. That’s why Rick Ledgett, who leads the N.S.A.’s task force on the Snowden leaks, recently told CBS News that he would consider amnesty if Mr. Snowden would stop any additional leaks. And it’s why President Obama should tell his aides to begin finding a way to end Mr. Snowden’s vilification and give him an incentive to return home.
As pointed out in the editorial, we once again see President Obama having difficulties speaking the truth. I find I cannot trust things Obama says. And certainly I do not trust what the NSA says: too many lies have been exposed.
Update: BTW, the NY Times Public Editor has an interesting comment on that editorial.
All too often ideologues will make arguments that show bad faith: deliberately or through extreme (and willful) ignorance using incorrect information to “prove” a point. Paul Krugman analyzes a particularly overt example:
Kimball take Stephens to task for overstating the economic progress of poorer Americans by presenting nominal figures, without any adjustment for inflation. What Kimball doesn’t mention is that the constant-dollar figures are presented by the Census in the same table (Excel file) from which Stephens is taking his numbers – and the constant-dollar figures actually show a small decline in the incomes of the bottom 20 percent.
Wait, it gets worse. In the same piece in which he commits the unforgivable sin of using nominal incomes as a measure of progress, Stephens also accuses President Obama of a “factual error” in claiming that the top 10 percent receive half the income; it’s the top 20 percent, says Stephens, and there has been no significant rise since the mid-1990s.
What’s going on here? Stephens is citing the Census data, which everyone who knows anything about inequality knows has a problem with very high incomes thanks to “top-coding”. The Piketty-Saez data, which use tax returns to estimate income shares, do indeed show the top 10 percent receiving half the income, up from 42 percent in 1995. Maybe you don’t like those estimates, but Obama made no mistake – while Stephens did.
Why doesn’t this sharp rise show in the Census data? Because almost all of it took place among the top 1 percent – the income range that the Census data, which are survey-based, can’t effectively track.
OK, we’re still not done here. Stephens then goes on to suggest not just that there has been no rise in inequality since 1995, but that not much has changed since 1979. So let me pull out the Congressional Budget Office – they’re right behind this sign over here – to comment on that:
CBO finds that, between 1979 and 2007, income grew by:
•275 percent for the top 1 percent of households,
•65 percent for the next 19 percent,
•Just under 40 percent for the next 60 percent, and
•18 percent for the bottom 20 percent.
The point here, as on so many other economic issues, is that we are not having anything resembling a good-faith debate.
We could have a debate about whether rising inequality is a problem, and whether measures intended to curb it would do more harm than good. But we can’t have that kind of debate if the anti-populist side won’t acknowledge basic facts – and it won’t. In his piece Stephens trashes Obama, accusing him of making a factual error when he did no such thing; then proceeds to commit just about every statistical sin you can imagine in an attempt to minimize the rise in inequality. In the process he leaves his readers more ignorant than they were before. When this is what passes for argument, how can we have any kind of rational discussion?
Oh, and just FYI: this is the kind of journalism that the great and the good deem worthy of a Pulitzer Prize.
Ria Misra writes on io9:
In 1920, rocket scientist Robert Goddard wrote up an article postulating how we could use rocket fuel to launch a ship into space — perhaps even all the way to the moon. His ideas did not meet with a warm reception in the media, where he was roundly mocked. 49 years later, Apollo 11 took-off to the moon, triggering The New York Times‘ to print the greatest newspaper correction ever to run.
This correction has everything: scare quotes, an elaborately roundabout slam on rocket scientist Goddard’s high school education, and, notably, no reference at all to Apollo 11′s launch to the moon that had occurred just the day before, spurring the correction in the first place. The correction, printed in the July 17, 1969 edition of The Times reads:
A Correction: On Jan. 13, 1920, “Topics of the Times,” an editorial-page feature of The New York Times, dismissed the notion that a rocket could function in a vacuum and commented on the ideas of Robert H. Goddard, the rocket pioneer, as follows:
That Professor Goddard with his ‘chair’ in Clark College and the countenancing of the Smithsonian Institution, does not know the relation of action to reaction, and of the need to something better than a vacuum against which to react—to say that would be absurd. Of course he only seems to lack the knowledge ladled out daily in high schools.
