Tuesday, October 27, 2009

It's alive!

Season of false starts for news organizations

Yahoo! News

FILE - In this Oct. 15, 2009 file photo, six-year-old Falcon Heene is shown with

NEW YORK – A balloon racing across the Colorado sky without a 6-year-old boy inside. A major lobbyist not changing its position on climate change. A shootout with terrorists on the Potomac River that never happened.

It's been a rough season for non-news.

The recent spate of hoaxes and premature stories exposes a dangerous fault line for journalists in the world of second-by-second news.

Each situation was unique. But they all diminished the credibility of news organizations at a time when the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press has reported that 63 percent of Americans believe news stories are often inaccurate — the worst report card it has ever seen.

"Speed is always a threat to accuracy, and the faster we can go, the more jeopardy the truth is in," said Deborah Potter, a former CBS News reporter and executive director of the News Lab think tank.

The balloon boy story riveted cable news viewers a week ago. A flying saucerlike balloon had escaped from its tethers and Richard Heene reported to authorities that he believed his son Falcon was aboard. CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC all turned to the story to the exclusion of virtually all others.

Even in retrospect, it's hard to argue against that judgment. It was an unusual story, with gripping visuals, of a young boy's life in danger. Later, investigators alleged it was a hoax perpetrated by a publicity-hungry father.

What the story missed at the time was a bigger dose of skepticism and caution — more emphasis on the uncertainty of the report and curiosity about how a boy could fly in the structure.

In live broadcasts, anchors need to take care in emphasizing what is not known, said Frank Sesno, a former CNN Washington bureau chief who is now a professor at George Mason University.

"We're not doing it enough," he said, "because it's too easy to seize on something that appears to be happening before our eyes and run with it."

Perhaps tinged by disgust at the hoax itself, the media has suffered a backlash among people who believe too much time was spent on the story, said Mark Jurkowitz, associate director of Pew's Project for Excellence in Journalism.

A few days later in Washington, an official-looking press release from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce announced that the organization had reversed its position on climate change legislation.

Not so. It was an elaborate scam put on by members of the liberal activist group Yes Men, who were looking to draw attention to a policy stance with which it disagreed. Reuters moved a story based on the false press release, and both CNBC and Fox Business Network reported it — with the anchors correcting themselves mid-story upon learning it was false.

In all the cases, a desire to push the story out fast took priority over a phone call to double-check.



RNC keeps racist pics on Facebook for nearly a week

By Daniel Tencer

Perhaps no one noticed. Perhaps no one cared. But hours after a liberal news forum brought attention to a series of days old controversial photos on the Republican National Committee's Facebook page, the photos were finally taken down.

Among them was a picture of President Barack Obama eating fried chicken, subtitled with a call to prohibit interracial marriage. The photo's caption read: "Miscegenation is a CRIME against American Values. Repeal Loving v. Virginia."

Miscegenation refers to the "marriage or cohabitation between a man and woman of different races." Loving v. Virginia was a landmark Supreme Court case that, in 1967, struck down all of the US's laws against interracial marriage.

This is the photo as it appeared on the GOP's Facebook profile on Monday:

rncobamafacebookphoto RNC keeps racist pics on Facebook for nearly a week

Members of the liberal news forum Democratic Underground launched a discussion about the photos on Sunday night.

"That's blatant f---ing racism, against Facebook rules and basic human decency," one upset commenter stated.

Another commenter noted the Obama photo had been on the RNC Facebook page since October 20. "So it has been up five days and not one person administering the site did anything about it. Apparently the site administrator finds this correctly sums up Republican philosophy."


Nation's Morons March On Washington State

Nation's Morons
A pack of certified imbeciles makes its feelings known three time zones from the nation's capital.

OLYMPIA, WA—With random cries of "Enough is enough," "Do something now," and "Huh?" thousands of the nation's biggest morons descended on Washington State this week, some 3,000 miles from their intended destination of the nation's capital.

The march, which had no discernable goal or message, and no official organizers, began at approximately 8:45 a.m. in front of what the morons called the National Mall, but was actually the courtyard outside the Olympia Public Library.

"More government accountability, and transparency, and accountability!" shouted grade-A moron Tammy Caldwell, 37, addressing no one in particular. "On behalf of me, and all the [morons] who came here today, listen up, greedy Washington fat cats: We're not going anywhere until each and every one of our voices is heard."

Morons Demand
The morons demand a drawdown of troops in Iraq in front
of what they believe to be a monument to fallen soldiers.

