Blog

  • Has Jack Shafer ever watched MSNBC?

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Slate's Jack Shafer has a brutal take-down of Cokie Roberts' "on-air blather about politics, the economy, and world events with whichever unlucky Morning Edition host has drawn the short straw." Here's Shafer's basic point:

    I can think of no comparably sized media space that's as void of original insight and information as Roberts'. Her segments, though billed as "analysis" by NPR, do little but speed-graze the headlines and add a few grace notes. If you're vaguely conversant with current events, you're already cruising at Roberts' velocity. Roberts doesn't just voice the conventional wisdom; she is the convention wisdom.

    I don't really disagree with anything Shafer has to say about Roberts -- except his strange belief that there's something unique about a political analysis segment that consists of nothing more than banal and predictable observations. Roberts is the rule, not the exception.

  • Andrew Malcolm, fashion critic

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Andrew Malcolm, who was press secretary for the previous First Lady before becoming a blogger for the Los Angeles Times, is trying to create trouble for the current First Lady:

    Fashionable First Lady Michelle Obama helps the poor in $540 sneakers

    Oops!

    First Lady Michelle Obama, who's become quite the fashion role model with her J.Crew wear and buff-arm-spotlighting sleeveless frocks, is under scrutiny for what she wore on her feet the other day.

    They're trendy Lanvin sneakers. Which look really nice and comfy and all. Trouble is, they cost $540. If you can find a pair anywhere.

    And, of course, if you've got $540, plus -- what? -- 9 or 10% tax in some places. Which seems like a lot for two shoes not guaranteed to benefit your jump shot.

    The other trouble is that -- wait for it -- she wore them to a poverty event, a Capitol Area Food Bank for Feeding America to provide much appreciated help and publicity to benefit the food bank.

    Mrs. Obama also has gone to serve a lunch hour at soup kitchens in Washington, where an unidentified presumably homeless person showed up with a camera cellphone to capture Mrs. Obama, who kindly posed for the man.

    (That last line links to a previous Malcolm post in which he did his best Rush Limbaugh imitation in questioning whether a homeless person could have a cell phone.)

    Malcolm's post continues a long tradition of media trying to undermine efforts by progressives to help the poor and middle class by pointing out that the progressives in question are not personally poor.

    But Malcolm wasn't content merely harping on Michelle Obama's footwear. He tried to claim a double-standard, too:

    Sharp-memoried politics readers will recall all the positive attention Mrs. Obama garnered during the presidential campaign for her everyday, every-woman $150 dresses from Black & White Market.

    While Cindy McCain, John's wealthy wife, and some woman from Alaska both attracted negative attention for their expensive clothing, some of it reputedly borrowed.

    (FYI, Michelle Obama is a Democrat. The other two women are Republicans. But what could that have to do with anything?)

    Sarah Palin attracked negative attention for going on a shopping spree with donor money, running up hundreds of thousands of dollars in clothing purchases. Cindy McCain wore an outfit to the Republican National Convention that was worth more than the average house. So those situations were a little different.

    Besides which, the idea that there's a double-standard in covering political figures' wealth that works against Republicans is something only a former Republican press secretary could dream up.

  • Greenwald responds to Accuracy in Media's Kincaid

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    A few weeks ago, Salon.com's Glenn Greenwald received an "Izzy" Award from the Park Center for Independent Media – congrats to him on the accomplishment. Well, as FireDogLake's Jane Hamsher notes, the award sparked an email to Greenwald from Accuracy in Media's Cliff Kinkaid:

    Sent: Monday, May 4, 2009 9:10:55 AM GMT -02:00 Mid-Atlantic
    Subject: Your "Izzy" Award

    Mr. Greenwald:

    It has come to our attention that on March 31 you accepted an "Izzy" Award from the Park Center for Independent Media, named for I.F. "Izzy" Stone. You called Stone an "independent" journalist.

    However, as you must know, I.F. Stone has been exposed as a Soviet agent. This identification is based on information in the Venona World War II-era Soviet spy cables that a Soviet intelligence officer named Vladimir Pravdin had recruited I.F. Stone but that Stone had to be paid. Now, the May issue of Commentary is reporting additional evidence. See http://www.commentarymagazine.com/viewarticle.cfm/special-preview--i-f--stone--soviet-agent-case-closed-15120

    I am preparing a story about Stone and would like your comments and about receiving an award named for a Soviet agent. Are you considering disavowing or giving back the award?

    Thank you in advance.