Further investigation and experimentation have confirmed the findings of Isaac Newton in the 17th Century and it is now definitely established a rocket can function in a vacuum as well as in an atmosphere. The Times regrets the error.
The ignorance, smugness, and condescension of the writer of the 1920 editorial are striking.
Reporters seem unable to learn from experience, not a good sign. Yet again they ran with a story leaked by Darrell Issa—big problem found in Healthcare.gov security!!!—only to learn that the bug was trivial and fixed before the system went live. Michael Hiltzik reports in the LA Times:
Bingo! We have not one but two “investigative” news reports, from CBS and ABC, based on the same partial transcript. And both, consequently, have the same level of credibility: none. CBS News even offers a dividend — a thoroughly dishonest and discreditable interview with Issa himself. We’ll get to that in a moment.
The topic of the latest leak is the purported security flaws in healthcare.gov, the federal health enrollment website. The raw meat is a partial transcript of an interview conducted by the staff of Issa’s House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform with Teresa Fryer, chief information security officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which is handling the healthcare.gov rollout.
Cue Sharyl Attkisson of CBS: “A top HealthCare.gov security officer told Congress there have been two, serious high-risk findings since the website’s launch, including one on Monday of this week.”
Well, yes. But not exactly. Fryer said more, which you’d know if you read the parts of the transcript left out of the Issa leak but distributed by the committee’s Democratic minority. There you discover that Fryer also said that the system’s security measures exceed industry standards, that there haven’t been any security breaches of the website, and the parts of the system affected by the high-risk findings were promptly shut down and quarantined.
That brings us to Issa, who went before the CBS cameras to charge that Fryer’s recommendation that the website launch be delayed was overruled by mysterious “individuals” who, he said, “were looking at a broader array of risk.” His tone of voice put air quotes around that “broader.” He continued, “I took that to mean the risks such as risk to the president of embarrassment, the risk to people who were counting on being able to sign up for these plans.”
See what he did there? He suggested that CMS was pressured by the White House to launch a website with security holes.
But there’s absolutely no basis in Fryer’s transcript — zero — to support that. What she said was that it’s standard operating procedure to place security assessments like hers in a broader context. In fact, the process is set forth by NIST, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which is the government’s technology assessment agency. And of course that makes sense: You weigh the security aspects of a technical system against numerous other factors, including the importance of the program, and decide from the totality whether to launch.
There’s nothing in Fryer’s words even remotely hinting at an effort to spare the president “embarrassment.” Issa appears to have made that up out of whole cloth.
But he didn’t stop there. He suggested to CBS that the healthcare.gov website exposed virtually the entire government to hacking. “Remember, Sharyl, this is not about your application being compromised. This is a system, exchange and portal, that lets me go into the Department of Homeland Security, lets me go into the IRS … Social Security. Think about what’s at Social Security, what’s at IRS, what’s at Department of Homeland Security. That’s the vulnerability.”
Is that so? A flaw in a healthcare enrollment website that could let hackers in on our most precious government secrets? Let’s agree that if this were true, it would be huge. But once again, Issa has absolutely no evidence that it’s remotely true. If he had it, he would shout it from the rooftops, and he’d be right to do so. He wouldn’t slink around in the dark to a news show and slip it into the conversation with a credulous reporter.
CBS plainly knows Issa was blowing smoke. . .
Aha! So reporters are not fooled! They just don’t give a shit.
“60 Minutes” seems to have turned into a program for hire sort of thing. First there was the fraudulent “reporting” from Lara Logan on her complete misunderstanding of what happened—apparently a willful misunderstanding, since there were clear indications that the story was bogus.
