Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for September 9th, 2008

Another media failure: the “drill for oil” story

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James Hrynyshyn has a good post on this media failure. It begins:

Polls show that most Americans want to drill here and drill now. Why? Because the television media haven’t told them just how stupid an idea that really is. That’s the conclusion of a study by a group called the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a relatively independent economic think tank. The authors point out that there’s a perfectly reliable source, in the form of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Agency, that predicts that drilling on the outer continental shelf (OCS) will have little impact if any, on oil prices any time soon.

And yet, a survey of broadcast and cable network programming found that:

… out of 267 news programs between June 16th and August 9th, in major media outlets on this subject, there was only one, or less than one half of one percent, that cited the EIA’s estimate that the increased oil production would not significantly affect gasoline prices.

Here’s a relevant excerpt from the 2007 EIA study that got a single mention (on CNN): …

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Written by LeisureGuy

9 September 2008 at 3:39 pm

Posted in Media

Like outsourcing the military worked…

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The problem with outsourcing operations, as all know who have tried it, is that you have to create and maintain a structure to monitor the outsourced operation, providing oversight and quality checks. We have seen the failures of outsourcing to Halliburton, KBR, and Blackwater. But the GOP loves to give contracts (and taxpayer money) to campaign contributor’s companies, regardless of how terribly the companies do the work. ThinkProgress reports that Bush is still at it:

In June — after months of kicking and screaming — President Bush finally signed a war supplemental spending bill that included a doubling of GI Bill college benefits for veterans.

Bush’s Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), however, doesn’t seem too happy about the increased work these new benefits will create and plans to outsource it all. Last month, VA Secretary James Peake wrote to the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) union announcing the plan. From Peake’s letter, obtained by ThinkProgress:

The challenges of creating the procedures and systems to support a new program and ensuring accurate and timely benefit payments under this new program effective August 1, 2009, will tax VA’s resources. … Therefore, the decision has been made to seek private-sector support to implement this new program.

The government wants to automate all GI Bill requests and is looking to hire a private contractor to set up such a system. AFGE is condemning this decision, which would dump the expertise of 850 government employees who are able to process a veteran’s request for GI benefits within 20 days.

The VA is arguing that with this new outsourcing plan, benefits could be processed in minutes. Veterans advocates point to the Bush administration’s abysmal record in hiring contractors who have no expertise in the area they’re hired to work:

Marty Conatser, American Legion: “Our newest generation of veterans deserve the benefits administered by the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, not outside contractors. Patients, critics and most media all cite the outstanding job the VA is doing. Outsourcing is not the answer.”

Rick Weidman, Vietnam Veterans of America: “If anything goes wrong, I’ll tell you what’ll happen, and it’s what always happens in these instances, is they’ll say, ‘Well, it’s not our job, it’s the VA’s.’ And the VA will say, ‘We can’t do anything, it’s contracted out. It’s the contractor’s job.’ And that is baloney. The problem isn’t the troops; the problem is the leadership.”

Rep. Harry Mitchell (D-AZ): “I just cannot believe that we’d ever allow this to happen. The level of service won’t be the same.”

So far, the Bush administration has treated this contracting process like it has so many others — with secrecy. As NPR reported today, the VA has so far “handpicked only a small number of companies to compete for the contract, and so far, officials won’t even reveal the companies’ names.”

Perhaps this move by the Bush administration is intended to take the agency one step closer to McCain’s dream of privatized veterans health care?

Written by LeisureGuy

9 September 2008 at 3:36 pm

Will the media sit out the campaign?

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That is, just rely on “he said/she said,” with no fact-checking? There are some encouraging signs, but then you get things like this, reported by Steve Benen:

CNN had a segment this morning about Sarah Palin lying on her opposition to the Bridge to Nowhere, but instead of delving into the McCain campaign’s apparent inability to tell the truth, CNN’s John Roberts asked why Barack Obama is having trouble making the truth “stick.”

It was an unusually inane question, which Paul Begala handled very, very well.

“Because the press won’t do its job, John….. It is the media’s job when a politician flat out lies like she’s doing on this bridge to nowhere so call her on it. Or this matter of earmarks where she’s attacking Barack Obama for having earmarks, when she was the mayor of little Wasilla, Alaska, 6,000 people, she hired a lobbyist who was connected to Jack Abramoff, who is a criminal, and they brought home $27 million in earmarks. She carried so much pork home she got trichinosis. But we in the media are letting her tell lies about her record.”

At that point, Roberts did what CNN tends to do — turn to a Republican to offer a competing side to the truth. In this case, Alex Castellanos said the media should be “a little gentle” with Sarah Palin’s obviously false claims. “The amazing thing about Sarah Palin is when she became governor she actually stood up and said no” to federal pork, he said.

So, again, Begala tried to set the record straight.

“That’s just not true. You know, John, the facts matter. There’s lots of things that are debatable who is more qualified or less experienced or more this or more passionate, whatever. It is a fact that she campaigned and supported that bridge to nowhere. It is a fact that she hired lobbyists to get earmarks. It is a fact that as governor she lobbies for earmarks. Her state is essentially a welfare state taking money from the federal government.”

Roberts wrapped up the segment, concluding, “We still have 56 days to talk about this back and forth.”

But therein lies the point. The nation doesn’t need 56 days of “back and forth.” We don’t need 56 seconds of “back and forth.” There’s an objective truth here, and CNN, as a neutral, independent news source, is supposed to tell viewers what the facts are.

But CNN can’t do that, because reality has a well known liberal bias. If Roberts conceded that Begala was telling the truth about demonstrable facts, then he’d be “taking sides.” For a media figure to acknowledge that a candidate for national office is lying shamelessly would be wholly unacceptable — it would break with the “balance” between competing arguments.

The viewer at home hears one side, then the other. Who’s right? That’s not CNN’s problem. If viewers wants to hear an argument, they can turn to CNN. If viewers wants to know which side of the argument is right, they can look elsewhere.

Which is precisely why candidates for national office feel comfortable lying shamelessly in the first place.

And which is why the candidate telling the truth can’t get the story to “stick.”

And Glenn Greenwald in his column today discusses another particularly clear case of the media ducking its responsibilities. This one is really worth reading. It begins:

Yesterday, The Atlantic‘s campaign reporter Marc Ambinder and Matt Yglesias had a somewhat disagreeable exchange about the role journalists play in constructing campaign narratives, and specifically how journalists have been enabling the McCain campaign to tell one demonstrable lie after the next with no repercussions. Though I was off peacefully minding my own business at the time, my good name was brutally dragged into their confrontation in a way that raises several important points worth examining.

The exchange began when …

Written by LeisureGuy

9 September 2008 at 3:33 pm

Questions for Palin from the Anchorage Daily News

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There’s no polite way to say it: Sarah Palin has been hiding out from hard questions. It took 10 days from when John McCain announced his pick until the McCain campaign agreed to schedule Palin an unscripted interview with a serious journalist….

Update: Here’s the full editorial from the Anchorage Daily News:

There’s no polite way to say it: Sarah Palin has been hiding out from hard questions. It took 10 days from when John McCain announced his pick until the McCain campaign agreed to schedule Palin an unscripted interview with a serious journalist.

ABC landed the big “get” with Palin. She’ll talk to Charlie Gibson of ABC News later this week.

McCain’s camp has handled their vice-presidential pick like some celebrity who will only deign to give an interview if conditions are favorable. McCain campaign manager Rick Davis told Fox News Sunday, Palin would take questions “when we think it’s time and when she feels comfortable doing it.”

Palin has accused Barack Obama of being a me-first celebrity candidate for president. At least he has been facing media questions for the past 18 months.

Here are some of the questions Palin should be answering, for Alaskans and the rest of the country:

— You present yourself as a Republican maverick who took on your own party’s corrupt political establishment. In November’s election, your party is running an indicted U.S. Senator, Ted Stevens, who is awaiting trial on charges he accepted more than $250,000 of unreported gifts from the state’s most powerful lobbyist. Will you vote for his opponent? Will you urge Alaskans to help you change Washington and vote him out of office? If not, why not?

— Sen. Ted Stevens’ trial is still pending; he has declined to say whether he would accept a pardon from President Bush before Bush leaves office in January. Do Alaska voters deserve an answer to that question before they cast their vote for or against Stevens in November? What is your position on a president pardoning a public official before a jury has ruled on guilt or innocence?

— Alaska Congressman Don Young appears to have won his Republican primary, even though you endorsed his opponent. Will you vote for your fellow Republican Don Young, who has spent over $1 million on legal fees without telling his constituents what sort of legal trouble he is in?

— Why have you reneged on your earlier pledge to cooperate with the Alaska Legislature’s investigation into Troopergate?

— In spring of 2004, the Anchorage Daily News reported that you cited family considerations in deciding not to try for the U.S. Senate: “How could I be the team mom if I was a U.S. senator?” What was different this time as you decided to run for vice president?

— As governor of Alaska, you have not pushed for laws or regulations that put your personal views on abortion, same-sex marriage and creationism into public policy. As vice president, will you push to outlaw abortion, restrict same-sex marriage and require the teaching of creationism?

— If you were a fully qualified vice-presidential candidate from the get-go, why did you wait more than 10 days to face reporters?

— McCain spokesman Rick Davis told Fox News the media didn’t show you enough “deference.” How much deference do you expect to get from Vladimir Putin or Hugo Chavez?

— You have said victory is in sight in Iraq. In July 2007, when you visited Kuwait, you said, “I’m not going to judge the surge.” In the March 2007 issue of Alaska Business Monthly, you were asked about the surge and were quoted saying:

“I’ve been so focused on state government, I haven’t really focused much on the war in Iraq. . . . While I support our president, Condoleezza Rice and the administration, I want to know that we have an exit plan in place.”

Define “victory” in Iraq? What is the exit plan?

BOTTOM LINE: The nation deserves to hear Palin’s unfiltered answers to serious questions.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 September 2008 at 3:13 pm

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Media

Wall Street sank Fannie and Freddie

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Interesting article by Dean Starkman in the Columbia Journalism Review. It begins:

My only quibble with the gusher of stories this morning on the government’s takeover on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is my usual one—ahistoricism.

Reading all this, one gets the impression that those politically protected mortgage buyers and fee machines caused the global credit crisis.

They didn’t.

The fact is: Wall Street sank Freddie and Fannie, not the other way around.

It was only a few years ago, during the heyday of the housing bubble, that these government-sponsored enterprises were elbowed aside by Wall Street, which was busy furiously shoveling money to the Countrywides, New Centurys, Ameriquests, and other bucket shops that provided the rotten mortgages that were the raw material Wall Street repackaged and foisted onto return-hungry global bond markets.

This Credit Suisse report (from March 2007 and eerily prescient) reminds us that the government sponsored entities’ share of the overall new mortgage market had fallen to 42 percent by the end of 2006 before shooting up to 76 percent at the end of 2007 (on their way toward 90 percent now) as the market collapsed.

And that’s the overall market. As Paul Krugman points out, a “subprime borrower is basically someone whose credit wasn’t good enough to qualify for a Fannie- or Freddie-backed mortgage”. The subprime market&the really toxic stuff—was always dominated by Wall Street and Wall Street-backed lenders.

According to Bloomberg’s tally, bank write-offs from the subprime and credit calamity have now passed $500 billion.

As I argue in the current print edition of the Columbia Journalism Review, the business press has largely missed …

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Written by LeisureGuy

9 September 2008 at 3:02 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

Tasty lunch

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In a nonstick skillet: Two slices of bacon, cut into pieces and sautéed until brown. Drain fat, add one fresh green chile, seeded and chopped. When the chile is done, add two eggs and stir some and turn over. Then grated sharp chedder and cook until the chedder melts. Extremely tasty. And now time for a walk.

UPDATE: Back from walk. It’s overcast and cool, so I took my full-length walk—all the way to the PG PO and back: 1 hour 13 minutes (and 35 seconds, technically). I made two stops: library (for movies) and supermarket (for more Brussels sprouts), but I stopped my stopwatch during the stops so that time is not counted.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 September 2008 at 1:04 pm

Posted in Daily life

Fundamental GOP tenets: Creationism and Climate-Change Denial

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Ezra Klein is exactly right:

Dana has an interesting article about urbanism at the RNC. “The Republican National Convention,” she reports, “[was] swarming with people who say climate change is unrelated to human activity. Like evolution, many social conservatives will tell you, global warming is ‘just a theory’ advanced by secular intellectuals, and so requires no urgent action.”

There’s no real way to phrase this such that it doesn’t sound wildly partisan, but two of the emotionally resonant beliefs that many on the right pour a lot of time and energy into require a genuine hostility to empiricism. They require you to believe propositions that, based on the current evidence, are inarguably untrue. This isn’t the case for the most forms of supply siderism (at the extreme level it’s generally just very dishonest) or the opposition to universal health care or the desire to restrict choice. But creationism in schools and the willful effort to ignore the evidence on man-made climate change are in a category unto themselves. And most all Republican politicians have to evince, at the least, a deep sympathy for these positions, and many soak in applause from forthrightly echoing them. I can think of some unpopular, and maybe even unwise, beliefs that afflict the left, but I can’t really think of anything in the same category of proud, even aggressive, know-nothingism.

I believe that ignoring reality is extremely hazardous, with a near certainty that the denial will eventually collapse in the face of events and that in the meantime great damage will have been done. In a word, denial of reality is not sustainable.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 September 2008 at 12:07 pm

Posted in GOP

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