Saturday, January 15, 2005

Why Bother?

As probably many of you are, August is wondering why one wastes any time with this stuff. I think he's wrong - there are two main reasons for pushing back. One is that it means that bullshit will only be accepted truth for 60% of the population instead of 85%. And, second, if you don't push back they're just emboldened the next time. But, more generally he's right about the dynamic at play:

I really don't even understand why some high-tier bloggers are even bothering to continue this discussion. It amazes me that once a suggestion has been thrown out by the Right- "say, didn't John Kerry molest a retarded baby in Vietnam?"- that anyone on the Left actually thinks that'll be eliminated from discourse.

We seem to have some fascination with the economy of the blogosphere all of a sudden... let's talk about the psychology of the blogosphere for a minute, okay?

Bloggers don't care. They just don't. They don't care if anything they say is one hundred percent pure bullshit. If they can feel good about themselves and extract one more day of joy out of their meaningless non-blog lives but snarking in someone's comments section, they will.

The accusations about Kos being a Armstrong Williams-esque shill for Howard Dean are bullshit. Everyone knows it. Why are we even bothering trying to legitimately counter it? It's bullshit, we all know it's bullshit, the right-wingers all know it's bullshit. But they know the "Al Gore invented the internet" line is bullshit too, and you still see it in weblog comments.

Oliver Willis or Jesse Taylor could write 2,000 of the most eloquent, intelligent words on the dangers of the current Middle East crisis. Within the first five comments, some dipshit loser will simply respond "oh, I suppose you'd rather have the army run by a guy who raped a retard in 'Nam, wouldn't you?"

They don't care. They don't care about their own self-evaluations. What matters- the only thing that matters- is that they said something they think was really clever on the comments section of some person they've likely never met.

In the three years I've been blogging I've seen college professors knowingly lie. I've seen gay men sell out their very soul for the sake of pretending that their President doesn't consider them an abomination. I've seen brilliant women with the most clever minds for pop culture force themselves to act stupid for the sake of convincing themselves of the infallibility of recent foreign policy. The right-wing blogosphere has removed itself from any realm of rational discourse and instead established only one principle: win the argument. It doesn't even matter to them what the fucking argument is. If some liberal said something, they're either a hypocrite, a liar, or a traitor. Don't worry, you'll make some shit up to validate that a little later.

...and the "Blogging, Journalism, and Credibility" conference descends further into self-parody...

Apparently We've Been Here Before

Ed Cone, October 2003

The blogging scandal that wasn't.

Lots of blogging goin' on claiming that this article says the Dean campaign is paying independent bloggers for their kind words. Suspects named in various blog commentary range from Oliver Willis to Glenn Reynolds .

Not so, says Dean blogger Zephyr Teachout. "We have one paid fulltime blogger, that's Matt Gross. I am a paid staffer, I blog sometimes, but mostly do online organizing." She says nobody who is not a staffer gets paid to blog for Dean.

I also asked Alex Bolton, the staff writer at The Hill who wrote the article, if he meant to imply that any blogger other than those appearing on the Dean campaign weblog is getting paid by the campaign. "No," said Bolton. "I meant people contributing to Dean's own site."

The sentence in question reads: "Dean has done other things to maximize his online fundraising punch, like...paying "bloggers" or professional Internet surfers to keep the enthusiasm up on his website."

I can see how people might have been confused. Yesterday.

(via mydd)

ZT, Monday:

On Dean’s campaign, we paid Markos and Jerome Armstrong as consultants, largely in order to ensure that they said positive things about Dean.


Hugh Hewitt.



...and, what Tim Dunlop says. Can we stop praising people simply for holding positions which any non-seriously-demented person should have?

Even More On Today's Wanker

Digby talks about what a tremendous tool Suellentrop is.

Journalistic Ethics

Maybe there should be a conference or sumthin. From Laura Gross at DFA:

I know many of you have questions so I wanted to give you the full story. I am sorry I have not responded sooner, I have been traveling all day with Gov. Dean and I'm in St. Louis now. Thank you for your messages and e-mails . . . here's the full story:

So I got a call Thursday from the Jeanne Cummings, The Wall Street Journal reporter who covered the Dean campaign. By all accounts, she did a fine job -- covered all aspects of the campaign, even met the Web team and wrote a long story on their work. She was calling, she said, on behalf of some of her paper's reporters in Boston who were looking into a story about the campaign and the blogs.

She said she thought she knew what was going on, and we talked "on background" so she could "just clear things up once and for all" -- that is, not for attribution. By the end of the conversation she had confirmed what she thought -- that there was no news, that this was what she called a "dead story" -- and said that she didn't think there would be any article at all, much less one that mentioned Dean. She said that if for some reason she needed a quote she'd call me back.

