Major Media Are Clueless

Hussein KamelPeter Hart over at FAIR notes an amazing thing: ten years ago, Newsweek published an article, right before we went to war with Iraq, that proved that the whole WMD claim was false. The story is mostly about Hussein Kamel, Saddam Hussein’s brother-in-law, who had defected to the United States. The Bush administration used Kamel to make its case for war. The problem is that they were only quoting part of what he had to say.

It goes like this. Kamel said, “Saddam Hussein had a big WMD stockpile, but it had all been destroyed.” He said this back in 1995! But, of course, the Bush administration only reported the first part of what Kamel had said. Now you would think that the rest of the media would pick this up and run with it. But they didn’t. By 3 March 2003, they were far too vested in a great big patriotic war to let the facts get in the way!

This is what happened when Colin Powell spoke to the United Nations in the lead up to war. Pretty much everywhere outside the United States, journalists thought the speech sucked. They thought he hadn’t even come close to proving the case for war. But inside the United States it was one big love fest. Everyone agreed that Powell had hit a home run. Only the French could question that speech! (Note: I mean those in power. All alone with my little radio, I knew exactly what was going on. And I’m sure there were a lot of people like me. It was only hard to understand what was going on if you were an idiot. And that seems to be the base qualification of being important in modern American political life.)

When none of the big news sources picked up on the story, Newsweek did what McClatchy had done before: assumed they must be wrong. (Note: when it comes to the mainstream press, this is always a mistake.) The very next week, the cover story was “Saddam’s War.” It was all about Iraq’s terrifying weapons of mass destruction.

What I’ve learned over the years is that knowing what’s going on is not that hard. All you have to do is pay attention to the news and be a little skeptical. The problem with CBS and NPR and the New York Times is that they have no interest in understanding what is really going on. In real time, it doesn’t matter to sales whether your reporting is right or not. It’s a lot easier to just accept what the powerful say as though they are oracles. But we don’t have to accept that. And increasingly, I think we don’t.

Afterword

It always bothered me that Dick Cheney would leak some information (speculation) to Judith Miller. She would publish it in the New York Times. Cheney would go on PBS and say, “See: it’s not just me who’s saying it; the New York Times published it this morning!” Didn’t Miller see that and think, “I’m being gamed! The whole country is being games!” I think she just didn’t care. She’d gotten her scoop and that was all that matter. The truth be damned! And now that she works at Fox News we know just how much the truth matters to her.

O’Keefe Loses Lawsuit But Sadly Not Credibility

James O'KeefeI spend so much of my life angry at various people that it is hard to know how to react when I am angry even by that standard. Actually, I have good news. But buried inside it is an appalling revelation. This all has to do with someone who I think is at the very top of the list when it comes to the most evil and vile people in America: Jame O’Keefe—a man who shockingly still commands respect in the mainstream media.

I’m sure you remember O’Keefe’s amazingly successful sliming of ACORN. In the end, it turned out that everything O’Keefe claimed about the group was wrong and based upon deceptive editing. Leave it the Democratically controlled Congress to destroy the group based upon this right wing hit job. If I were O’Keefe, I would have been pleased as hell. After all, he did nothing to prove that the group was bad. All the work was done by insipid Democratic legislators who don’t believe in a damned thing.

The worst part of O’Keefe’s hit job was what he did to Juan Carlos Vera. He was the guy, who when O’Keefe came into his office obviously talking about the slave sex trade, took down as much information as he could. After O’Keefe left, Vera called the police and set them in action regarding this illegal activity. Of course, O’Keefe didn’t care about that. He had Vera on video apparently helping the idiot young man continue on with his nefarious activities.

So not only did Vera lose his job—like all ACORN employees; he also got so much bad publicity that he was effectively unemployable. As a result of this, he sued O’Keefe for $75,000. Yesterday, he was awarded $100,000 settlement. Think about it: this is a deal from the perspective of O’Keefe’s conservative backers; only $100,000 to get rid of the generally highly ethical and effective ACORN. Again: all they needed were a bunch of spineless Democratic politicians—many of whom owed their positions to ACORN organizing.

According to the settlement which Wonkette managed to get its hands on:

As part of the settlement O’Keefe states that at the time of the publication of the video of Juan Carlos Vera he was unaware of Vera’s claim to have notified a police office of the incident. O’Keefe regrets any pain suffered by Mr. Vera or his family.

This is either untrue or irrelevant. If O’Keefe was unaware of Vera turning the information he gathered over the the police, it is only because he was willfully so. His work was treated as journalism. Journalism requires meeting up with people you accuse. Had he done so, Vera would have told him this. O’Keefe would have been compelled to check with the police. The police would have told him that this was true. O’Keefe would have had to remove Vera from his video. But he didn’t do that, because O’Keefe is not a journalist; he is a Republican political operative. And as such, the media should have treated his allegations the same way they would treat any politician’s claim.

I am very happy for Mr. Vera. But justice has most certainly not been served. O’Keefe has certainly done far more damage than this to Vera. What’s more, O’Keefe should be in jail. He should be a national pariah; he should be worse than Saddam Hussein. Instead, he is at large, being well paid to work his nefarious magic to try to bring down other liberal institutions. In general, his attempts have been pathetic. But for some reason, the major media still treat him as though he were a journalist. But I can see their difficulty: it is so rare that they have any contact with actual journalists, they don’t really know what they look like.