    Cliff Kincaid, Accuracy in Media

    Greenwald's response speaks for itself:

    Sent: Monday, May 4, 2009 9:33:54 AM GMT -02:00 Mid-Atlantic
    Subject: Re: Your "Izzy" Award

    Two of the most extremist and discredited entities in the United States are Commentary Magazine and Accuracy in Media. Someone who is smeared by those two groups immediately has their credibility enhanced. Don't you have Barack Obama's birth certificate to hunt down and Hillary Clinton's sex life to sniff around in?

    Izzy Stone was one of the only journalists in America to challenge the government's lies about the Gulf of Tonkin incident, to oppose the Vietnam War from the start, and to relentlessly highlight the pernicious poison of the McCarthyite witch hunts, which are alive and well in the marginalized and irrelevant fringes of the Right, such as Commentary and AIM.

    There is much dispute about what Stone thought in the 1940s and early 1950s, but what is not in dispute is that in one of his earliest newsletters, he wrote: "Whatever the consequences, I have to say what I really feel after seeing the Soviet Union and carefully studying the statements of its leading officials, this is not a good society and it is not led by honest men" and "nothing has happened in Russia to justify cooperation abroad between the independent left and the Communists." Those anti-Soviet statements resulted in the loss of numerous previous supporters, a courageous stance that dishonest propaganda rags like Commentary would never take.

    A publication with some actual credibility, Columbia Journalism Review, conducted a comprehensive review of the evidence and thoroughly debunked these falsehoods.

    The fact that Stone is being smeared by the likes of the consummately chicken-hawk, nepotistic, bloodthirsty Podhoretz family and the truly deranged, sex-obsessed, conspiracy-monger Cliff Kincaid will make me place my Izzy Award on an even more prominent shelf in my office.

    Glenn Greenwald

  • Note to media: Lindsey Graham is not a "moderate"

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    It's amazing how many Republican-friendly false assumptions Time's Jay Newton-Small can pack into one blog post.

    On Friday, Newton-Small noted that under Senate Judiciary Committee rules, "one minority vote is needed to report out nominees to the bench" -- and that, with Arlen Specter leaving the GOP, it may have just gotten a bit harder to get a Republican vote to report out a Supreme Court nominee.

    Here's where things begin to go off the rails:

    The current Republican Judiciary Committee members are: Orrin Hatch, Chuck Grassley, Jon Kyl, Jeff Sessions, Lindsey Graham, John Cornyn, and Tom Coburn (Roll Call is reporting that Hatch or Session -- both conservatives -- are Specter's potential successors for the ranking slot). Most of these Republicans are pretty conservative save Graham, who was a member of the Gang of 14 which, you may remember, came up with the solution to avoid the nuclear option on judges.

    Lindsey Graham may speak in a soothing voice, and he may make the Villager-friendly noises about "bipartisanship" that made John McCain so popular among reporters (if not among actual voters.) But Lindsey Graham is actually quite conservative. More on that later.

    In the comments section, Newton-Small wrote that the need for a minority vote will only be an issue if President Obama nominates an "uber liberal":

    this ... will only come into play if Obama appoints a uber liberal nominee -- some one the right goes to war on. The existence of the rule itself is a deterrent against such an appointment.

    Then, two minutes later - that isn't a figure of speech; it was literally two minutes - Newton-Small wrote:

    the right is also desperate for a fight. Look at how much they hyperventilated over Sebellius and Dawn Johnson -- hardly left wing nominees. They NEED it in terms of fundraising and morale.

    Now, wouldn't that seem to contradict the notion that only a "uber liberal nominee" would lead the right to "go to war"? Then again, so would basic common sense or a rudimentary knowledge of modern American politics. The Right has gone to war on everything for the past 16 years, at least.

    Time readers pointed this out to Newton-Small, and - to her credit - she acknowledged it in the comments section:

    Point taken. The 21 percenters will likely go to war with no matter whom Obama names. The question is: will the remaining few GOP Senate moderates like Lindsey Graham be coaxed into that war, and that's where the degree of liberalism of Obama's nominee comes into play. Get my drift?

    Wait. Now Lindsey Graham is a full-on "moderate"? Nonsense. Graham was the 16th most conservative member of the 110th Senate - and keep in mind, Senate Republicans are a pretty conservative bunch. Still, Graham's voting record placed him to the right of Pete Jeff Sessions (identified by Newton-Small as a "conservative" above) and Mitch McConnell and Trent Lott and Mike Crapo and Larry Craig and Saxby Chambliss and Sam Brownback and quite a few other Senators not often thought of as anything but staunchly conservative. And Graham's voting record was to the right of all of them.