Next thing I know there appears in the WSJ an article so sloppy and so inaccurate that I spent the morning trying to track Jeanne down to find out what happened. She called me back at 10:30 a.m. -- and actually apologized for the article (written by two colleagues). She said that she wouldn?t work with those reporters in the same capacity again, would only give them on-the-record quotes and assured me that she had notified her editors.

Jeanne's colleagues committed a journalistic no-no: they took her background conversation with me and made up a quote from "a Dean spokeswoman". Their fake quote had this spokeswoman apparently admitting that the bloggers were paid for promoting the campaign. They completely mischaracterized our conversation -- and Jeanne was rightly upset about it. I was, and am, too.

Since a distorted version of the conversation has been put in print, I'll tell you what was told to Jeanne when she asked what the story was with the campaign and these bloggers.

I said that, as many media outlets noted at the time and a giant disclaimer on their blog said, these guys were hired as technical consultants. Specifically, they helped the Web team pick a technology platform for the blog (Movable Type) and helped manage Internet advertising (banner ads, Google ads, etc.). They weren't paid to write content -- either for the campaign or on their own blogs. And just in case there was any ambiguity, the campaign made sure they had a notice saying "I am a paid consultant for Howard Dean" right smack on the front of their personal blogs.

The only people the campaign paid to write blog posts were full-time staff at headquarters who wrote the content here on Blog for America. They and the rest of the staff at headquarters were people who quit their jobs and upended their lives to work 100 hours a week for a campaign they believed in -- and frankly, compared to "normal" jobs, the campaign barely even paid them. Had the campaign been throwing around cash to people just to write nice things on blogs, there would have been a mutiny in Burlington.

The point was also made that, besides being not true, this kind of accusation is in fact the exact opposite of the truth. Hundreds of thousands of people gave their time, money and hearts to the Dean campaign; all they wanted in exchange was their country back. They organized in their communities and they organized online, and many of them blogged every minute of it.

Some people even made the trip to headquarters -- on their own dime. They stuffed envelopes by day and slept in motels or on someone's couch by night -- and they blogged that too. To suggest that there was some network of paid advocates, as some of the more irresponsible outlets have done, disrespects one of the best things to happen to our democracy in a generation.

Jeanne's colleagues not only misrepresented my conversation with her, they also made a sloppy and completely ridiculous analogy to the Armstrong Williams scandal -- an analogy that has been snapped up and repeated ad nauseum by both lazy journalists and the right-wing media machine.

Here's the deal: the campaign paid these guys with private funds to do work that did not include writing content or otherwise talking/writing about the campaign -- and widely disclosed the relationship at the time anyway, just in case. The Bush administration used taxpayer dollars to pay Williams to lace his commentary with praise for a certain policy -- and both the administration and Williams covered it up. Also, it appears that what they have done is illegal.

No journalist with any integrity would be writing about these things in the same story.

I don't think I've ever met Markos, and I've met Jerome, but only briefly -- if the blogs or the media want to debate with them or about them, they can go right ahead. But they can leave us out of it. Because when it comes to Howard Dean and his presidential campaign, this is exactly what the Wall Street Journal's Jeanne Cummings called it as we hung up the phone: a dead story.


Bush is spending your social security funds to convince you that he needs to kill the program.

Look! Travel office!


What Jerome says.


Extra Wankery


Still, my verdict is to let Armstrong free with a slap on the wrist. Joe Trippi's hiring of Armstrong because of was one of the most-reported anecdotes of the primary season. What's new is Teachout's revelation that the Dean campaign hired Armstrong because they wanted him to give them good blog, not because they wanted his sage political advice. But Armstrong didn't know that, so it's tough to be too hard on him for it.

Armstrong had a blog. He got hired by the Dean campaign. He stopped blogging. For that he deserves a "slap on the wrist"?

...Gilliard has more.

Morning Thread

Have fun.

Wanker of the Day

Chris Suellentrop:

And while it's true that his role as a Dean consultant was disclosed and reported in the press on multiple occasions, it came as a surprise this week to a whole lot of people, including a lot of prominent bloggers.

Shorter Chris Suellentrop:

It isn't sufficient to tell reporters in mainstream media outlets, or to post it on your website for months. Unless you telepathically communicate it to the entire population of planet Earth, MicrosoftWashington Post Co.-owned Slate will find fault.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Late Night


Friday Cat Blogging

In the Crossfire...