"To the Lincoln Memorial!" added Caldwell, pointing to a nearby monument dedicated to the memory of Washington State governor John Rankin Rogers.

Following a stop at what the morons believed to be Arlington National Cemetery, protestors reportedly marched east on State Avenue, south along Plum Street, paused bewilderedly when they failed to see the Reflecting Pool at the intersection of Union and Plum, and then found their way back to State to begin their march over again.

While authorities maintained that the gathering was largely peaceful and most of the fires were set purely by accident, demonstrators appeared visibly angry about a range of topics, including war, peace, food, music, money, baseball, cars, the people following them around as if this were some kind of rally, siblings, animals, plants, colors, and movies.


Roger Ailes

Roger Ailes for president?

'America's Best Idea' Meets One of the Worst

by Froma Harrop

The Ken Burns series "The National Parks: America's Best Idea" got me thinking about one of America's worst ideas, the war on drugs. Particularly ill-conceived is the crusade against marijuana.

That bad idea is now threatening the good idea, as Mexican drug cartels — hampered by a tighter border — swarm over large swaths of U.S. public land to grow pot. There they dump toxic chemicals, dam streams, clear natural vegetation and leave piles of trash. Marijuana growers building a campfire set off the recent La Brea fire, which scorched 90,000 acres of Santa Barbara County.

Businesses serving tourists warn visitors against armed drug gangs protecting their crops. Last June, for example, hikers in southwest Idaho came upon a marijuana operation with a street value of over $6 million.

Pot farms have been found in, among other places, Redwood National Park in California, North Cascades National Park in Washington state and Pike National Forest in Colorado. An operation in Sequoia National Park was discovered just half a mile from a cave popular with tourists. (Part of the park had to be closed as rangers swooped down from helicopters.)

Federal and state governments spend $8 billion a year enforcing the ban on marijuana — and they can't even keep the cartels out of Yosemite. The National Park Service, meanwhile, frets about diverting its limited resources from ranger tours to stopping the marijuana growers.

And what purpose does all this spending serve? A new Gallup poll shows that nearly half of all Americans want to legalize marijuana and tax it like alcohol or tobacco. And solid majorities favor permitting medical marijuana, which is now legal in 14 states.

And so the Obama administration's decision to ease up on medical marijuana is not so much leading public opinion toward more enlightened drug policy as following it.

Under the new policy, federal agents will not bother users or sellers operating under their state medical marijuana laws.

But while model conservatives (William F. Buckley, Milton Friedman, George P. Schultz) have declared the entire war on drugs a dismal failure, the Republican leadership can't seem to get its mind around ending even the struggle against marijuana. Already widely used, pot doesn't cause the serious health problems associated with cocaine or heroine and often alcohol.

Condemning the new directive, Rep. Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican, said, "If we want to win the war on drugs, federal prosecutors have a responsibility to investigate and prosecute all medical marijuana dispensaries and not just those that are merely fronts for illegal marijuana distribution."

Under the old rules, Drug Enforcement Administration agents raided the backyards of cancer patients permitted by California law to grow pot to ease their discomfort. Millions, however, are still spent ruining the lives of kids caught smoking a joint behind the bleachers.

End the ban on pot, and the drug gangs go away. American farmers find a new business, and government a handsome source of tax revenues. Turning marijuana into a controlled substance could raise $6.2 billion in taxes, according to Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron.

And those who worry about exposing Americans to dangerous drugs would actually sleep better at night. Concern that today's marijuana is much stronger than the pot smoked in the '70s is warranted, but legal products are regulated for potency and purity. Alcoholic beverages became much safer after Prohibition ended. And so would all drugs.


One ‘No’ Too Many?


The "party of no" just might have gone one vote too far this time.

By now many, if not most, Americans have heard about the 30 Senate Republicans who voted against an amendment that would have prohibited government contracts with companies that use mandatory arbitration clauses to deny assault victims the right to have their cases heard in court.

But get this: Reports emerged Thursday that the proposal, introduced by Sen. Al Franken , D-Minn., may be stripped away by a fellow Democrat, not a Republican.

The third longest-serving senator in history, Democrat Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, is reportedly considering altering or removing the provision that is part of the fiscal 2010 Defense appropriations bill. A spokesman for the Senate Appropriations Committee, chaired by Inouye, said in an e-mail that the committee does not comment on ongoing conference negotiations and emphasized that the White House supports the intent of Franken's amendment.

Never let it be said that the Democratic Party is monolithic, or unified for that matter.