    Well, maybe the 110th Senate was a fluke, you say? Nope. In the 109th, Graham had the 8th most conservative voting record. In the 108th, he had the 9th most conservative voting record. In the 107th, Graham was still in the House of Representatives - and compiled a voting record more conservative than Tom Delay's. (Above rankings can be found here.)

    Well, Time's readers - if not its reporters - understand that Lindsey Graham is no moderate, and they pointed that out. That led to Newton-Small defending her description of Graham as such:

    In a party of 21% -- yeah, he is a moderate. Especially on judicial issues, ie Gang of 14.

    Another way of looking at it might be that in a party of 21%, nobody is much of a moderate. But Newton-Small obviously means that relative to the rest of his party, Graham is a moderate. Fine. But that isn't true, as the vote rankings detailed above make clear.

    Well, it turns out that Newton-Small's evidence for Graham being a moderate pretty much boils down to his participation in the "Gang of 14." Here she is again:

    I do believe that in my post I say that everyone else on the committee is more conservative SAVE Graham and then cite the Gang of 14. I'm not making some blanket statement that Lindsey Graham is a moderate on every issue, just in the prism of of the judiciary committee. Let's all take a deep breath and focus on the topic at hand: the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    The current Republican Judiciary Committee members are: Orrin Hatch, Chuck Grassley, Jon Kyl, Jeff Sessions, Lindsey Graham, John Cornyn, and Tom Coburn (Roll Call is reporting that Hatch or Session -- both conservatives -- are Specter's potential successors for the ranking slot). Most of these Republicans are pretty conservative save Graham, who was a member of the Gang of 14 which, you may remember, came up with the solution to avoid the nuclear option on judges.

    It's true that Lindsey Graham has a (media-created) reputation for being relatively moderate. But in the real world, Lindsey Graham has cast actual votes in the actual Senate, and Lindsey Graham's actual voting record is to the right of Orrin Hatch's, to the right of Pete Jeff Sessions', and to the right of Chuck Grassley's.

    So that's the evidence that Lindsey Graham is not a moderate - he has a hard-line conservative voting record matched by few of his colleagues. What's the evidence that he is a moderate? Jay Newton-Small seems to think his membership in the "Gang of 14" is all that matters.

    Why on earth would anyone think being a member of that group automatically makes you a moderate? What did the Gang actually do? (I know: I'm being a stickler for reality rather than perception. I tend to think reality matters.) They eliminated the ability of Democrats to filibuster President Bush's judicial nominees, while maintaining their technical right to do so, thus ensuring the confirmation of right-wing judges like Janice Rogers Brown, Priscilla Owen, and Sam Alito. The effect of their actions was, depending on your point of view, either "very little" or "quite helpful to conservatives." (This is where someone will say that their actions prevented Republicans from exercising the nuclear option. That's just silly: their actions eliminated the reason why Republicans wanted to use it. It's like giving a robber your neighbor's television, then bragging that you stopped a burglary.)

    Ah, but there were both Democrats and Republicans in the group, and they made all the right noises about "cooperation" and the "spirit of bipartisanship," and that's all it really takes to get labeled "moderate," even if the effect of your actions is anything but.

  • WashTimes smears Arlen Specter

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Did it with an item headlined:

    Specter: GOP priorities contributed to Kemp death

    Smears from the Times in the wake of Specter decision to leave the GOP were to be expected. But I guess the stunning part is that the smear appears in a news article in which the Times seems to deliberately mislead readers about what Sen. Arlen Specter said on CBS' Face the Nation on Sunday. The Times' manufactured smear has now become a hit within the right-wing blogosphere (complete with a red headline at Drudge), as conservatives make fun of the heartless politician from Pennsylvania.

    Here's what the Times item claims:

    Mr. Specter, responding to a question from CBS's Bob Schieffer over whether he had let down Pennsylvanians who wanted a Republican to represent them, said he felt his priorities were more in line with those of the Democrats.

    "Well, I was sorry to disappoint many people. Frankly, I was disappointed that the Republican Party didn't want me as their candidate," Mr. Specter said on CBS's "Face the Nation." "But as a matter of principle, I'm becoming much more comfortable with the Democrats' approach. And one of the items that I'm working on, Bob, is funding for medical research."

    Mr. Specter continued: "If we had pursued what President Nixon declared in 1970 as the war on cancer, we would have cured many strains. I think Jack Kemp would be alive today. And that research has saved or prolonged many lives, including mine."

    Mr. Kemp passed away Saturday, after fighting with cancer. Mr. Kemp ran for the White House in 1996 with Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole.

    The smear is only visible if you go back and read/watch what Specter actually said on CBS and don't rely on the Times to tell you the truth. Because there was a whole section of Specter's Face the Nation answer that the Times skipped over; a section that made it clear that when Specter referenced "we," as in "if we had pursued," he was talking about Congress as a whole (and Congress for decades), not just Republicans, which obliterates the Times' gotcha angle that Arlen was blaming Republicans for Kemp's death.

    UPDATE: The Times headline got altered between Sunday and Monday. It now reads:

    Specter hints Kemp died of GOP agenda

    So now editors are hiding behind "hints" to justify their baseless attack on Specter. Stay classy WashTimes.

    UPDATE: Here's a clip of Specter's Face the Nation response, which the WashTimes seemed to purposefully mangle:

  • The Red Scare Index: 82

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    Here is today's daily Red Scare Index -- our search of CNN, CNN Headline News, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, MSNBC and CNBC for uses of the following terms: Socialism, Socialist, Socialists, Socialistic, Communism, Communist, Communists, Communistic, Marxism, Marxist, Marxists, Marxistic, Fascism, Fascist, Fascists and Fascistic.

    Here are the numbers for last Friday, May 1, 2009:

    TOTAL: 82
    Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 33
    Communism, Communist, Communistic: 44
    Marxism/Marxist: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 5

    By Network:

    CNN: 13
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 1
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 12
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 0

    CNN Headline News: 2
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 2
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 0
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 0

    Fox News Channel: 20
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 10
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 9
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 1

    Fox Business Network: 17
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 11
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 4
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 2

    MSNBC: 23
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 3
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 18
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 2

    CNBC: 7
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 6
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 1
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 0

    The above numbers are the result of a TVeyes.com power search for these terms on these networks.

  • The New York Times' misleading Obama/Chrysler report

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    The Times offers up some pretty shaky reporting with Monday's piece, headlined:

    Despite Obama's Talk, Little Bump for Chrysler Sales

    The Times stresses that in the wake of Obama's pro-Chrysler pep talk last week to the nation, in which he announced the car company was entering a government-backed bankruptcy of sorts, "few consumers were moved by the president's plea on Thursday to help Detroit's automakers by buying an American car."

    But readers quickly learn [emphasis added]:

    The president's sales pitch was cheered in Michigan and among Chrysler's 3,200 dealers. And the company said his speech did help sell 11,400 cars on Thursday.

    In fact, one dealership in California told the Times Thursday was the best sales day he'd had all year, which pretty much defeats the premise of the article, right? Not quite, because the newspaper suggests that that Thursday sales spike "could have been the inventory clearance that is typical for the last day of a month."

    Hmm, so Obama addressed the nation about Chrysler on Thursday and on Thursday Chrysler sold 11,400 cars, but the Times dismisses that as typical end-of-the-month sales activity. Seems suspect.

    But how many cars did Chrysler sell on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and wouldn't that be a good indicator of the success of Obama's talk? It would, but the Times has no idea how many cars were sold over the weekend. Or at least the Times does not report those figures. The only figures the Times provides--11,400 Chryslers sold on Thursday--suggest Obama's "talk" did help move lots of cars. But the article insists Chrysler's weekend sales activity was soft (no numbers provided), and that proves Obama's talk was a failure.

  • Most annoying Beltway media trend of the year?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Suffering through first-person, postmortems from WH reporters reliving their role in press conferences. Or, if you ask an inane question to Obama, you get to enjoy the media spotlight the next day.

    We saw that in March with CNN's Ed Henry and his debacle. And now the New York Times' Jeff Zeleny walks us through the dreadful "enchanted" question he posted to Obama.

    Like we said, it's all about them.

  • Worst headline of the day

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    And of course Drudge highlights it. Comes courtesy of Reuters UK:

    Obama revelling in U.S. power unseen in decades

    It's a double-whammy, really, because what the article is actually about is how popular Obama is and how he seems to be gaining momentum politically.

    So first, the use of "revelling" is all wrong. Here's what the word actually means:

    1. To take great pleasure or delight: She reveled in her unaccustomed leisure. 2. To engage in uproarious festivities; make merry.

    The article offers no proof (i.e. quotes, anecdotes, etc.) that Obama is taking great delight in his success. Using "revelling" makes Obama appear arrogant/Dr. Evil-ish.

    Second, the use of "power" is all wrong, too. The article is about Obama's brimming influence and popularity, not power, which makes it seem as though he's some sort of monarch.

    Here's how the Reuters headline should have read:

    Obama basks in U.S. influence unseen in decades

    Not so difficult, right?