And now the special “60 Minutes” informercial for the NSA. TechDirt has a good report under the title “CBS Airs NSA Propaganda Informercial Masquerading As ‘Hard Hitting’ 60 Minutes Journalism By Reporter With Massive Conflict Of Interest“. The TechDirt article begins:
Last night I started seeing a bunch of folks on Twitter absolutely trashing 60 Minutes. We had mentioned last week that 60 Minutes would be doing something about the NSA, including the revelation that some NSA officials favored granting Snowden asylum, and that Keith Alexander ridiculously stated that people should be held accountable for their actions — without recognizing the irony of that statement when pointed at himself. What we didn’t realize was that the episode of 60 Minutes would be a complete propaganda infomercial for the NSA. Among the many, many, many issues with the program:
- The reporting was conducted by John Miller, a former intelligence community official (who worked for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the NSA) in a spokesperson role and a variety of historical roles in the intelligence community. While he does “disclose” the ODNI role upfront (but not the others), he left out that he’s about to be hired in an intelligence role for the NYPD, a deal that has been described as “a 99.44 percent done deal.” Also, in the past, when he also worked for the NYPD, he had a bit of a problem with telling the truth. Miller is, clearly, an intelligence industry spokesperson at heart, pretending to be a journalist here.
- There was not a single hard hitting question asked throughout. It was all softballs. Seriously. Many of the setup questions were the same bogus strawmen we’ve seen the NSA focus on in the past — concerning things like “is the NSA listening to everyone’s calls.” But that isn’t what people are actually concerned about. At no point did they appear to even attempt to ask followup questions when the NSA people made clearly misleading statements, such as thoseconcerning the surveillance of “US persons.”
- Not a single critic of the NSA was shown during the entire episode. Seriously. Not a single claim by the NSA was refuted or pushed back on. At all. Basically, Miller served up softballs, the NSA hit ‘em back, and the “investigative journalists” at 60 Minutes said, “Wow, isn’t that amazing!”
- They admit that they did this piece because the NSA “invited them in.” In other words, this was purely a propaganda piece from the very outset. The most hysterical thing to watch is the “overtime” bit that they have on the website in which they explain how 60 Minutes got to do this story on the NSA, which reveals that basically the NSA asked them to do this puff piece and then controlled every second of the process. There are even a few outtakes where the NSA “handlers” cut off parts of interviews to tell people what to say.
- Miller claims he spoke to NSA critics and asked them what they would ask, but that’s not reflected in the questioning at all. He then defends the piece saying that his goal was to let the NSA explain its side of the story, which he argues wasn’t getting enough attention. Seriously.
Because this is really the side of the story that has been mined only in the most superficial ways. We’ve heard plenty from the critics. We’ve heard a lot from Edward Snowden. Where there’s been a distinctive shortage is, putting the NSA to the test and saying not just ‘We called for comment today’ but to get into the conversation and say that sounds a lot like spying on Americans, and then say, ‘Well, explain that.’”
Try not to laugh at that. He even claims that he didn’t want it to be a puff piece — which is exactly what it was.
- The one big “revelation” in the piece involves NSA people implying, but never actually saying, how they stopped some sort of plot to turn everyone’s computers into bricks by infecting the BIOS. But, as lots of people who actually understand this stuff are noting, that segment was pure gibberish:
There are no technical details. Yes, they talk about “BIOS”, but it’s redundant, unrelated to their primary claim. Any virus/malware can destroy the BIOS, making a computer unbootable, “bricking” it. There’s no special detail here. All they are doing is repeating what Wikipedia says about BIOS, acting as techie talk layered onto the discussion to make it believable, much like how Star Trek episodes talk about warp cores and Jeffries Tubes.
Stripped of techie talk, this passage simply says “The NSA foiled a major plot, trust us.” But of course, there is no reason we should trust them. It’s like how the number of terrorist plots foiled by telephone eavesdropping started at 50 then was reduced to 12 then to 2 and then to 0, as the NSA was forced to justify their claims under oath instead of in front of news cameras. The NSA has proven itself an unreliable source for such information — we can only trust them if they come out with more details — under oath.
Moreover, they don’t even say what they imply. It’s all weasel-words. Nowhere in the above passage does a person from the NSA say “we foiled a major cyber terror plot”. Instead, it’s something you piece together by the name “BIOS plot”, cataclysmic attacks on our economy (from the previous segment), and phrases like “would it have worked”.
- Part of the piece, bizarrely, focused on . . .
Too bad about “60 Minutes.” Probably they should retire the program at this point. It has been hopelessly compromised: who will trust their reporting now?