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  • O'Reilly don't know much about (WWII) history

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    From MSNCB's Courtney Hazlett at The Scoop:

    Alba schools Fox's O'Reilly in WW II history

    Jessica Alba is setting the record straight: Sweden was neutral during World War II.

    Alba and Fox TV show host Bill O'Reilly traded punches last week after the presidential inauguration. After Alba told a Fox reporter that O'Reilly was "kind of an a-hole;" he retaliated by calling her a "pinhead" for telling a reporter to "be Sweden about it," assuming she meant Switzerland.

    "I want to clear some things up that have been bothering me lately," Alba blogged on MySpace Celebrity. "Last week, Mr. Bill O'Reilly and some really classy sites (i.e.TMZ) insinuated I was dumb by claiming Sweden was a neutral country. I appreciate the fact that he is a news anchor and that gossip sites are inundated with intelligent reporting, but seriously people... it's so sad to me that you think the only neutral country during WWII was Switzerland."

    Although Switzerland is more frequently cited as an example of neutrality, Sweden did indeed follow a policy of neutrality during World War II. History point to Alba.

    It is worth noting that Alba wasn't speaking with a Fox reporter – it was one of O'Reilly's ambush-obsessed-producers. Also worth noting, O'Reilly takes issue with Alba's naming of Sweden as a neutral country during WWII not with her contention that he is "kind of an a-hole."

  • Rush Limbaugh, honorary Republican Congressman

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Some observers seem to think that Barack Obama has "elevated" Rush Limbaugh to a position of leadership in the Republican Party. Nonsense. Republicans did that long ago.

    It was the House Republicans who made Limbaugh an honorary member of their caucus and gave him credit for the GOP takeover of Congress in 1994.

    It was the leaders of the conservative movement who embraced Limbaugh's far-right agenda, marginalizing themselves with ill-considered and unpopular - though Rush-approved - stances on nearly every significant issue that has come up over the past two decades.

    It was Dick Cheney and other prominent Republicans who chose to enhance Limbaugh's stature by appearing regularly on his radio program.

    Limbaugh's place at the center of the conservative movement - though not of the population at large -- is so well-established, even Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz describes him as a "mainstream conservative."

    Barack Obama didn't elevate Rush Limbaugh to a position of leadership of the GOP and the conservative movement. Limbaugh has held that position for nearly two decades - and he has done so because his fellow conservative leaders share his far-right views and his rabid distaste for fact and reason. Their embrace of Limbaugh and his failed ideology has had disastrous consequences first for the nation and then for the conservative movement. Some of those conservatives may now have the good sense to be embarrassed by their association with Limbaugh, but until they actually change their policy positions and their approach to politics, he will remain an icon of their failures and excesses.

  • More scintilating Clinton $ reporting

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    It just never ends, does it? At first, the whole soggy story revolved around the fact that foreign governments or leaders had donated money to Clinton's Foundation and that was an awful, terrible thing because with Hillary Clinton becoming SOS she might hand over America's foreign policy to the highest bidder. (Plus, how dare foreign dignitaries give money to a foundation that, among other things, helps poor people around the world.)

    Well, despite Christopher Hitchen's Clinton-hating heavy breathing, that Hillary's-going--to-be-sold-to-the-highest-bidder storyline (nothing sexist there, right?) hasn't really gone anywhere. But fear not, the AP has a new Clinton $ angle.

    Headline: "Bill Clinton made millions from foreign sources"

    Lead:

    Former President Bill Clinton earned nearly $6 million in speaking fees last year, almost all of it from foreign companies, according to financial documents filed by his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

    More foreign funny business, right? At this point, after reading these never-ending stories I actually wish somebody would uncover some actual news, even if it was hugely embarrassing to the Clintons. But that somebody aint the AP. The entire story's about how Bill Clinton was paid speaking fees by business located outside the U.S. That's the "foreign sources." A Canadian publisher. A German entertainment company. etc.

    Bill Clinton is one of the most famous people in the world and businesses headquartered outside of the U.S. have paid him a lot to hear him speak.

    Thanks for the news flash, AP.

    UPDATE: From Politico, which, of course, is very excited about the latest Clinton $ news [emphasis added]:

    Former President Clinton's globetrotting speaking tours and charitable activities were considered the major impediment to his wife's confirmation

    Clinton, of course, was easily confirmed.

  • Because there are no ambitious male politicians, right?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Looks like the media's soft spot for sexism when covering women in politics was not a 2008-only deal. (We didn't really think it would be.)

    Last week, the press brought back the unlikeable and overly ambitious Tracy Flick character, from the film Election, to describe Kirsten Gilibrand, the new senator from New York. Flick was also used last year to make fun of Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin.

    Meanwhile, this week Chris Matthews revealed his latest bout of insight while discussing the debated stimulus package, and why any money set aside for family planning would be pointless. Wrote Melissa McEwan after watching the Hardball host:

    It's like a crêpe of misogyny, double the deliciousness, with a flaky pancake of ignorance wrapped around a gooey inside of unapologetic enmity.

  • GOP Rep: "[I]t's easy if you're Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh or even sometimes Newt Gingrich to stand back and throw bricks"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Politico reports:

    Responding to President Obama's recommendation to Republican congressional leaders last week that they not follow Limbaugh's lead, the conservative talkmeister said on his show that Obama is "obviously more frightened of me than he is Mitch McConnell. He's more frightened of me, than he is of, say, John Boehner, which doesn't say much about our party."

    Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., did not take kindly to this assessment in an interview with Politico Tuesday.

    "I think that our leadership, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, are taking the right approach," Gingrey said. "I mean, it's easy if you're Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh or even sometimes Newt Gingrich to stand back and throw bricks. You don't have to try to do what's best for your people and your party. You know you're just on these talk shows and you're living well and plus you stir up a bit of controversy and gin the base and that sort of that thing. But when it comes to true leadership, not that these people couldn't be or wouldn't be good leaders, they're not in that position of John Boehner or Mitch McConnell."

    Asked to respond to Gingrey, Limbaugh, in an email to Politico, wrote: "I'm sure he is doing his best but it does not appear to be good enough. He may not have noticed that the number of Republican colleagues he has in the House has dwindled. And they will dwindle more if he and his friends don't show more leadership and effectiveness in battling the most left-wing agenda in modern history. And they won't continue to lose because of me, but because of their relationship with the grassroots, which is hurting. Conservatives want leadership from those who claim to represent them. And we'll know it when we see it."

  • NYT offers misleading assessment of unemployment in 1930s

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    In the course of an otherwise useful article about FDR's approach to the great depression, the New York Times offers a misleading assessment of the unemployment rate under Roosevelt:

    During the 1930s, the unemployment rate fell somewhat under Roosevelt, but remained stubbornly high, averaging more than 17 percent for the decade.

    There are a few problems with this.

    First, the Times doesn't provide a starting point - what was the unemployment rate before Roosevelt took office? 17 percent sounds awfully high, but it could actually be an impressively low figure if the starting point was much higher. Which it was - 25 percent in 1933, Roosevelt's first year in office; 24 percent the year before. (The Times does note the 25 percent starting point later in the article, too late for it to provide effective context for the 17 percent figure.)

    Second, in assessing the efficacy of a program begun in 1933, it is basically meaningless to use average unemployment rate for the entire decade. We can hardly credit or blame the New Deal for the unemployment situation in place before the New Deal began. What matters isn't the average unemployment for the entire decade, which includes several years before Roosevelt even took office - what matters is the trend line. Did unemployment go up or down? How much? That's what matters; raw numbers - particularly raw numbers averaged over the entire decade - are badly misleading.

    For an example of how misleading it is to use average unemployment numbers to assess the effectiveness of a president in combating unemployment, we need only look to the conservative talking point that average unemployment under George W. Bush was lower than average unemployment under Bill Clinton.

