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  • Buchanan cites "record cold temperatures" to claim "that global warning [sic] is a crock"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    From Buchanan's May 11 World Net Daily column:

    More and more Americans are coming to conclude, after the record cold temperatures in many cities this winter, that global warning is a crock - that there is no conclusive proof it is happening, no conclusive proof man is the cause, no conclusive proof it would be a calamity for us or the polar bears.

  • Fox News, please define "gets a pass"

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Fox News has been among those playing up the story of comedian Wanda Sykes' jabs at Rush Limbaugh during her stand-up routine at the White House Correspondents Association dinner this weekend. News anchor Trace Gallagher wonders why Sykes "gets a pass" for her nasty jabs about Limbaugh being a terrorist with a suspect kidney, while CBS golf analyst David Feherty was forced to apologize for suggesting U.S. soldiers, if given the chance, would killer Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Leader Sen. Harry Reid.

    Gallagher suggested the treatment of Sykes and Feherty wasn't fair, and that Sykes had gotten off easy in the wake of her controversial statement, yet there had been "a load of outrage," following Feherty's comments.

    The comparison doesn't hold up for a number of reasons. First, how, exactly, has Sykes gotten a pass? Her jabs were immediately seized upon by conservatives who have waged a nearly non-stop campaign against her. How does being vilified all over the Internet, in print, as well as on cable TV, constitute getting a pass? And despite Gallagher's misinformation about how Sykes' Limbaugh lines generated big laughs, audible boos were heard inside the hotel ball room, no doubt coming from the Limbaugh supporters. But now for entertainers, getting booed mid-act qualifies as receiving "a pass"?

    What's frustrating conservatives, I think, is that golf announced Feherty chose to apologize for his bizarre comments, in which he painted a sort of right-wing militia fantasy of the U.S. military staging a mini, anti-Democratic Party coup inside the nation's capitol by murdering key leaders.

    When a network sports announcer paints that kind of public, violent portrait of murdering politicians, he's likely going to have to apologize if he wants to keep his job. But when a comedian at a roast makes jokes about a highly controversial and partisan figure who has made all kinds of hateful, disparaging remarks about the president, that performers not likely going to have to apologize.

    That's why the debate about who gets "a pass" remains a pointless one.

  • Another reason not to trust the British press

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    And especially its Beltway correspondents. Because they often don't adhere to common journalism standards (i.e they make stuff up), and the GOP Noise Machine often uses their shoddy 'reports' to attack Democrats.

    Latest example of sub-par offerings comes courtesy of the Sunday Telegraph with an article that carries provocative headline and virtually no proof to back the claim up [emphasis added]:

    Barack Obama's rich supporters fear his tax plans show he's a class warrior: Some of Barack Obama's richest supporters fear they have elected a "class warrior" to the White House, who will turn America's freewheeling capitalism into a more regulated European system.

    Yikes, Obama's rich supporters are in revolt. That would make for an interesting piece of journalism if the Sunday Telegraph, y'know, actually bothered to locate any of Obama's rich supporters who felt that way. But the daily can't, so it just muddles its way through.

    Again, the entire premise is that Obama's backers are angry at the new president's supposed hard left turn. But in a nation of 300 million, the Telegraph can't find a single American to quote by name who backs up the newspaper's "revolt" angle. (In real newspapers, that's when articles like this get spiked by editors.)

    In fact, the entire article only contains two blind "rich supporter" quotes knocking Obama, and they come from God's-know-what-type-of-sources the Telegraph uses. And yes, to my ear the quotes have a certain Drudge-like quality. i.e. Blind quotes that are a bit too good to be true.

    But who cares if the Telegraph has no standards? The Noise Machine loves the headline, so it the passed the article all around the web, which of course will only encourage Telegraph reporters to keep concocting awful journalism like this.

  • Was "swine flu" coverage actually excessive?

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Nearly everyone seems to agree it was. Here's Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz, for example, in an online discussion today:

    Howard Kurtz: I think there's been almost no soul-searching over this. The swine flu story has now virtually vanished, from television at least, without so much as an acknowledgment that the media played a crucial role in pumping it up. It's like Emily Litella: never mind.

    .... here's what I said yesterday:

    I have good news to report this morning. We're not all going to die...

    The tone and the volume were just out of proportion to what we knew about the outbreak. Of course it was a story that people were interested in, that journalists had to cover, that had the potential to turn into a public health crisis. But the key word is "potential."