Ravel and Bozzetto

Maurice RavelA couple of actresses I like are having birthdays today: Wanda Sykes is 49 and Rachel Weisz is 43. The great Arthur Lee of the band Love was born today but sadly died back in 2006. I saw him that the Filmore not long before that. The great hero of my home town, Santa Rosa, was born on this day back in 1849: Luther Burbank. And in 1671 Robert “Rob” Roy MacGregor was born on this day.

But most of all, we should celebrate this day because Maurice Ravel was born on it way back in 1875. I’m rather fond of him. But for most of my life, I have avoided Bolero because it was so unlike all his other very ethereal work that I preferred. But in recent years, I’ve come to appreciate Bolero. (You might check out the excellent Georgian Festival Orchestra version.) It is a fine and very subtle piece of music.

For this day, then, I offer you Bruno Bozzetto‘s excellent visualization of the piece for his Fantasia parody, Allegro Non Troppo. We can use it to also celebrate Bozzetto’s birthday, since I missed it back on 3 March. Enjoy:

Taylor Swift Swiftly Slammed

Taylor Swift, Super GeniusAs many people (Frank) will tell you, within the realms of poetry, film, and music, I am a philistine. Even so, I think I can tell the difference between true talent and aggressive marketing. Speaking of Taylor Swift, I find her to be a common, typically insipid, overindulged, and overly praised young woman who is being used as a celebrity drone attack on innocent children.

My husband defends Swift, saying, “At least she writes her own songs.” My response to that is: BFD. I wrote poetry when I was a kid – didn’t make me a poet. I was just another narcissistic, teenaged ball of angst, attempting to put into words all the deep and painful longing of my young, shallow soul. My writings were as introspective and naively romantic as hers, which is why I burned all of them.

In “Love Story” she writes:

’cause you were Romeo – I was a scarlet letter,
And my daddy said, “Stay away from Juliet”
But you were everything to me,
I was begging you, “Please don’t go”

So we know what she was reading in English class at the time and that she is under the impression that The Scarlet Letter was a romance. As I said, BFD. She will never be in the same league as Janis Ian, Tori Amos, Carol King, or Alanis Morissette.

Then there are her singing and guitar playing talents. She is admittedly more talented than I in these categories. However, had I learned I would have been a great proficient. Here is a poor quality video that highlights her singing and guitar playing talents.

The reason I’m even mentioning Taylor is because I read this appalling CNN headline: Taylor Swift slams Fey, Poehler.

WTF?! That little slip of a freakishly tall girl is going after to of the most actually talented women in our country? That’s quite a sac she’s hiding under her dress.

Apparently, during the Golden Globe Awards, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler poked fun at her:

Tina: You know what Taylor Swift? You stay away from Michael J. Fox’s son.

Amy: Or go for it.

Tina: No, she needs some Me time to learn about herself.

Well! If Taylor wears panties they were in a twist. She chose to respond via a Vanity Fair magazine interview that “for a female to write about her feelings, and then be portrayed as some clingy, insane, desperate girlfriend in need of making you marry her and have kids with her… is frankly a little sexist.”

Wow Taylor. Project much? Maybe, before speaking or writing, you would be better served by reading, not reading into.

In the video “news” report, I was pleased to see Erin Burnett kindly bitch slap the kid:

Voters More Liberal Than Politicians Think

StopDoes this drive you crazy too? You are watching C-SPAN or the news or something else and you see John Boehner’s rusty mug saying, “The American people do not want higher taxes!” If you’re like me, you scream at the TV machine, “What the fuck would you know about what the American people want?” Okay; you’re not like me; you don’t yell at the TV. But surly you think this (perhaps without the expletive). For one thing, the “American people” is not a monolithic thing. For another, we know what most American people think on this issue because we’ve asked them. They don’t want their taxes increased, but overwhelmingly they think the rich do not pay enough in taxes and would like to see them pay more.

There are two ways to look at these kinds of statements from conservative politicians. It could be that they are just lying. They do combine politician (mendacity) and conservative (willfully ignorant) into one big deception singularity. Or it could be that they actually believe what they are saying. As it turns out, there are data that indicates that this is the case.

Dylan Matthews presented research by two economics graduate students that compares the opinions of legislator’s constituencies to what the legislator thinks they are. You will be shocked by the results, I’m sure! It turns out that Democrats and Republicans alike think that their constituencies are a whole lot more conservative than they actually are. On average, Republicans overestimate how conservative their constituencies are by 20%. What does that mean specifically? It means that the average Republican state legislator thinks his constituency is more conservative than the most conservative district in the United States. Got that? Republicans think the people they represent are more conservative than the most conservative constituency in the country!

What is even worse: Democrats also systematically overestimate how conservative their constituencies are. Depending on the issue, Democrats overstate this by 5% to 10%. In other words: they still overstate this by a lot. And this explains why it is that a popular idea like single payer healthcare is considered a nonstarter by political elites. It is also why Democrats have long thought that gun control was a losing issue for them. It doesn’t make any sense. Everyone could see that regardless of how pro-gun democrats got, they never got credit for it. For various reasons, almost none of which have to do with gun control, gun lovers will always tilt toward the Republican Party. So now Democrats have learned that while the NRA isn’t going to help them get elected, they also aren’t going to hurt them.

I don’t know what we can do about this disconnect between what politicians think and what the people think. But I have some ideas. Obviously, part of the solution is to get money out of politics. Whether they are consciously aware of it or not, most politicians have their ideas about what “the people” want altered by the very clear signals of what corporations want. Another part of the solution is just getting the information out: politicians need to be told that their views are skewed. And as always, the biggest part of the solution is voter turnout. If we just get out and vote, we will get more and more politicians who are more and more liberal.

Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth!