Media Matters gets it wrong again, this time on Limbaugh

This from National Review Online:

In the latest effort to target Rush Limbaugh, the left-leaning group Media Matters has manufactured yet one more false — and by now yet one more tiresome — controversy. This one has to do with Limbaugh’s use of the phrase “phony soldiers.” According to the Media Matters narrative, on his September 26 program Limbaugh accused troops who want to withdraw from Iraq of being “phony soldiers.” Once Media Matters published this charge, key Democrats dutiful echoed it. In a public statement, Senator John Kerry said this: “This disgusting attack from Rush Limbaugh, cheerleader for the Chicken Hawk wing of the far right, is an insult to American troops. In a single moment on his show, Limbaugh managed to question the patriotism of men and women in uniform who have put their lives on the line and many who died for his right to sit safely in his air conditioned studio peddling hate. On August 19th, The New York Times published an op-ed by seven members of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division critical of George Bush’s Iraq policy. Two of those soldiers were killed earlier this month in Baghdad. Does Mr. Limbaugh dare assert that these heroes were ‘phony soldiers’? Mr. Limbaugh owes an apology to everyone who has ever worn the uniform of our country, and an apology to the families of every soldier buried in Arlington National Cemetery. He is an embarrassment to his Party, and I expect the Republicans who flock to his microphone will now condemn this indefensible statement.” . . .

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Media Bias Revealed in Seattle TImes

No matter what you think of Karl Rove -- or anyone else in politics -- please keep it to yourself, or at least falrly quiet. That was the message in a note sent to staffers at the Seattle Times by Executive Editor Dave Boardman after what he called "an awkward moment at yesterday's news meeting."

What happened? According to Boardman in the latest email installment of what he calls "Dave's Raves" it was this: "When word came in of Karl Rove's resignation, several people in the meeting started cheering. That sort of expression is simply not appropriate for a newsroom....As we head into a major political year, now's a good time to remember: Please keep your personal politics to yourself."

The incident was described in a blog by chief political reporter David Postman. He comments: "I wasn't there, but I've talked to several people who were. It was only a couple of people who cheered and they, thankfully, are not among the people who get a say in news play. But obviously news staff shouldn't be cheering or jeering the day's news, particularly as Boardman points out, 'when we have an outside guest in the room.' . . . . (Emphasis added)

I emphasized the word "particularly" because why should it be that they should hide their political views "when we have an outside guest in the room."

Apparently, the reaction at the Seattle Times is not unique. Joe Scarborough witnessed a similar event at MSNBC:

Joe Scarborough has pulled back the curtain on the liberal bias at MSNBC, describing an incident in which people in its newsroom ceaselessly booed President Bush during a State of the Union address.

The revelation came on "Morning Joe" today at 6:02 A.M. EDT. Joe was discussing a recent episode at the Seattle Times in which reporters and editors cheered the news that Karl Rove had resigned. Scarborough applauded Seattle Times Executive Editor Dave Boardman for issuing a memorandum reproving his colleagues. For more, read NB items by Brent Baker and Ken Shepherd.. . . . (Emphasis added)



New York Times concerned about Wall Street Journal's objectivity

If we were in any other business, a risky takeover of a powerful competitor might lead to celebration. Not in our business. Good journalism, which is an essential part of American democracy, thrives on competition.

More than anything, competition makes our work better — more ambitious, more in-depth, more honest. When Americans are served by many different, responsible, competing news outlets, they can make more informed judgments. That is why we, and so many others, are paying such anxious attention to Rupert Murdoch’s purchase of Dow Jones & Company and its crown jewel, The Wall Street Journal. . . .

Well, on the plus side at least the New York Times will maintain its objectivity. That should be a real boon for the NY Times circulation, right? Personally, I think that the news pages of the WSJ have a left wing tilt. I could see the problem for objectivity if the news stories moved to the middle.



The WSJ Nails New York Governor Eliot Spitzer

When Eliot Spitzer as the New York Attorney General he was known as having weak legal cases when he went after companies, but that he uses the reputational damage that he can try inflicting on them to blackmail them into settling. The damage often seemed to occur from well timed and placed information leaks. Apparently, Spitzer was caught using the same tactic against one of his political opponents. Given this was Spitzer's standard tactic for years, the vast majority of the press coverage that Spitzer is getting is very disappointing.

The media are doing their best Claude Rains act over the revelation that the office of New York Governor Eliot Spitzer orchestrated a smear campaign against State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno. But far from being a unique, out of character event, the episode is a classic example of the Spitzer political method: nasty and exaggerated accusations fed by selective, politically motivated news leaks. The difference is that this time his targets could fight back.

On Monday, the office of Democratic Attorney General Andrew Cuomo released a 54-page report on Mr. Bruno's use of state helicopters, allegedly for personal political purposes. The investigation had been prompted by the Governor's office after Mr. Spitzer's communications aide and hatchet man, Darren Dopp, saw to it that allegations of impropriety against Mr. Bruno had found their way into the hands of gullible, pliant reporters. . . . .

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Polls evenly divided on government regulation of media for balance?

I assume that people like the thought of "balance," but this poll is pretty worrisome. You would think that people would understand not only the difficulty in determining what balance is, but also that the effect will be to stop those programs where it is used from talking about politics. Of course, the rules won't be used to stop biased "news" coverage.

Should the federal government require radio and television stations to offer equal amounts of conservative and liberal commentary?

Yes 41%

No 41%

Not sure 18%

Source: Rasmussen Reports
Methodology: Telephone interviews with 1,000 American adults, conducted on Jul. 11 and Jul. 12, 2007. Margin of error is 3 per cent.



Media distortions: Ron Paul attacked

While I may not support Ron Paul for president, the Politico did an amazing hit piece on him: "Ron Paul warns of staged terror attack". I confess that I briefly bought into this claim until I read this piece: "Robbing Paul of the Truth". You really need to read both pieces to see how really bad this is.



Coverage of Virginia Tech

"If anybody cares about the victims in Blacksburg and if anybody cares about their children, stop showing this video now. Take it off the Internet. Let it be relegated to YouTube. Showing the video is a social catastrophe... I promise you the disaffected will watch him the way they watched 'Natural Born Killers.' I know. I examine these people. I've examined mass shooters who have told me they've watched it 20 times. You cannot saturate the American public with this kind of message" -- forensic psychiatrist and ABC News consultant Michael Welner, discussing the consequences of the media airing the Seung-hui Cho video.

From Opinion Journal's Political Diary



The Lancet estimate of 650,000 Iraqis Dying a Fraudulent Claim?

The statistics made headlines all over the world when they were published in The Lancet in October last year. More than 650,000 Iraqis – one in 40 of the population – had died as a result of the American-led invasion in 2003. The vast majority of these “excess” deaths (deaths over and above what would have been expected in the absence of the occupation) were violent. The victims, both civilians and combatants, had fallen prey to airstrikes, car bombs and gunfire.

Body counts in conflict zones are assumed to be ballpark – hospitals, record offices and mortuaries rarely operate smoothly in war – but this was ten times any other estimate. Iraq Body Count, an antiwar web-based charity that monitors news sources, put the civilian death toll for the same period at just under 50,000, broadly similar to that estimated by the United Nations Development Agency.

The implication of the Lancet study, which involved Iraqi doctors knocking on doors and asking residents about recent deaths in the household, was that Iraqis were being killed on an horrific scale. The controversy has deepened rather than evaporated. Several academics have tried to find out how the Lancet study was conducted; none regards their queries as having been addressed satisfactorily. Researchers contacted by The Times talk of unreturned e-mails or phone calls, or of being sent information that raises fresh doubts. . . . .

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Defining Freedom in the US and Cuba: Charlize Theron

Comparing freedom in Cuba and the United States:

THERON: Well, I would argue that there's a lack of freedom in America. I think -- I think -- you know, I think we tend to...

SANCHEZ: Yes, but you don't have Democrats being arrested and thrown in jail. And you can have a meeting in your house and ...

THERON: No, but I do remember not too long ago some people getting fired from their jobs in television because they spoke up on how they felt about the war.

SANCHEZ: Do you think the lack of freedoms in Cuba are parallel to the lack of freedoms in the United States?

THERON: Well, I would -- I would compare those two, yes, definitely.

SANCHEZ: Yes? .... It sounds like -- it sounds like you don't have a very high opinion of the United States if you think that the freedoms...

THERON: Oh, my God. No, you're so wrong. I absolutely love it. Why do you think I live in the United States?

THERON: I want to make out with you right now. . . .

It is amazing that Ms. Theron doesn't understand the difference between a government banning activity (especially when the government owns everything) and a private TV station firing someone for making a statement. How does she not understand the freedom of the TV station? How does she not understand that the person is free to work for other stations or radio stations?

In any case, as a minor aside, was she referring to the CBS people who were fired for the fake Bush documents? I am not sure of the intellectual leap between firing people for sloppiness/fraud and the government not allowing someone to perform.

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The Media Gets it Wrong on the Rate that Women are Married

I recently posted a discussion here on the media coverage of the claim that 51 percent of "women" were not married. Well, Jeff Jacoby has a very nice discussion that makes some of the points that I raised earlier, but he also makes a new stunning one about the study counting women whose husbands are not living with them (away in Iraq for example) as being excluded from the sample of married individuals.

"Women," for example, isn't the word most of us would use to describe high school sophomores. Yet the Times includes girls as young as 15 in its analysis. Not surprisingly, girls who in many cases aren't old enough to get a drivers' license are unlikely to have husbands. According to the Census Bureau's 2005 American Community survey, 97 percent of females between 15 and 19 have never been married. Incorporating nearly 10 million teenagers in the ranks of marriage-aged American "women" may be a good way to pad the number of those without husbands, but it doesn't make that number more enlightening.

Actually, Census data show that even with the 15- to 19-year-olds, a majority of American females -- 51 percent -- are "now married." So how does the Times reach a contrary conclusion? By excluding from the category of women with husbands the "relatively small number of cases" -- in fact, it's more than 2 million -- in which "husbands are working out of town, are in the military, or are institutionalized." That startling Page 1 headline is true, in other words, only if the wives of US troops at war are deemed not to have husbands.

Marriage in America is undoubtedly less robust than it was 50 years ago. But it is not yet a candidate for the endangered-species list. The Census Bureau reports that by the time they are 30 to 34, a large majority of American men and women -- 72 percent -- have been married. Among men and women ages 65 and up, 96 percent have been married. Yes, the divorce rate is high -- 17.7 per 1,000 marriages -- and many couples cohabitate without getting married. But marriage remains a key institution in American life. . . . .



NYT: “Very rarely will an African-American woman work for an African-American boss”?

This piece offers multiple explanations, but here is a possibility: might it be that the reasons given below by the nannies themselves are correct?

Numerous black parents successfully employ nannies, and many sitters say they pay no regard to race. But interviews with dozens of nannies and agencies that employ them in Atlanta, Chicago, New York and Houston turned up many nannies — often of African-American or Caribbean descent themselves — who avoid working for families of those backgrounds. Their reasons included accusations of low pay and extra work, fears that employers would look down at them, and suspicion that any neighborhood inhabited by blacks had to be unsafe.

The result is that many black parents do not have the same child care options as their colleagues and neighbors. They must settle for illegal immigrants or non-English speakers instead of more experienced or credentialed nannies, rely on day care or scale back their professional aspirations to spend more time at home.

“Very rarely will an African-American woman work for an African-American boss,” said Pat Cascio, the owner of Morningside Nannies in Houston and the president of the International Nanny Association.

Many of the African-American nannies who make up 40 percent of her work force fear that people of their own color will be “uppity and demanding,” said Ms. Cascio, who is white. After interviews, she said, those nannies “will call us and say, ‘Why didn’t you tell me’ ” the family is black? . . .

Some black sitters, both Caribbean and African-American, said they flat out refused to work for families of those backgrounds, accusing them of demanding more and paying less.

“It seems like our own color looks down on us and takes advantage of us,” said Pansy Scott, a Jamaican immigrant in Brooklyn, basing her conclusions on working for a single black family years ago. Ai-Jen Poo, lead organizer for Domestic Workers United, a labor group, said, “Domestic employees are at the whim of their employers,” good or bad. “If they happen to run into an employer who for whatever reason is not respecting their rights,” she said, they may draw wildly broad conclusions. . . .



Lancet Survey on Post War Fatalities in Iraq Continues to be heavily Criticized

If the New York Times critiques you (even with caveats) from the right, you know that you are in trouble:
Three weeks ago, The Lancet, the British medical journal, released a research team's findings that 100,000 or more civilians had probably died as a result of the war in Iraq. The study, formulated and conducted by researchers at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at the Johns Hopkins University and the College of Medicine at Al Mustansiriya University in Baghdad, involved a complex process of sampling households across Iraq to compare the numbers and causes of deaths before and after the invasion in March 2003.

The 100,000 estimate immediately came under attack. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw of Britain questioned the methodology of the study and compared it with an Iraq Health Ministry figure that put civilian fatalities at less than 4,000. Other critics referred to the findings of the Iraq Body Count project, which has constructed a database of war-related civilian deaths from verified news media reports or official sources like hospitals and morgues.

That database recently placed civilian deaths somewhere between 14,429 and 16,579, the range arising largely from uncertainty about whether some victims were civilians or insurgents. But because of its stringent conditions for including deaths in the database, the project has quite explicitly said, ''Our own total is certain to be an underestimate.''

It has refrained from commenting on the 100,000 figure, except for noting that such a number ''is on the scale of the death toll from Hiroshima'' and, if accurate, has ''serious implications.'' Certainly, the Johns Hopkins study is rife with assumptions necessitated by the lack of basic census and mortality data in Iraq. The sampling also required numerous adjustments because of wartime dangers -- and courage in carrying out the interviews. Accordingly, the results are presented with a good many qualifications.

I haven't spent a lot of time going through the methodology used in this survey by Lancet, but it seems obvious to me that those surveyed could have lied to create a false impression. After all, some of those interviewed do have a strong political motive and there is the concern that they could greatly exaggerate the number of deaths to those conducting the survey. There is also the question of the comparability of the before and after war fatality rates. Andrew Bolt has a very extensive and interesting critique of the Lancet paper:

But what evidence we have tells us these pre-war death rates were actually much higher. Dated United Nations figures suggest the overall death rate was well over seven in every 1000 – or close to, if not higher than, the present rate of 7.9 in every 1000 that the Lancet survey suggests.

But even more persuasive are 2002 figures from UNICEF, which in a much bigger survey of 24,000 households found the infant mortality rate in Iraq before the war was actually a tragic 108 deaths per 1000 infants.

This is more than three times higher than the Lancet survey claims was the case – and double what even the survey claims is the infant mortality rate today. . . .

The researchers did not ask for proof of the children's deaths and admit they were reluctant to ask for proof of all the adults' deaths, either, "because this might have implied that they did not believe the respondents, perhaps triggering violence". Were the Iraqis likewise scared to tell the truth?

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