    Even as medical reporters sounded cautionary notes, the saturation coverage turned excessive, even scary. And then, well, the thing fizzled...

    I can't tell you how many people have complained to me about what they see as the media's wild overreaction on swine flu. Whatever short-term bump you might get in the ratings is outweighed by a loss of confidence among news consumers, and there's no vaccine for that.

    But just because the swine flu didn't kill half the country doesn't mean the coverage was excessive.

    Let's say a virus exists, and the medical and scientific communities agree with absolute certainty that the virus will wipe out half the population if people behave as they typically do ... but that it could also be stopped if people took some basic precautions, like washing their hands and staying home if they are sick, so as not to infect their schools and offices. And let's say the news media reported all of that. And, given the potential severity of the situation, they reported it a lot. And in response, people would wash their hands a little more often than usual, and stay home from work and school if they felt sick.

    The result would be that, despite all the media coverage suggesting we could all die, nothing much would seem to happen.

    And that would be exactly how you would want it to play out.

    The fact that half the country didn't end up dead wouldn't mean that the media hadn't done it's job. It would mean that the media had done its job very well - it had made the public aware of vital information in time for the public to act upon that information.

    Is that what happened? I don't know. But Kurtz, and many others, aren't even considering the question of what would have happened had the media downplayed the story, or what could have happened.

    They're just concluding that, because millions of people aren't dead, the media did something wrong.

    That's an odd way to assess things, to say the least.

    There is no shortage of things the media obsess over that they shouldn't. Lipstick-on-a-pig political "controversies," for example. Shark attacks. Crimes involving missing (rich, white, cute) children. Things that have virtually no potential to significantly affect anyone other than the very few people directly involved. But we shouldn't be so quick to assume H1N1 was one of them.

    (Kurtz, if memory serves, has in the past criticized wall-to-wall media coverage of things like shark attacks and runaway brides.)

  • Going With Rush

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    Another one bites the dust. This weekend former Vice President Dick Cheney got in line behind the long string of conservatives bowing down before their leader -- Rush Limbaugh. Given a choice between booting Colin Powell or El Rushbo from the GOP, Cheney said he'd stick with Rush.

    Check out this latest YouTube video from Media Matters and be sure to send it around to your friends and family.

    Previously:

    On Face the Nation, Cheney chooses Limbaugh over Powell, "politically"

  • The Red Scare Index: 35

    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 8, 2009:

    TOTAL: 35
    Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 16
    Communism, Communist, Communistic: 10
    Marxism/Marxist: 3
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 6

    By Network:

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

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

    Fox News Channel: 7
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 5
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 0
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 1
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 1

    Fox Business Network: 12
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 2
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 4
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 2
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 4

    MSNBC: 12
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 7
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 4
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 1

    CNBC: 2
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 2
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 0
    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.

  • TNR/Jeffrey Rosen credibility watch

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    On Monday, May 4, The New Republic posted Jeffrey Rosen's "case against Sotomayor," in which Rosen portrayed Second Circuit judge Jose Cabranes as indicating that Sotomayor is "not that smart," based on this quote from Cabranes: "She is not intimidated or overwhelmed by the eminence or power or prestige of any party, or indeed of the media."

    The very next day, The New Yorker's Amy Davidson pointed out that Rosen clipped Cabranes' quote, and that the judge also called Sotomayor "tough and tenacious as well as smart."

    So, Cabranes called Sotomayor "smart." Jeffrey Rosen ignored that part of the quote, then portrayed the rest as indicating that Sotomayor is not smart.

    The New Republic owes Sonia Sotomayor, Jose Cabranes, and its readers a correction. As of today, May 11 -- a full week later -- it has not yet posted one.

    Everybody, including reporters, makes mistakes. That's no reason to never trust them again. But when those mistakes are pointed out, and they refuse to correct clear errors, they sacrifice credibility. Perhaps even worse, they demonstrate that they simply don't care about their credibility.

    (I have more on the smearing of Sonia Sotomayor here.)

  • Tucker Carlson don't need no stinking facts, cont'd

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Tucker Carlson, in a Washington Post online discussion today:

    West Palm Beach, Fla.: Is Obama going to give the American people single-payer health care?

    Tucker Carlson: That's the plan. I'd bet my house it'll happen in the next 10 years. Of course it will result in inferior care. It has every place it's been imposed without exception.

    But here's the good news: Very rich people will still have access to the best treatment. While the rest of us are waiting 8 months for an MRI, or a year for a hip replacement, the wealthy will simply buy private medical care. It'll be a more equal system, in the way Cuba's is.

    That led another reader to point out that Carlson doesn't actually know what he's talking about:

    the wealthy will simply buy private medical care: Tucker, they do this now. And in case you forgot: statistically, Cuba's health care blows us out of the water.

    I am a childhood cancer survivor, I basically can't buy insurance on the "open" market, through no fault of my own (unless you want to blame me for my childhood error of getting cancer). I will always have to work for some company that provides coverage to employees and won't be starting my own business and improving the economy unless things change.

    P.S. I recently made an appointment for a potential medical issue I am having. My appointment is for mid July. My dental appointment I made is for September. Good thing we don't ration care like those loser Socialists huh?

    So how did Carlson respond to the reader's point about US & Cuba health statistics? He didn't. He ducked it, leaving Ana Marie Cox to answer it instead:

    Ana Marie Cox: I love it when the chatters bring the FACTS. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/blake-fleetwood/cuba-has-better-medical-c_...)

    Statistics don't tell the whole story, of c -- I would not trade our system for theirs overnight, but they are startling.

    Ana Marie Cox: And, of course, I wish you continued good health. Beating cancer is a challenge of the will as well as the body -- congratulations.

    In 2000, the World Health Organization ranked the U.S. health system the world's 37th-best, behind France, Italy, Japan, Norway, Spain, Greece, the U.K., Switzerland, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Columbia, and a host of others. (WHO no longer compiles such overall rankings.)

    More recently:

    a spate of new research shows the United States well behind other developed countries on measures from cancer survival to diabetes care that cannot entirely be blamed on the rich-poor or insured-uninsured gulf. None of this implies a specific fix for the U.S. health-care system. It does, however, say that "the best in the world" is a myth that should not be an impediment to reform.

    ...

    At $6,697 per capita in 2007, it [U.S. health care spending] is the highest in the world (20 percent more than Luxembourg's, the next highest) and more than twice the average of the 30 wealthy countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

    If only it bought better care. Only 55 percent of U.S. patients get treatments that scientific studies show to work, such as beta blockers for heart disease, found a 2003 study in The New England Journal of Medicine. One reason is that when insurance is tied to employment, you may have to switch doctors when you change jobs. ... The result is poor continuity of care—no one to coordinate treatment or watch out for adverse drug interactions. Such failures may contribute to the estimated 44,000 to 98,000 annual deaths from medical mistakes just in hospitals, and to "amenable mortality"—deaths preventable by medical care. Those total about 101,000 a year, reports a new study in the journal Health Affairs. That per capita rate puts America dead last of the study's 19 industrialized countries.

    Other data, too, belie the "best in the world" mantra. The five-year survival rate for cervical cancer? Worse than in Italy, Ireland, Germany and others, finds the OECD. The survival rate for breast cancer? You'd do better in Switzerland, Norway, Britain and others. Asthma mortality? Twice the rate of Germany's or Sweden's. Some of the U.S. numbers are dragged down by the uninsured; they are twice as likely to have advanced cancer when they first see a doctor than are people with insurance, notes oncologist Elmer Huerta of Washington Hospital Center, president of the American Cancer Society. But the numbers of uninsured are too low to fully explain the poor U.S. showing.

    But none of seems to matter to the Washington Post, which lets Tucker Carlson make whatever claims he wants in these discussions, without backing them up with actual facts.

  • John Harwood, king of the 'could'

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Well, at least Harwood at the New York Times has a shtick. Every columnist needs a good shtick and Harwood's under Obama is to routinely remind readers that while the new president enjoys good political fortunes today, it could all go south very fast.

    This was Harwood back in March [emphasis added]:

    President Barack Obama enjoys robust support from the American public, but a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll suggests potential bumps ahead for his ambitious domestic agenda.

    And here was Harwood last week:

    Mr. Obama currently holds the upper hand, riding high in the polls while Republicans appear chaotic and hapless. But he is racing to capitalize for good reason. Political history, and some early signs this spring, suggest that time is not on his side.

    And how about this week:

    On the economy, President Obama has a timing problem. Congressional Democrats may have a bigger one...The lag between recovery and falling unemployment carries multiple potential consequences for Mr. Obama's agenda. The lag could erode his popularity and, thus, his clout.

    OK, we get it John. You want to be first in line to claim credit if and when Obama's strong approval ratings soften. The awkward part for Times editors though, is how long are they going to let Harwood keep writing the same column, esp. if Obama shows no real signs of faltering?