    Maybe true, but meaningless - that measure credits Bush for Clinton's success, and penalizes Clinton for the failures of Bush's father.

    See, the average unemployment rate under Clinton is artificially high due to the high unemployment rate when he took office; Bush's is artificially low due to the low rate when he took office. If you look instead at trend lines, you see that unemployment went down under Clinton and up under Bush. That's far more useful in assessing the two presidents effectiveness in fighting unemployment than average numbers that paint a misleading picture.

  • Maddow: "I Would Barely Call Chris Matthews A Liberal"

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    Over at WowOwoW.com (The Women on the Web) Lesley Stahl has an entertaining interview with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow that everyone should check out. Maddow discusses a variety of topics including the political leanings of Chris Matthews, who many on the right claim to be a liberal based almost solely on his work for former President Jimmy Carter and former House Speaker Tip O'Neill more than two decades ago.

    The pertinent portion of the interview picks up with Stahl and Maddow discussing the White House's history of awarding network news interviews on a rotating basis that ended under President Bush and whether or not President Obama would revert back to the practice (emphasis added):

    RACHEL: I think it's the right way to do it. I do think that Fox is different than other networks. I mean, I think that it is a bit of a political experiment.

    LESLEY: But everybody thinks MSNBC is moving in that direction. That that's exactly what the shift is -- where you are -- that people there are trying to make you into the un-Fox network, the liberal place to go.

    RACHEL: Well, if you think about the way that Fox was founded, though – Fox was founded by Roger Ailes. It was created from his perspective as a political operative. His background was as a Republican activist of the highest order. There's no equivalent on MSNBC. I think MSNBC is trying to find hit shows.

    LESLEY: Everybody they hire to anchor their shows is distinctly liberal and encouraged to express themselves that way, wouldn't you say?

    RACHEL: At MSNBC?

    LESLEY: Yes.

    RACHEL: Well, I wouldn't call David Shuster a liberal. I would barely call Chris Matthews a liberal. He voted for Bush. And I certainly wouldn't call Joe Scarborough a liberal.

    LESLEY: Chris Matthews is a liberal.

    RACHEL: Well, Chris Matthews is a Democrat.

    LESLEY: He's a liberal.

    RACHEL: Chris Matthews – well, you could interview him about it and find out. If Chris Matthews had an Air America radio show, he'd get torn apart by our listeners.

    LESLEY: So he doesn't go that far. I see. OK.

    RACHEL: No. I wouldn't put Chris and my politics in the same canoe. I think that MSNBC is trying to find hit shows and is trying to be smart and it just seems like a different project than the reason that Fox was built.

  • But is it true?

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Earlier today, I wrote that it's important for journalists to actually apply some critical thought to their work rather than simply regurgitating Republican talking points.

    Right on cue, here's Marc Ambinder (emphasis added):

    Here's a peek at the major planks in the economic recovery plan being introduced by House Republicans tomorrow.

    It starts with a permanent five percentage point reduction for those who qualify for the 10% and 15% tax brackets, averaging about $500 per year for the poorest of the bunch and $1,200 for the slightly more wealthy.

    The talking point here is that poorer Americans would see more money from the GOP plan than from Obama's -- and it would be permanent.

    Well, of course that's the "talking point." Who the hell cares? Is it true? Marc Ambinder doesn't say. He doesn't even acknowledge that it might be an interesting question. The concept of which plan actually gives "poorer Americans" "more money" is literally nowhere to be found in his post.

    There are people for whom "distributing Republican talking points" is part of their job description. They are called "deputy press secretaries," and they work at the RNC and in Republican congressional offices. Reporters for The Atlantic ought to behave a bit differently.

    (Is it true? I don't know -- but it seems unlikely. The GOP plan, as Ambinder describes it, would do nothing for the many Americans who work hard and pay state, local, sales, and FICA taxes -- but who do not make enough money to pay federal income taxes.)