Last week, I preemptively noted that conservatives thinking about using the shuttering of Air America to argue that there is no market for liberal media should keep two things in mind: That they cannot simultaneously argue that the establishment media is liberal and that there is no market for liberal media, and that conservative news outlets like Fox News and the Washington Times benefited from massive subsidies from their right-wing billionaire owners.
Over at Big Journalism (last seen accidentally attacking its sibling site, Big Government), Billy Hallowell calls my post "vapid," while demonstrating an unwillingness or inability to understand the written word. I'll get to that in a second.
First, Hallowell insists that CBS and the New York Times are in fact "biased" in favor of liberals:
First and foremost, research backs up the notion that outlets like CBS News and the New York Times are biased ...
Hallowell links no such "research," so here's some he should read over: New York Times | CBS. Then he should consider the Times' disparate treatment of Al Gore and George W. Bush in 2000, and the paper's role in the rush to war in Iraq -- among many, many other shortcomings. And CBS ... Well, CBS anchor Bob Schieffer is a longtime friend of Bush's -- Schieffer's brother was a Bush business partner, later given an ambassadorship by Bush -- who has regularly opined in favor of Bush and harshly condemned Democrats. Again: among many, many other examples.
...but even if there were no scholarship to corroborate this notion, Foser's argument makes little sense. Most conservatives aren't claiming that liberal media outlets can't succeed (though the left has had a tough time pushing unabashedly liberal outlets to the top); they're making the case that liberal radio, absent public monies, cannot stand on its own. Those are two very different ideals.
OK ... but I was addressing the first of those "two very different ideals." So I'm not really sure what Hallowell thinks he's proving by saying my post doesn't apply to people it wasn't addressed to.
Additionally, Foser's statement that The Washington Times has lost money for decades is a silly corroborative comment. Tell me Mr. Foser, how many newspapers are posting record profits these days?
Got that? It's no big deal that The Washington Times has always lost money because other newspapers are currently losing money. Hallowell doesn't know the difference between a newspaper whose massive losses have been subsidized for every minute of its existence and newspapers that are currently facing financial difficulties as the entire industry undergoes massive transformation. And he thinks my post was "vapid"!
There's a bunch of other nonsense in there, in which Hallowell argues with things he imagines I wrote. For example, Hallowell is just furious at my non-existent statement that Rupert Murdoch's payments to cable carriers were a "moral problem." I wrote nothing of the kind -- I didn't criticize the payments on any grounds, moral or otherwise -- and can only conclude that Billy Hallowell either can't read or enjoys lying. Either way, it seems best to leave it at that.
I noted yesterday that, having relentlessly touted (supposedly) favorable Sarah Palin poll numbers -- and having distorted them to make them appear more favorable -- Los Angeles Times reporter Andrew Malcolm has been ignoring poll results that are quite unfavorable for the former half-term governor of Alaska:
What do you call someone who regularly touts poll numbers that make a political figure look good, distorts those poll numbers to make the political figure look even better, and completely ignores poll numbers that make that political figure look bad? Oh, yeah: Andrew Malcolm (R-CA).
Well, now Malcolm -- a former Bush press secretary -- has responded to me: "well i sure hope so. about time. Who said anything about impartial on a blog? thanks for the link!-A"
So, Malcolm's response to evidence that he's blatantly shilling for Sarah Palin -- distorting poll numbers in her favor when possible, and ignoring them when it isn't -- is "Who said anything about impartial." Good to know.
This morning, Fox & Friends reported that Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee, responded to President Obama's call for a three-year freeze on non-national security discretionary spending by stating, "Given Washington Democrats' unprecedented spending binge, this is like announcing you're going on a diet after winning a pie-eating contest."
Dana Milbank wants a debt commission, but doesn't expect to get one:
The debt commission is expected to be voted down Tuesday morning, as foes on the far left and the far right unite to form a status quo supermajority.
I'm not sure I've ever seen a columnist suggest that a "supermajority" holds extremist political positions, but I suppose it's possible, as long as you view "far left" and "far right" as absolute descriptions of positions on a theoretical political spectrum, rather than descriptions of distances from the mainstream.
So who is the "far left" in Dana Milbank's world? Take a look:
On the left, the AFL-CIO, the NAACP, MoveOn.org and other groups redoubled their opposition, even as President Obama gave the commission his last-minute endorsement on Saturday.
I guess someone's been watching Fox News.
You might assume the New York Times -- perhaps the world's most prestigious newspaper -- is capable of producing a news report that would clearly explain the health care reform situation. If today's effort by David Herszenhorn, Robert Pear, and Sheryl Gay Stolberg is any indication, you'd be wrong. The article confuses as much as it clarifies, gives undue weight to Republican attacks, and fails to properly explain the hypocrisy of those attacks.
In the lede, the Times reports that Democrats are trying to "advance the bill despite the loss of their 60-vote majority in the Senate." That phrasing could lead many readers to conclude that Democrats no longer hold a majority in the Senate, rather than that they have simply lost their supermajority. In order to understand that the Times' phrasing does not mean "loss of their majority," readers have to be aware of the significance of 60 votes. (Think about it: Would a newspaper ever report that a party that went from 54 to 53 Senate seats "lost its 54 seat majority"? No; anyone reading "lost its 54 seat majority" would understand that to mean "lost its majority.")
I know, I know. Some of you probably think everybody knows you need 60 votes to do anything in the Senate, so everyone will understand that this simply means Democrats have simply lost their supermajority. Oh yeah? Take a look at this (via Atrios):
That's the front page of a Philadelphia newspaper. If the professional journalists who produced that paper think Democrats have lost their majority, are you still sure New York Times readers will understand that "loss of their 60-vote majority" does not mean "loss of their majority"? All of them?
