Commentary on politics, economics, news and the media, and popular culture.
Tuesday, July 29, 2003
I'm Outta Here!
I'm Outta Here!: You can now find the improved version of this blog over at www.theculturalelite.com. Same snarky attitude, better interface. I'll leave this blog intact, as stands for anyone who's placed permalinks to anything. If there are general permalinks to the blog itself, please update to the new URL.
Safire Gets it Right: William Safire's article ,Bush's Four Horsemen is on the money regarding the Admin stance about media consolidation. The Chimp would be well advised to listen. After all, when both the right and the left oppose something, it isn't a brilliant move to ram it down their throats. Give the huge opposition, the only remaining justification for the FCC rules is increased profits for big media. Not exactly a great reason to cross the popular will.
The final paragraph is especially interesting, in context to the political flap of a few months ago?
"Tony Blair even stood in front of the United States Congress and said, 'As Britain knows, all predominant power seems for a time invincible, but, in fact, it is transient.' American politicians giving big speeches sometimes say that America's position in the world is at stake in whatever matter they happen to be addressing. But invariably they are certain that Americans will rise to the challenge. Blair's revelation that America will not be the No. 1 country in the world forever, whatever we do, is important news indeed. And it took a foreigner to clue us in."
Anyone else remember during the buildup to our unprovoked invasion of Iraq? When some of the Democratic candidates were held to the fire for noting we should work with the intenational community, as one day we won't be the largest military power? It took the Reps. five second to demagogue the always mindless Fox (News?) demographic up with that one. So, in fact we didn't need Blair to say it, it's just that the moron portion of the population doesn't want to hear it (picture the "hear no evil" monkeys sitting w/Fox (News?) in the background).
Patriotism defined as ignorance, another reason the Conservative Republican crowd has long since passed the Democrats as the party of the base pander.
Regime Change Because It's the Moral Thing to Do: While everyone is dancing over Uday and Qusay, and the Admin and it's apologists pretend their deaths prove lying into the war doesn't matter because "it was always a moral issue", they might want to take a look at this washingtonpost.com - Live Online -. If the WMD lies, the Al Q lies, etc...don't matter because Saddam and Sons were brutal and cruel, then how exactly is it that the Chimp keeps equivocating over interviening in Liberia? As one Liberian immigrant put it:
"Bronx, N.Y.: Most of my father's side of the family is still in Liberia. I see the peacekeeping troops and the U.S.' decision to monitor the situation as a delay tactic. People are dying by the minute and they are monitoring. Monitoring WHAT? Taylor needs to be escorted out because he can not be trusted to leave when he said he would. The fighting won't stop because the rebels are determined to get him out. So we go around in circles and wait and monitor as people die? Makes no damn sense. I am sure if Liberia had oil the U.S. would've been involved already. Taylor is just as bad as Sadaam and Osama. What about regime change in Liberia? We were there for the US when they needed our land during the cold war. Where are they now? How many more bodies must be piled before the U.S. embassy before Bush sends troops to help?"
Somehow we can manage to dump over a hundred thousand troops over to Iraq, with no credible evidence of any danger to the US as justification, but we can't manage to get a thousand or so troops to Liberia? Yeah, it's all about the "moral issues" for this Admin. Yep. Right. Really.
Some Good News Out of Iraq: Well, at least Dumb and Dumber appear to have taken a well placed bullet or or twelve, Hussein's Sons Killed in U.S. Raid (washingtonpost.com). Good job for the military. I'm gonna wait with the champaigne though until the DNA clears. We don't exactly have a lot of credibility on these declarations, and the entire collective of Husseins had a big thing for body doubles.
The economic falsehoods are astounding. Allow me to correct.
1. We are far from being out of the down economy. Greenspan himself stated that he was expressing a "forecast". due to remaining unfavorable conditions, and that the Fed. was prepared to go even lower on Prime if needed.
2. Spinning rising mortgage rates as positive is cute, but idiotic. Yes, rising rates will drive a one time only rush to the market, as the last remaining fence sitters refinance or buy, but that's about it. Once that's over rising rates are actually a risk in and of themselves. The housing market has been one of the last remaining pillars to the moribund economy, and that has primarilly been driven by low rates. A significant climb in rates (say another full % point) will smack face to face with the "bull housing market" driven new development (take a drive down Ust to see what I mean). Cue the sound of a bubble popping.
Thus endeth the boom in construction (read, layoffs), the massive refi and purchase market (read, layoffs), and suddenly a whole lot of people living in homes which are as underwater in equity as late 90's tech stock options. Those who were foolish enough to buy using variable rate mortages will be even worse off.
This could kick us right back into recession, and trigger off deflation, worst case scenario. Best case, it will only counter balance any positive ticks in other areas, and keep us in the jobless recovery mode, as new hires in some sectors are replaced by laid off mortgage brokers, etc... (BTW folks, that's already starting. There's a branch to a major brokerage in my building, and I know they are preparing for layoffs in the near future, as the refi market is expected to tank).
3. The tax cut is not, I repeat, not a major stimulus. It's geared too high up the food chain. In a nutshell, if you want to immediately pump up the consumer market, you have have to target downward. Folks who don't have a lot of money will spend any they can get. Folks with a lot of money will save, as they already can buy what they want. Its that simple. Now thank you very much Mr. Bush for my big ~$50 per pay period, but that isn't going to result in a whole lot of "economic stimulating". Likewise, Bill Gates isn't about to race out and buy a second mansion because he got back an additional X million.
4. The stock market is not the economy in the short term. Stocks can go up in the short term while the economy tanks. The reverse can happen. The dotcom hiring frenzy started over a year before the bubble started, and the layoffs were flying over a year before it burst. The present upswing is indeed likely to be a result of the tax cuts, but that's a one time restructure. Make any asset more profitable than another in a portfolio and money will flow that way. But it doesn't mean that anyone will be hiring new employees or ramping up production at these firms, which is the real economy. It just means that some assets have climbed in value, while other will have dropped.
I leave it to you to incorporate the implications for the value of the "real estate asset".
5. If you lower taxes the market will rise? Hmm...that must mean that the best place to invest is Russia, since their poor collection scheme makes marginal taxes really low. And that really makes the 90's boom strabnge, given that it is generally considered to have been sparked by a tax increase, which rebalanced the domestic books. If you lower taxes via deficit spending, you get bupkus, as the long term debt cancels out the cuts.
The rest is just "man on horseback" idiotic propaganda imagery of Bush, and can be ignored.
What a collection of stupid tripe. I guess it does give one an insight into the economic understanding of the NRO readership however, and some conservatives in general.
Interesting: The Online Chat at the WaPo with Mel Goodman: Senior Fellow, Center for International Policy is a must read. Plain spoken and direct, and quite succinctly captures all of the realities to this Admin, not to mention a quite amusing reference to Richard Cohen as a "Useful Idiot". Just click the link. washingtonpost.com - Live Online -
Have you got any idea of something called pride? Pride is what kept the Mayflower people from giving up and sailing back to England. It's what gave the early Americans the steel to face their own Iraqs — Indians and freezing weather and hunger and pain and loneliness.
Indians? Exactly, pray tell Bill, what is the parallel between Iraq and Indians, other than the obvious fact that we occupied both? Are you seriously equating the two? Did that whole concept of them actually living here first, etc...just slip your mind?
Or are you quite proud of the "steel" that allowed European Settlers to engineer such marvels as smallpox blankets and the Trail of Tears? Maybe we should have a proud celebration day because we effectively killed by disease (see smallpox blankets, above) or war 90+% of the folks whose land we stole, and shoved on reservations?
If that's something he thinks we should be proud of, I'd like a bag of whatever Bill's smoking sent over to my place. I haven't gotten that baked in years.
Hey, Let's Compromise Covert Ops...That'll Learn 'Em: Wonderful. In a nice little smack down, the Admin just exposed a CIA cov-opCapital Games. This is illegal you know. Wanna bet no one investigates at all? Doublke or nothing...wanna bet the press doesn't write this up, but keeps spinning the Niger bit?
This is exactly what I meant. This Admin is guilty of a lot of lies and sleazy behavior, but the press will just spin their nice easy storyline.
Oh, triple or nothing. Wanna bet Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds and all the other unlikely "new best friends" of the howler never, ever write this story up?
Glenn Reynolds (aka "Instapundit") Does Ironic Spin!
Glenn Reynolds (aka "Instapundit") Does Ironic Spin!: Yes, one of the 800 lb gorillas of blogdom, Glenn Reynolds manages a new achievement in the annals of spin, ironic spinning. Or should I make that the author of the "Pro-Republican Instapundit" (you know you're in trouble when the writer starts out by making such implications).
In his article, "Advice for the Democrats", he starts out with the following:
Forget this “where are the weapons?” and “Bush lied!” stuff. It’s not flying. Heck, it’s even getting refuted, over and over, by the strongly pro-Democrat Daily Howler. This issue is a loser. As the Howler writes:
"Let’s make this as simple as possible. If you’re going to accuse public officials of conducting a “hoax” (Nicholas Kristof), you can’t refuse to publish their explanation (Kristof) and you can’t bury their explanation at the end of a long, front-page article (the Post). You can’t pretend you don’t know what they’ve said. And no, you can’t make the kind of factual presentation made on Monday night’s Hardball."
Ouch. It’s a loser, and though it generated some sound and fury last week and over the weekend (conveniently eclipsing Bush’s enormously important AIDS and trade initiatives in Africa), it now seems to be a tale told by idiots, signifying nothing. As the Howler points out, Bush’s speech said that Iraq was trying to get nuclear material from Africa and that our information came from the British. The British still stand by this and there’s not much evidence that they’re wrong. Bush’s critics have conflated one bogus document relating to Niger with Bush’s statement about all sorts of other evidence relating to Africa, a continent of which Niger is, of course, only a small part. (You can read more on the subject at the Howler links above, and here.)
Now there's only one problem here. Read the following links;
Now, can anyone there find any reference to "The Democrats"? No. What this series is about are the sleazy tactics used by the press in trumping up a storyline they like. This is what Bob at the Howler does, and he does it very well. But at no point does he discuss "Democrats" in this, unless you want to presume all of the readers he addresses are (I'm one, and I'm of a Libertarian bent) , or pull out the tired old canard that reporters are. If so, you wanna go and explain the copious notes he's taken about "The War on Gore"?.
In fact, even a cursory review of the record shows that the Dems spent the early part of this story cycle playing it safe and staying silent on the matter. It wasn't until the press really started slamming in that they followed suit. This is another example of bandwagon storyline driven press behavior, not some secret slander effort by the Dems. Its not even possible to mistake this fact, given that he parallels the present press behavior to similar manipulative tactics used against Gore in campaign 2000.
Yet re-read Glenn's piece, and you'll see he's pretending that Bob is really talking about the Dems. Moreover, he's very, very selective in what he cares to quote from the Howler. The Howler is on the press for one narrow point, which is that Bush did not specifically state "Niger" in his SOTU speech, but reporters are pretending not to notice. Quite correct. But what about this item from one of the Howler pages Glenn linked to?
Sorry, kids. Bush has gotten absurdly favorable press, during his campaign and during his presidency. No one has pointed that out more than we have. But when he’s been slimed, we’ve spoken up. And guess what? The same hapless people who slimed Bill and Al were spinning Bush this past Monday. Maybe you want to give these scribes to power to pick and choose their facts. But we think that would be very foolish. What happens when journalists are given that power? Review the past five years of work about the spinning of Clinton and Gore.
That whole "favorable press bit"? Inconvienient, so let's ignore it. How about this one:
Yes, readers! Here at THE HOWLER, we’d support a real study of Bush-on-Iraq. But Meyerson does something totally different. How does Meyerson tell this tale? First, Bush makes a “baseless assertion” in the State of the Union, saying that Iraq tried to get uranium “from Niger.” This “baseless assertion” totally relies on documents later shown to be forgeries. And even after these documents are debunked, Cheney stubbornly says they’re legit. According to Meyerson, the Bush Admin had nothing except those forged documents, and its “stubborn man” stood by his false claims even after the forged docs were debunked. British intelligence? Directly referenced by Bush in his statement, British intell is nowhere in sight.
Here at THE HOWLER, we’d support a real examination, but there’s no excuse for tales like this one. Readers, you have to make a decision: Are you willing to tolerate nonsense like this just because it feels good going down?