Still, it is Republicans who are currently being tagged as "pro-rape " and credited with trying to derail an amendment that helps victims get justice.

Whose bright idea was it to unify against something like this? Surely opponents are already dreaming up campaign ads for the next election cycle.


If you like chain letters, hide your eyes

Crazy Michele Bachmann Rising Star says George Will

by Rack Jite

A quick primer on Michele Bachmann from the Ed Show

george willGeorge Will, America's most ubiquitous Libertarian columnist and television pundit - who wants to repeal seat belt laws and have everyone carry around an assault rifle - has come to the defense of America's most Right-wing looneytune in Congress, Minnesota's own Michele Bachmann. Bachmann a rising figure among GOP conservatives

George Will - perhaps our most avid hater of the American Government - overlooks Bachmann's public adoration of her evil twin Glenn Beck, nor does he bother mentioning her rabid pro life evangelical creationist fundamentalism, glossing over her call to investigate Democrats for unAmerican activities, her Birther connections along and a a long list of other Right-wing swill making Sarah Palin look smart.

The center piece of Will's column is his adoration of her oppostition to the bailout of General Motors which she called "Gansta Government"! Hating the American Government is the new... Hmmm... Rage.

Of course this kind of a nutcase is expected in in Mississippi or Northern Idaho, but Minnesota?  Gosh... Having lived there for a time my guess its all those wintertime Hobbergoots! [shots of 2/3 brandy 1/3 schnapps which keeps the snow out of your craw] Our last crazy right-wing congresswoman was from Northern Idaho. Her name was Helen Chenoweth, also a big fan of Ron Paul. She is now in Heaven with Ayn Rand after refusing to wear a seat belt (thank you George Will). Holding a toddler who was also not restrained in any manner, they were both ejected from a jeep. The toddler survived and Chenoweth died instantly from a broken neck. Helen Chenoweth Good and Gone

Last month Michele Bachmann joined congressman Ron Paul at the University of Minnesota for a Town Hall meeting a. After watching it one may wonder how Bachmann - a rabid pro Life evangelical creationist Christian fundamentalist - could so completely agree with America's leading advocate for Ayn Rand and the Libertarian Party?
The answer of course is what so many on the internet refuse to admit, that Ron Paul IS ALSO a rabid Pro Life evangelical creationist Christian fundamentalist.

This Ron Paul brand of Libertarianism should be called Randian Christian Objectivism and their constituents Wallet Libertarians.    

Here is a video of their suck-up-a-thon


Sean Penn heads to Cuba to interview Fidel Castro

Sean Penn heads to Cuba to interview Fidel Castro: reportOscar-winning actor and political activist Sean Penn flew to Cuba hoping to interview its revolutionary icon Fidel Castro, entertainment news website TMZ reported Sunday.
"Sean (Penn) is going to the land of Fidel as a journalist, writing a story for Vanity Fair (magazine) about how the (Barack) Obama administration has affected Cuba," TMZ reported.

Penn was traveling with Diana Jenkins: "Actually ... it's her plane ... she's married to the head honcho at Barclays bank," TMZ added, noting the pair set out from Las Vegas on Saturday.

"Barclays sources say Sean and Diana are going to meet (Fidel) Castro -- presumably because that's what Diana told them," the website reported. Penn's representative also told TMZ a meeting was possible.

Since taking office in January, US President Barack Obama has moved to ease a half-century of tension with Cuba, with small steps such as relaxing rules on visits and money transfers to the island.

But so far, the US administration has not taken major strides in its approach to the Americas' only communist regime. The Obama administration has said it will not, for now, seek to end the US economic embargo, instead urging Havana to show progress on human rights.



Why Journalists Shouldn't Be Defending Fox News

Dan Froomkin 

Historically speaking, White House criticism of the media has often been unseemly and defensive, with the president's ire generally provoked by journalists who excel at their work -- by asking cheeky questions, exposing important things that the president would prefer be kept secret, holding the powerful accountable and playing host to a vibrant and informed exchange of a wide range of political opinions.

But in this case, the critique is something else entirely. The litmus test is that the Obama White House is not upset at news gatherers for doing their job. What Obama and his aides are correctly pointing out is that the people working at Fox News are doing another job altogether.

The White House "attack" on Fox is being derided as bad politics, as ineffective and as a distraction from more important issues -- all of which may be true. But doesn't it kind of matter that, when it comes to the substance of what Anita Dunn, David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel, and now even Obama himself have said, they're exactly right?

Obama on Wednesday told NBC's Savannah Guthrie: "I think that what our advisers have simply said is, is that we are going to take media as it comes. And if media is operating basically as a talk radio format, then that's one thing. And if it's operating as a news outlet, then that's another."

Fox News has, as my colleague Jason Linkins so effectively wrote earlier this week, well and truly left the fold of legitimate news outlets. The evidence is exhaustive. If you actually watch the network, it's not a close question. Indeed, as Josh Marshall writes, "as a product the straight news is almost more the stuff of parody than the talk shows which are at least more or less straightforward about what they are."

Pretending that Fox News is fair and balanced only serves the right wing, in the same way that it only served the Bush administration when traditional-media reporters pretended Bush didn't have a credibility problem -- and didn't call him out for his lies -- for fear of appearing partisan. It's self-muzzling, plain and simple.

Glenn Beck's world order endangers the right


by Rod Dreher

You can say this for Glenn Beck: He's charismatic, he was right on ACORN and Van Jones, and he's correct to point out that the government in Washington doesn't work for the common good. The affable Beck articulates the legitimate anger and frustration millions of Americans feel when faced by the fact that the country is in a hot mess of trouble.

But here's the thing: Beck is a white Jeremiah Wright, a crazy-pants conspiracy theorist whose worldview is rooted in the paranoid teachings of a far-right Mormon political guru named W. Cleon Skousen. Before signing up as a recruit in Beck's army, conservative Becketeers had better think long and hard about where their affable leader is taking them.
A few weeks back, the red-hot Fox News Channel phenom spent nine minutes on the air leading a seminar on public artwork in New York City. By the time he was finished, Beck had illuminated a propaganda conspiracy linking communists, fascists, the Soviet Union, the Rockefeller family and the United Nations. This is the sort of weirdo rant you expect to encounter on fringey Web sites. You don't expect to see it on national television. 

But that's a big part of Beck's shtick. He's always carrying on about sinister Obamaite conspiracies threatening to overthrow the constitutional order. On the Fox & Friends morning show, Beck declared: "The Manchurian Candidate couldn't destroy us faster than Barack Obama. If you were planning a sleeper to come in and become president of the United States, this is how he would do it." 

How is it that a man can call the American president a traitorous subversive and not be laughed, or booed, off the national stage? He's a happy-go-lucky Howard Beale. Paddy Chayefsky, you should have lived to see this moment. 

Beck's paranoia doesn't come from nowhere. His man Skousen was a fanatical Mormon reactionary so far to the right that the Latter-day Saints church finally felt compelled to distance itself from his teaching. 

Beck, an enthusiastic Mormon convert, pushes Skousen's 1981 book, The 5,000 Year Leap, a tendentious pseudo-history of the United States that interprets the founding in religious terms. Texas Gov. Rick Perry recommended it at the recent Values Voter Summit in Washington. And if the pious nationalism of that book were all you knew about Skousen, you would be hard-pressed to see what the big deal was. 

But Skousen wrote many less anodyne books about politics – and held views far darker than revealed in the hokey but harmless Leap. In a 1976 lecture, the audio of which is available on the pro-Skousen site AwakeAndArise.org, Skousen rails like an Old Testament prophet, quoting Mormon scriptures and detailing how Satan is working with "secret combinations" – a Mormon theological term – within political parties, churches, labor unions and the wealthy elite, especially the Rockefeller family, to bring about the "One World Order." 

Skousen, like his follower Beck, is obsessed with the idea that these secret combinations are conniving to overthrow the U.S. Constitution. Though it is not part of official LDS doctrine, some Mormons believe in an apocalyptic prophecy attributed to church founder Joseph Smith, who supposedly taught that the Constitution would one dark day be hanging by a thread and that Mormon elders would rescue it. 

The pudgy, sweet-natured Beck offers a more palatable form of this paranoia – but all his fruit and sugar can't hide the Skousenite firewater. How ironic that conservative Christians who unjustly dunned conventional Mitt Romney because of his LDS faith are uncritically backing the squirrelly Beck, who looks like he's casting himself as hero of a prophetic Mormon melodrama. 

There are conservatives who know perfectly well that Beck is an unhinged buffoon who traffics in crude, ridiculous ideas. But unlike the hapless GOP, he's popular and effective in the political war against Obama. So these conservative cynics adopt a "no enemies to the right" approach to Beck, even though he's mainstreaming the ooga-booga worldview of a crank prophet who believed, with the John Birch Society, that Eisenhower was a closet commie.
This is foolish. Not every enemy of Obama is a friend to conservatism. 


I want you to disregard facts