In paragraph two, the Times reports:
The maneuver, known as budget reconciliation, could allow President Obama and his party to muscle the legislation through Congress with a simple majority vote in the Senate. But it carries numerous risks, including the possibility of a political backlash against what Republicans would be sure to cast as parliamentary trickery.
OK. Several problems here.
First, this phrasing suggests the entire health care reform package would be passed via reconciliation, which is false. Readers don't learn until four paragraphs later that reconciliation would simply be used to amend some provisions of the health care bill that has already passed the Senate.
Second, "muscle the legislation through Congress with a simple majority" describes majority rule as some sort of strong-arm tactic.
Third, "parliamentary trickery" is a completely bogus description of reconciliation. There's no "trickery" about it whatsoever. If the Times wanted to preview Republican attacks in a straightforward way, they could have cast the use of reconciliation as "unusual" rather than "trickery." More to the point: Those Republican complaints will ring hollow, given that the GOP has used reconciliation to pass legislation when it controlled the Senate. Thirteen paragraphs later the Times article finally gets around to noting in passing that Republicans "occasionally used the tactic when they were in the majority." That's woefully inadequate, as it fails to make clear the GOP used the tactic to pass hugely significant and contentious measures like budget-busting tax cuts and opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.
But even that weak indication that the GOP criticisms are hypocritical came after the Times passed along another Republican attack:
Republicans, however, have made clear that they will portray Mr. Obama and Democrats as trying to use a hardball tactic to win passage of the health care legislation.
"Less than a week after the Massachusetts special election, the Obama administration is vowing to 'stay the course' and double down on the same costly, job-killing policies that are leaving America's middle-class families and small businesses high and dry," said the House Republican leader, Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio.
Though the Times quoted Boehner criticizing the substance of health care reform, it omitted any quote or paraphrase of any Democrat or other reform advocate praising reform, or criticizing Republican obstruction.
Two paragraphs later, the Times reported:
In the meantime, aides have been trying to devise a process by which the Senate could make changes to its health bill on a reconciliation measure even before the House voted on the Senate-passed health bill. Some lawmakers said House Democrats might have to vote first.
The Times did not indicate whether "some lawmakers" said that because there are procedural reasons why the House has to go first, or because there are political reasons why they want the House to go first. The Times reporters give no indication that they realize there is a pretty big difference between those things.
If this is the best the Times can do, it's no wonder the public has had such a poor understanding of health care reform.
There are many things wrong with Ben McGrath's Tea Party valentine in this week's New Yorker, which goes out of its way to whitewash the divisiveness and hate that fuels much of the movement. (Instead, "Inclusiveness was the point" of the movement, McGrath stresses.)
But this part is really inexcusable, as the New Yorker plays dumb about the crowd estimates for last September's rally in Washington, D.C. [emphasis added]:
Politics is ultimately a numbers game, and the natural excitement surrounding 9.12 drove crowd estimates upward, from an early lowball figure of sixty thousand, reported by ABC News, into the hundreds of thousands and across the million mark, eventually nearing two million--an upper limit of some significance, because 1.8 million was the figure commonly reported in mainstream or "state-run" media outlets as the attendance at President Obama's Inauguration. "There are more of us than there are of them, and we know the truth," one of the Kentucky organizers, who had carpooled to D.C. with a couple of co-workers from an auto-parts warehouse, told me. The fact that the mainstream media generally declined to acknowledge the parallel, regarding the marchers as a loud and motley long tail of disaffection, and not a silent majority, only hardened their resolve.
Are you kidding me? According to the New Yorker, the "mainstream media" declined to acknowledge that 1.8 million people showed up at the Tea Party rally? Might that be because 1.8 million people didn't show up and that number was pure fantasy, whipped up by the likes of Michelle Malkin and Glenn Beck. Or, to put it another way, the press didn't report the 1.8 million number because it was off the mark by 1.7 million.
Faced with one of the Tea Party's truly monumental falsehoods (1.8 million marched on Washington!), the New Yorker, rather that highlighting the fictional streak that runs through the movement, instead treats the 1.8 million number as legit and seems to scold the "mainstream media" for not reporting the number. A number the Tea Party folks made up, which the New Yorker never makes clear.
UPDATED: Notice how ABC News reported the "lowball" figure of 60,000, according to the magazine. But that makes no sense because that 60,000 crowd estimate came from Washington, D.C.'s fire department. Meaning, it wasn't a "lowball" estimate. It was the official estimate. The other, larger numbers were simply fabricated.
The New Yorker leaves that part out, though.
In a January 25, 2010 New York Times article, Kate Zernike writes:
A Tea Party convention billed as the coming together of the grass-roots groups that began sprouting up around the country a year ago is unraveling as sponsors and participants pull out to protest its expense and express concerns about "profiteering."
The convention's difficulties highlight the fractiousness of the Tea Party groups, and the considerable suspicions among their members of anything that suggests the establishment.
The convention, to be held in Nashville in early February, made a splash by attracting big-name politicians. (Former Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska is scheduled to deliver the keynote speech.) But some groups have criticized the cost -- $549 per ticket and a $9.95 fee, plus hotel and airfare -- as out of reach for the average tea partier. And they have balked at Ms. Palin's speaking fee, which news reports have put at $100,000, a figure that organizers will not confirm or deny.
The article also quotes Philip Glass, national director of the National Precinct Alliance, on his concerns regarding the Tea Party Nation. The National Precinct Alliance, described on its website as "a constitutionally conservative organization," has reportedly withdrawn from the Tea Party convention:
"We are very concerned about the appearance of T.P.N. profiteering and exploitation of the grass-roots movement," [Philip Glass] said in a statement. "We were under the impression that T.P.N. was a nonprofit organization like N.P.A., interested only in uniting and educating Tea Party activists on how to make a real difference in the political arena."