Or this one:
That doesn’t mean that the British assessment is accurate; it doesn’t mean the assessment should have been in the speech.
So too with the 16-word statement. To all appearances, the corps had reached a global judgment—Bush hyped the facts on Iraq. That overall view may be perfectly fair. [emphasis added] But here’s the problem—even if that’s a valid view, “238-gate” just doesn’t cut it as the Perfect Illustration. Perhaps the statement didn’t belong in the speech. The statement may not even be true. But if you say that Bush was citing British intelligence, the tale becomes an Imperfect Storm. So, just as with the free temple luncheon, scribes began leaving facts out.
Yet Glenn pretends that the Howler supports his two main points that the Democrats are driving these comments, and to forget the "Bush Lied" or "Where is the WMD" issues. It does not. It says nothing on either of these points. All Bob has done is address the very narrow point that the press has been substituting real investigative journalism on the subject with easy rhetorical tricks, exactly in the same way they did with Gore in 2000. That's it, nothing more.
In fact, as the quotes above note, the Howler states that a full investigation may indeed be warranted. My own take from a few days ago is that allowing the press corps to narrow things is giving the Admin an easy out, allowing them to pretend "it's just one data point". In fact, there are numerous falsehoods that have been shown in the Admin's case for war, exemplified by Cranberg's study of the "embellished" transcript in Powell's speech to the UN, the Aluminum tubes bit, the phony "Al-Q base and Chemical Plant" in Northern Iraq, etc... This is what should be heavily investigated, rather than slip into faking up an easy storyline.
The irony is obvious. Glenn Reynolds is spinning the Howler to support his own favored "pleasing storyline". So, in effect, he is spinning a series of articles that are attacking anti-Admin spin. If that isn't a perfect example of irony in action, I don't know what is.
If Instapundit approved Andy Sullivan and "Hackmeister" Kaus' theory of the "self-correcting blogosphere" is accurate, Glenn should retract this part of his article immediately.
Dont They Get Dizzy Doing All That Spinning?: Bob Somerby continue to fight the good fight on holding the press to a standard of accuracy and honesty in today's Daily Howler; Harold Meyerson murdered the facts as he beat up on stubborn old Cheney. Again, as I've noted, just because one doesn't like the target, doesn't mean one should allow for the slipshod methods being used by our so called "journalists" out there. Remember, these slipshod methods can be used right back at "your guy' (and likely will).
What's been astounding is how many of these folks seem to have no problem openly admitting this dreck is going on. Even more astounding is how they also don't care, or actually justify it. Look at yesterday's input from Howie Kurtz, supposed "Media Critic".
The reason is one of the following:
a) More facts keep tumbling out and the administration keeps shifting its explanations.
b) Anti-Bush reporters were frustrated by Bush's high standing during the war and now see an opportunity to whack the president.
c) The press is treating the story as a metaphor for the larger credibility problems of the White House.
Or all of the above.
Look at that last item. Now do we really need a press that speaks in "metaphors"? By definition, that implies them filering content down to all of us rubes to tell the story they like (which is precisely what Somerby is saying). First they decide that Bush is a "Man of Character", and phony up a bunch of slander on Gore while pretending that Bush wasn't lying through his teeth all along during that campaign. Now, having been "burned" (in their opinion, though how you can blame another for your own self-delusion is a good question), they start phonying up a reversal.
Again, report the actual facts, and you don't need the "metaphors". It was painfully apparent to anyone not trying to spin that Bush was a liar from day one. The reality and facts are there, and don't need trumped up spin.
The ugly reality about stonewalling and lying is that, if pursued with the proper discipline, it can be an effective public-relations tool. Mainstream reporters may contrast what a White House press spokesman says with what somebody else says, but they usually hesitate to state bluntly that Person A is lying and Person B is telling the truth. (An admirable exception is Dana Milbank of the Washington Post, who has devoted considerable energy to documenting Bush's falsehoods.) If a press secretary states consistently that up is down, most reporters will present this as a matter of opinion. But if he states repeatedly that up is down, then says that up is up, and then resumes saying that up is down, reporters will seize on the inconsistency and cry foul. Unlike disagreement between one person and another (or even disagreement between one person and the rest of humanity), a single person's saying one thing and then saying another is usually taken (sometimes unfairly) as prime facie evidence that a lie has been told.
Is it wrong to lie? Reporters tend to shy away even from that moral judgment. But at least in Washington, reporters take a very dim view of incompetent lying. The rules of engagement dictate that you may not have an opinion about a president and his policies—too divisive!—but that you may opine all you like on that president's effectiveness at getting things done. That's what happened in Yellowcakegate. Even Jim Hoagland, who writes an opinion column for the Washington Post's op-ed page, hews to this standard today in lambasting the Bush White House for "the sudden tone-deafness of a Bush team that had been pretty good at not giving its enemies ammunition to use against it." That "tone-deafness" was demonstrated when the White House conceded that Bush had no reliable factual basis for his yellowcake claim. The more professional thing to do, Hoagland suggests, would have been to wait it out and hope that evidence would eventually prove Bush's unfounded assertion to be correct. Hoagland's headline says it all: "A Classic Case of Incompetence." Never mind that, in pretending to know that Saddam tried to buy yellowcake from Niger, Bush told a lie. His real sin was not being a pro.
(It is interesting to note that earlier he mentions he believed a lot of this stuff due to statements by Colin powell, but never mentions Cranberg's bit on those...if anyone is teflon in this Admin, it's Colin Powell.)
Amazing. Apparently, however, another thing that isn't appropriate for them to discuss is how hopelessly pathetic this behavior is. You will note that at no point is there any indictment of this mentality, instead we get this handed over as if its completely acceptable, if perhaps unfortunate behavior. Rest assured, no one is going to actually dare admit in there self-analysis by the press that they are wrong, or should change. We should just adjust to them.
Its about time for someone to start making the press do their jobs, and holding them to actual standards of accuracy.
Good Question, Tim!: Tim Noah of Slate asks a very good question in his new article on Slate, Why This Bush Lie? Part 1 - It wasn't his first. By Timothy Noah. Why is the press getting it's knickers in a bunch over just this lie, and why this lie alone? As I've noted, and Noah covers in his article, there are so many lies coming out of this Admin the real "man bites dog" story should really be when they actually tell the truth.
Hey, when they said they wanted to make character the issue, they never made any distinction about "dubious character".
Of course, this could end up proving that there is indeed a just and loving God. Maybe the diety will "Retire" Robertson instead? Of course, that would leave certain mass murdering African Dictators without a friend, but I'm sure they'll manage.
Bob Somerby, the Only Honest Pundit?: Okay, I hate to agree with anything that allows El Chimpizente the potential of getting off the hook, but today's Howler;The press corps has made up its mind on Iraq. Result? Basic facts will be mangled is exactly on the money. Once again, the press corps has found a pleasing storyline, this time with the Niger bit, and is now writing mindless, factually challenged dreck on the subject. Just because they are swarming against someone I don't like doesn't justify spin and manipulation of facts.
What's more, while doing the lazy bit of manipulating facts and spinning stuff to fit the storyline, they are blowing off the more important reality that there were multiple falsehoods out of this Admin. I've already noted two, and it isn't hard to find more. That's just with Iraq...it becomes overwhelming if you include domestic programs. Yet the dead silence on this subject is almost as defening as the huge clamor over Niger.
In effect, the much more important reality of this Admin's problems with telling the truth (which would actually require work to tell...they'd have to do research), is being obscured by the nice easy and lazy Niger spin. Moreover, it allows for an ultimate escape to the Admin, who can argue (and already have) that this is all just spin over "one data point". Now some might argue that the distinction is trivial, in that the Admin is finally getting nailed on a falsehood, even if the Beltway press is trumping up and willfully ignoring some valid points make by the Admin.
Bollocks. What the press should be doing is reporting the truth and facts accurately. Had they been doing that all along, we would have had stories on the Admin's lack of honesty long ago, such as before they were an "Admin" in Campaign 2000. Bandwagoning and spin now doesn't make up for that then. In effect, two incompetent wrongs do not make a right.
Please, please, please...just report the facts accurately. Then the truth will out.