NOVAK: Howard Dean is running for Democratic National Chairman the same way he ran for President-- as the squeaky clean candidate. Well, he may have been squeaky, but he wasn’t so clean. Zephyr Teachout who was head of internet outreach for the Dean campaign has revealed the campaign hired two political bloggers to say positive things about Dr. Dean at the price of $3,000 a month-- that’s play for pay. Meanwhile, one of the great former DNC chairmen, Bob Strauss, has endorsed one of the candidates, and it is indeed former Congressman Martin Frost, who, like Strauss, is a moderate and a Texan. Will the DNC members be that smart?

BEGALA: I don’t know. First, if in fact people were paid to flak Howard Dean and didn’t disclose it, that’s reprehensible. We talked about that earlier with Armstrong Williams, and the same standard should apply to liberals.

Campaign Desk and Simon Rosenberg chime in...

Full disclosure: I know Brian Montopoli and he may have bought a beer once, or vice versa. I don't remember. I also know Rosenberg, who has never bought me a drink.

Why Does Wayne Allard Hate the Constitution?

Wayne Allard:

"I believe we have a problem with Social Security that will emerge in 2018," he said. "At that point in time, Social Security pay out will be more than what is in the fund put in by working people or employers."

Allard said there are no reserves in Social Security because what is there is automatically transferred into the general fund, leaving a debt of $28 trillion. But he doesn't believe the money will ever be repaid to the fund.

"The money is spent," he said. "I don't believe in my own opinion we'll be able to raise the funds to pay it back."

14th amendment:

Section. 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned

Afternoon Thread

have fun.

Breaking News

Blogger takes money from Dean campaign.

Oh, wait, that story's a year old. Sorry.

Token Liberal

With all the obsessing about who the NYT will replace Safire with, why have I heard nothing about who will replace Al Hunt as the WSJ's token liberal? Or, do they no longer need one.

Bobo's World


SARASOTA, Fla. - The principal of a small Christian school was convicted of sexually molesting a female student.

The Rev. Jerry Lee Pitts, 38, was found guilty Thursday of lewd and lascivious battery and molestation. He faces up to 15 years in prison when sentenced later.

Pitts, of North Port, sat stunned as the clerk read the verdict.

Pitts started a sexual relationship with a former Living Water Academy student who was 15 at the time. The girl is now 17.


I remember when Jerome shuttered what was one of the most popular lefty blogs at the time to go work for the Dean campaign and when Kos prominently bragged about his consulting work.

If the people obsessing about "blogger ethics" think that there's even a hint of an ethical problem here, then, well, they should just STFU about "blogger ethics."

More generally - these types of "rules" provide a playground for assholes. They're a way to create controversy by assholes who know how to exploit these things. Jerome left blogging. Markos prominently and fully disclosed. What did Zephyr say?

I really wish he -- and every other blogger/consultant -- had an easy to find, prominent client list of all clients at all times.

See, he disclosed, but he didn't disclose enough! So, a controversy has been created when no reasonable person would find one. Look, blogging does not obligate anyone to put their whole goddamn life on display for the world - to keep a constantly updated bank statement at the top of the page. Do the lawyer bloggers post a list of all of their clients? I think half the employees of DC nonprofits/advocacy groups blog anonymously -- should they all be disclosing?

People think "blogger ethics rules" will create clear bright lines to avoid controversies -- in fact, as this fake controversy makes clear, they'll do just the o pposite.

Since disclosure is the obsession, I've met Zephyr, Jerome, Markos...

...Jesse has more. God some people are fucking clueless.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Late Night


Another thread.

Politics or books?

Politics is getting to be more fun. But, your choice.

Evening Thread

Have fun.

Wankers of the Day

Jonah and the Perfesser.

Afternoon Thread

Have fun.

What He Said

Big Media Matt:

Then the inspectors came back to Iraq and went searching around. They didn't find any WMD stockpiles or evidence of advanced WMD programs. They did find some banned missiles with ranges beyond what was permitted by the Gulf War cease-fire. Those missiles were duly destroyed. At that point, rational people began to think that the intelligence consensus was, perhaps, mistaken. It already became clear that several of the specific charges the Bush administration had raised were false, and that despite repeated statements from administration officials that they were sure Saddam had WMD, they couldn't provide the inspectors with any useful clues to their whereabouts. But the United States wasn't being governered by rational people, so they, along with their cheerleaders in the press, proclaimed that if inspections weren't finding the weapons, that wasn't because the weapons weren't there but because the inspectors were corrupt, incompetent, or something like that. Therefore, an invasion was necessary.

This judgment -- the judgment that took us to war, the judgment that's led to all the many American casualties and the many more Iraqi casualties, didn't reflect any sort of international consensus whatsoever. If people aren't aware of that fact (which they largely aren't) it's because the "liberal media" was so busy gearing up to "embed" reporters and put on a show of patriotic pomp when the shooting started that they couldn't be bothered to tell anyone what was going on. Needless to say, unlike with the Killian memo story, no one has been held accountable for this and no one ever will be.


From E&P:

At this moment, on Wednesday evening, it is too early to tell whether today's official announcement that really, for sure--no kidding--there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, will get as much play in the media as the report on the “60 Minutes” fiasco released on Monday. The two news stories share one element: neither was exactly a whopping surprise, after months of revelations.

Actually, there’s something else: neither scandal would have ever happened if journalists had done a better job.



Should we have gone to war under the circumstances then prevailing? Probably not. Given the lack of urgency with regard to Saddam's WMDs (yes, this is hindsight, but so is all of this), we obviously should have waited.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Wid Whiz

From the PDN:

PRESIDENT BUSH keeps warning us about the crisis in Social Security as he promotes his agenda for personal accounts. He talks of bankruptcy and an $11 trillion unfunded liability. But personal accounts won't likely fix the problems.

A bipartisan commission appointed by Bush to study personal accounts (rather than to study the many possible ways of saving Social Security) was unable to come up with a single plan. Instead, their 2001 report offered three ideas for personal accounts. None of them appear to make Social Security solvent and all assume that huge infusions of cash would come from somewhere.

"He Lied to the American People!"

I remember when that was enough for Cokie, Sam, George, and George to unanimously declare that immediate presidential resignation was the only possible consequence for such a thing. And, now, we have a president whose almost every word about Social Security is a Big Fat Fucking Lie. Not a mistake. Not spin. Not hyperbole, exaggeration, etc... But, a Big Fat Fucking Lie.

Once upon a time it was conventional wisdom that a lying president was akin to cannibalism, pedophilia, and genocide. Oh, Cokie, where's the outrage...where is the outrage? From Froomkin, who catches Yet Another Presidential Lie:

In addition to making deceptive claims about the system going broke, Bush continued to perpetuate a myth about life expectancy so misleading that the Social Security Administration's own Web site goes to great pains to explain how wrong it is.

Said Bush: "The problem is, is that times have changed since 1935. Then most women did not work outside the house, and the average life expectancy was about 60 years old, which for a guy 58 years old must have been a little discouraging. (LAUGHTER)

"Today, Americans, fortunately, are living longer and longer. I mean, we're living way beyond 60 years old and most women are working outside the house."

In fact, as the Social Security Web site states: "If we look at life expectancy statistics from the 1930s we might naturally come to the conclusion that the Social Security program was designed in such a way that people would work for many years paying in taxes, but would not live long enough to collect benefits. Life expectancy at birth in 1930 was indeed only 58 for men and 62 for women. But life expectancy at birth in the early decades of the 20th century was low due to high infant mortality, and someone who died as a child would never have worked and paid into Social Security. A more appropriate measure is probably life expectancy after attainment of adulthood."


CJR writes to Romenesko:

On the larger question of WHY this happened, we are not equipped with the mind-reading equipment that they apparently issue to editorial writers at the Post. But our best guess is that it had a lot to do with the desperate hunger of a third-place network to be first on a big story and a producer whose ambition went way over the line. The cover story in the same issue as "Blog-Gate" is about a vigilante in Afghanistan who sold the media a lot of dubious information, including a questionable tape of an Al Qaeda "training camp." Who was the first to buy it? 60 Minutes, for a story by Dan Rather and Mary Mapes.

Why isn't anyone calling for an investigation of that one?

Rathergate vs. WMDgate


More on Our Favorite Worldnetdaily Anti-Semite

Lovely stuff.

BoBo's World

Marshall County, Alabama.

Evening Thread


"Merits of Anti-Semitism"

Now there's a lovely post.

(sarcasm, of course)

Open Thread

Have fun.

WMD Hunt Ends

Well, I was right and they were wrong. Bite me warbloggers.

Team has been reassigned to find WMD hiding in the Social Security Trust Fund.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Even More Open Thread

I can't keep up.

Evening Thread

blah blah

Open Thread

Have fun.

If I Were the Mayor of DC

I'd do everything possible to ensure this inaugural was a disaster. Of course, making sure there's appropriate security is the right thing to do, but there are other ways to pee in the punch bowl...

Copying the Worst

Conservatives rarely point to Britain's partial state pension privatization program, because it's been a total disaster.

For all the fanfare that surrounds the Bush administration’s efforts to present a bold new idea on pension reform, the truth is that it is not new at all. In fact, the proposal first term in 1979 and which has since led Britain to the brink of a crisis. Since then, the nation’s basic pension, which is paid for out of tax receipts, has shrunk dramatically. The United Kingdom has the stingiest state pension program of any G8 nation, and there is growing consensus -- even among British conservatives -- that reform is needed. And ironically enough, considering that America is on the verge of copying Britain’s mistake, most experts seek reform in the direction of a more generous, and simpler, basic state pension -- one similar in design, in other words, to America’s Social Security program. ...

Britain’s experiment with substituting private savings accounts for a portion of state bene?ts has been a failure. A shorthand explanation for what has gone wrong is that the costs and risks of running private investment accounts outweigh the value of the returns they are likely to earn. On average, fees and charges can reduce pension lump sums by up to 30 percent on retirement. The nation’s savings industry, which sells those private accounts, has already acknowledged this. Which brings us to irony No. 2: Just as the United States prepares to funnel untold billions to its private sector for the management of private accounts, back in 2002, many U.K. insurance companies, mindful of tough new rules against giving bad advice, began to write to their customers urging them to consider abandoning their private savings and returning to the state pension system -- something hundreds of thousands of Britons have done already.

Nor do they point to Argentina's recent attempt, which probably was the two ton brick on the camel's back which destroyed their economy. They do tend to praise Chile for some reason, even though that was also a disaster financially, simply because it briefly appeared to be better than the state-run system which had been looted by a corrupt government.

Oddly, they frequently praise Sweden's system, even though so far it too has not gone very well, though they usually fail to point out that the total payroll tax there is 18.5%, over 6 percentage points higher than the equivalent tax here.

Anyway, I've said it before and I'll say it again. Over the longer run I actually don't worry about old people getting their money (barring a judicial revolution which stamps out the entire New Deal). The same demographic changes which are causing people to scream "crisis" will also lead to a demographic of voters who will vote to extract massive of amounts of money from younger voters for old age pensions, luxury retirement homes, etc. The question really is whether we allow massive amounts of money to be looted in the coming years, leading eventually to massive tax hikes to replace what was looted and to provide old voters with the pensions and services they'll demand.


Just when I think the National Review's economics reporting can't possibly get any more stupid...


Well, Bush needed to come up with a worse choice than Kerik, and he did.

And, that doesn't even cover his role as Senate Republican Whitewater Counsel...

Just Like Us!

Mr. Allawi learns quickly:

After a meeting held by Mr Allawi's campaign alliance in west Baghdad, reporters, most of whom were from the Arabic-language press, were invited upstairs where each was offered a "gift" of a $100 bill contained in an envelope.

Many of the journalists accepted the cash - about equivalent to half the starting monthly salary for a reporter at an Iraqi newspaper - and one jokingly recalled how Saddam Hussein's regime had also lavished perks on favoured reporters.

Another Clown of Clown Hall

My horse for better caliber c-list wingnuts...

Morning Thread

Chat away.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Late Night

Chat away.

What Liberal Media

The funny (and of course overlooked by the cranial-rectal inversion crowd) thing about the CBS/document story is that contrary to the screeching about it, the entire saga is proof that there is no goddamn liberal media.

Jayson Blair was fired in noisy disgrace for making up mostly harmless stuff, taking down Howell Raines with him. One botched news story at CBS, in which the substances was entirely true but the window dressing was not authenticated, and multiple people lose their jobs, and it becomes the biggest media story of the year. Why do we know or care? Because the right wing cranks demanded the head of the "liberal" Clinton-hating-obsessive Howell Raines because he opposed the Iraq war by putting Judith Miller on the front page. That story garnered blanket wall to wall media coverage, and has established itself as the reference point for "bad media," with the universal liberal media consensus being that it was in part a consequence of affirmative action programs.

Judith Miller - Shitty reporting. Doesn't believe it's her job to try to verify what her sources tell her. Claimed she was "proved fucking right," though about what we're not sure. Times defends her. Lots of people dead.

Jack Kelley was fired rather quietly with not very much publicity from USA Today after it was discovered he manufactured massive piles of horeshit over a period of several years about things which actually did matter. Editors ignored complaints for years, by their own admission in part because they trusted him because he was a devout Christian. One or two day minor story, no one knows who Jack Kelley is, and while it was a much more serious problem, his name, unlike Blair's, is not the standard name invoked as an example of "bad media." Editors did resign in the wake, but for some reason did not become household names and are not regularly mentioned as examples of "bad editors."

Stephen Glass -- made lots of shit up. Coddled, protected, and promoted heavily by conservative editors at the New Republic who never had their reputations tarnished by the situation.

Even more serious stuff:

Jeff Gerth: Original Whitewater story almost entirely wrong, with Gerth clearly lying about parts of it (that is, parts were false in ways which he clearly knew were false). Times defends him and the story to this day.

Lisa Myers -- deliberately alters tapes to convey false story about Mrs. Clinton. Her punishment? Promotion.

Chris Vlasto -- Many sins, including pulling a "Lisa Myers" himself, producing a segment for Nightline with deliberately improperly edited tape. Punishment? Promotion.

Jeff Greenfield -- Nightline correspondent on Vlasto produced segment. Punishment? Cushy job at CNN.

I could go on and on. But, the worst Rather has been accused of by sensible people is letting partisanship cloud his judgment. Accepting that as true just for sake of argument, it's still a far less egregious sin than most of the Whitewater-era horseshit which has never been acknowledged as horseshit by the liberal media, even though unlike the Rather incident, much of that horseshit was clearly deliberately manufactured by the producers and reporters. These events were recycled and echoed throuhgout the entire liberal media, with no one calling foul and no one calling for their heads. Without making any statement about what the appropriate consequences for "Rathergate" should be, it's clear that the media attention by that liberal media and the actual consequences have been much greater than dozens of worse incidents involving clear deliberate deception by people in the media.

Dan Rather - evil biased liberal whose partisanship led him to jump the gun on a story? Believe that if you want, I don't really care. But, "Rathergate" proof of "liberal media?" Just the opposite.

When Freepi Explode

The freepi get confused by Mel Gibson.

Take the Oath

This seems like a pretty good idea:

I swear that I have never taken money -- neither directly nor indirectly -- from any political campaign or government agency -- whether federal, state, or local -- in exchange for any service performed in my job as a journalist (or commentator, or blogger, or whatever you think I should be called).

Obviously I've taken ads from candidates, and I've plugged a few advertisers before, but there's never been any pay-for-plug on this site...


Given the large number of FOIA requests in the pipeline, who do you think the next wingnut propagandist to be caught will be?

Talk Radio

Someone pens a letter to Romenesko which says:

Can we please dispense with the non-debate over blogs? They are nothing more than the Web's version of talk radiio. [sic]

I think this comparison is worthwhile enough for discussion. It's meant as an insult to both, but for years the rest of the media ignored talk radio (they still do). I wish a tenth of the attention given to dissecting the meaning of blogs had been given to talk radio. I wish all the media people tut-tutting bloggers would listen to a bit of talk radio every now and then. That would give them some perspective that they are sorely lacking.

Captain Video's Visor



David Corn on Armstrong Williams:

And then Williams violated a PR rule: he got off-point. "This happens all the time," he told me. "There are others." Really? I said. Other conservative commentators accept money from the Bush administration? I asked Williams for names. "I'm not going to defend myself that way," he said. The issue right now, he explained, was his own mistake. Well, I said, what if I call you up in a few weeks, after this blows over, and then ask you? No, he said.

Does Williams really know something about other rightwing pundits? Or was he only trying to minimize his own screw-up with a momentary embrace of a trumped-up everybody-does-it defense? I could not tell. But if the IG at the Department of Education or any other official questions Williams, I suggest he or she ask what Williams meant by this comment. And if Williams is really sorry for this act of "bad judgment" and for besmirching the profession of rightwing punditry, shouldn't he do what he can to guarantee that those who watch pundits on the cable news networks and read political columnists receive conservative views that are independent and untainted by payoffs from the Bush administration or other political outfits?

Armstrong, please, help us all protect the independence of the conservative commentariat. If you are not alone, tell us who else has yielded to bad judgment.

Silly Andy

Andrew Sullivan, 4/10/03.


Josh is right that the WaPo editorial board is totally clueless. They wrote:

If workers aren't happy with a pension that, while generous in relation to the living standards of their younger years, feels stingy in relation to their earnings immediately before retirement, they can, if not in the lower brackets, save privately to supplement their Social Security benefit; if healthy, they also can postpone retirement.

As Josh points out, just who the hell do they think they're talking about? There are 6 tax brackets, and the top 3 only kick in for about the top 10% (probably less) of the population. So, the Bush administration is planning to demolish social security, and, hey, unless you're part of 90% of the population you can "save privately to supplement" your benefit. If you are part of the 90% riffraff, well, I guess you're just shit out of luck?

Moral Clarity

Let's be clear, "death squads" are terrorists. Their goal is not simply to catch/kill suspected bad guys, but to frighten populations into submission. It's collective punishment of an entire population. As Yglesias writes:

I've been frustrated lately by everyone's tendency to pretend their ethical beliefs and their pragmatic ones just happen to line up all the time, so I won't deny that this may well "work" in some sense. Indeed, in light of the fact that the best alternative plans I've seen put on the table call for the deployment of hundreds of thousands of additional troops who won't be forthcoming (and who in many instances don't even exist) this plan at least has a sort of cold-blooded realism about it. What it won't achieve, of course, is any of the Iraq War's ex post goals now that we know the WMD threat was 90 percent hype. This isn't much of a way to run a humanitarian intervention, nor is anyone in the world's Sunni Muslim population going to be dissuaded from jihad by the knowledge that the American method of democracy-promotion involves unleashing U.S.-trained Kurdish and Shiite assassination squads against people who are not "obviously guilty."

Just who are we trying to help again?

The Rude Pundit has more. I find it rather fascinating that the wingnuts appear to be simultaneously attacking Newsweek for being "alarmist" and using scary incorrect language, while they are endorsing all of the worst elements of what would be embodied in a "salvador option."

Wanker of the Day

Who else?

Time to Deploy the 101st Fighting Keyboarders

General Frist needs you!

Jan. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist said the U.S. military is struggling to keep up the fight against insurgents who want to disrupt the Jan. 30 elections in Iraq for a new national assembly.

Frist, appearing on NBC's ``Meet the Press,'' declined to say whether he would support extending the current 24-month tours of active duty for reservists and U.S. National Guard members. He said that might hurt recruitment.

``We are straining our Guard and reservist personnel,'' Frist, a Tennessee Republican, said of the part-time force that makes up 40 percent of the 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

Private Beinart, please report for duty...

Morning Thread

Have fun.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Oderint dum Metuant



Normally I just laugh at these things because I really don't care and if I express annoyance people assume it's because I want to be invited, but, the participant list at this conference on "Blogging, Journalism & Credibility" really is, uh, incredible.
(via Digby and Seeing the Forest)


Roger Ailes informs us that not only it is quite possible that Armstrong Williams failed to disclose, as he was legally required to do, the terms of his payola contract with Rod Paige and the DOEd, but that Paige and the DOEd also were obligated to do so.

Click through and send your own letters to the FCC.


Drum says:

In other words, when Rumsfeld commented that you go to war "with the army you have," he was exactly right. Kagan and Sullivan both supported the Iraq war, but it never would have happened if Rumsfeld had acknowledged that we needed 100,000 more troops than we had available at the time.

For that reason, conservative critiques of Rumsfeld on these grounds strike me as hypocritical. Would Kagan and Sullivan have supported delaying the Iraq war a couple of years in order to raise the troops they now believe are necessary? If not, isn't it a little late to start complaining now?

While it's nice to see the hawks start being a little critical of how things have happened, it would have been nicer if they'd been critical before things happened instead of, you know, attacking people who were being critical.

All of these people who fought this war to, among other reasons, demonstrate the invincibility of American power have managed to clearly demonstrate its limits. Odd, that.


More from Pumpkinhead:

When the baby boomers retire, there'll be 80 million. Roosevelt said eligibility 65, which was genius, because if you made it to 65, you were on Social Security for a month or two and that was it. Life expectancy's now 78, 79, 80 years old, so you have twice as many people on the program for 15 years.

Um, Timmy? No. There's a difference between life expectancy at birth, and life expectancy at 65. According to the folks at the SSA, for the cohort of people who turned 65 in 1945, 53.9% of men and 60.6% of females survived from age 21-65. And, for those made it that long - survived until 65 - on average males lived until they were 77.7 and females lived until they were 79.7.

While increasing life expectancies obviously have had some impact on total social security payouts, a big chunk of the increase in life expectancy overall has been due to reductions in the mortality of children, who never pay a cent into social security anyway.

The SSA explains:

However, as Table 1 indicates, the average life expectancy at age 65 (i.e., the number of years a person could be expected to receive unreduced Social Security retirement benefits) has only increased a modest 5 years (on average) since 1940. So, for example, men attaining 65 in 1990 can expect to live for 15.3 years compared to 12.7 years for men attaining 65 back in 1940. So the actual increase in time that males can anticipate receiving Social Security is closer to 3 years than to 14.

One wonders who feeds Timmah this horseshit.

...just to add, I know people make mistakes on live (or live to tape) TV/radio - especially if the conversation veers away from what you thought you'd be talking about. But Russert is the host. His job is to put together an entire hour of television (plus his 1/2 hour CNBC interview show) once per week. It's the flagship weekly political talk show, and he gets things like this wrong?


Agreed. It's time to integrate this word into American Standard English.

High Comedy

The Meet the Press gang discussing ethics in journalism:

MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn back home. This was a jolting issue in USA Today newspaper on Friday, that, "Seeking to build support among black families for its education reform law, the Bush administration paid a prominent black pundit $240,000 to promote the law on his nationally syndicated television show and to urge other black journalists to do the same. The campaign...required commentator Armstrong Williams `to regularly comment on NCLB [No Child Left Behind] during the course of his broadcasts,' and to interview Education Secretary Rod Paige for TV and radio spots that aired during the show in 2004."

Senators led by Democratic leader Harry Reid have written the president, Albert Hunt, to say that Mr. Williams should give the money back, that this was a violation against the law of blatant government propaganda.

MR. HUNT: Well, I don't know what the law is. It strikes me that it's not a very good use of taxpayers' money. It's certainly as egregious a journalist violation as one could engage in. Mr. Williams' column was yanked, as it should be. I will say this. Armstrong did deliver his promise, because I occasionally worked out at a gym and Armstrong's there, and he told me several times, you know, "Why don't you write about No Child Left Behind." I don't know if I'm going to be on one of those government expense accounts or not but...

MR. RUSSERT: How many columns did you do?

MR. HUNT: I didn't do any. So I let him down. I'm sorry, Armstrong. Listen, I'll tell you this. I'll bet that there will be a great market for FOIR, Freedom of Information Requests, in the next couple weeks because I suspect Armstrong Williams is not alone. There have been other people who've been doing this.

MS. MITCHELL: In fact, the Census Bureau has done this. The Department of Health and Human Services has done this in the past on Medicare and other issues. So they have gone to not just to journalists, but they have put out fake news releases...

MR. RUSSERT: Video news releases.

MS. MITCHELL: news releases that are misleading to the average person who believes that they are news reports. And I think that the lines are so blurred. We have to also take a step back and ask, you know, "When did the lines become confusing to people, between what a real journalist is and commentary, analysis or political figures being used as commentators?" I mean, that's really the issue because with all due respect to Mr. Williams, he didn't rise through the normal track of journalism and...

Fascinating comment from pundit Andrea Mitchell, about to provide false information about social security, even though according to NBC her job is:

Andrea Mitchell is the Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent for NBC News, a position she’s held since November 1994. She reports on evolving foreign policy issues in the United States and abroad for all NBC News broadcasts, including “Nightly News with Tom Brokaw,” “Today” and for MSNBC.

Later Mrs. Alan Greenspan tells us:

MS. MITCHELL: Well, you're absolutely correct that, if you look at the numbers, these private accounts or personal accounts, and their polling shows them--that if you call them personal accounts, they're not as unpopular; there's, in fact, some support for it compared to private accounts, so it's a matter of semantics in advertising.

But if these accounts were put in place, it would not nearly solve the problem. You're going to have to deal with the essential question, which is that our population is not growing fast enough, combined with immigration, to create enough workers to support a pay-as-you-go retirement system. And if that's the case, you either have to revert to inflation increases rather than wage increases as your standard for what your pension is going to be based on, or make other kinds of changes that will reduce the benefits.

Actually, the private accounts don't address the problem, which may not even exist, at all. And, Ms. Mitchell left out one other possibility, which is a very tiny tax increase.

Let's end with a pop quiz: how many on Russert's roundtable mentioned how much the Bushies are planning to borrow to cover the Social Security transition?

Answer is precisely equal to the number of times Ms. Mitchell's personal affiliations were mentioned.

More Desperation


Baghdad, Iraq, Jan. 9 (UPI) -- The manager of the Iraqi National Accord party, headed by interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, was assassinated Sunday near his home in Baghdad.

Sources close to the party said masked gunmen tailed the car of General Jassem al-Obaidi, who was accompanied by his daughter, and riddled him with bullets.

They said his daughter, who was on her way to school, was seriously injured and was reported in critical condition in a Baghdad hospital.

The assassination of al-Obaidi comes three weeks before the general elections and is part of a series of assassinations in Iraq that has killed hundreds of political, security and military officials.

As the Poor Man recently wrote:

…And, before you ask: no, I have no clue about how we can improve things in Iraq. I don’t have a single idea for how we can un-shit the bed, and I don’t hold out much hope that this whole bed-shitting episode is ever going to be brought to a lemony-fresh conclusion. I do, however, know who shit the bed, and have some sense of how frequently he shits there. Let’s stop shitting for a start.

The Regular Service

As I've remarked before (here), every time I bring up the racist tract The Bell Curve, the apologists come out in full force. This is a regular event here. Each time I hope it won't be necessary, and each time it is. It shouldn't be necessary to point out over and over again why no decent person should embrace this book or its authors, and why anyone who does is either a bigot or a fool or both, but apparently it is. But, since my dear friend Jonah doesn't understand why statements supporting Murray and the Bell Curve are "self-evidently damning statements" we'll try to explain it to him. Very slowly. And, then, maybe next time he'll think twice before revealing himself to be a bigot, a fool, or both.

DeLong starts us off with that noted communist Thomas Sowell's critique of the book.

Let's continue with University of Chicago Professor of Marxist Economics James Heckman (Journal of Political Economy, October 1995:)

1. The central premise of this book is the empirically incorrect claim that a single factor - g or IQ - that explains linear correlations among test scores is primarily responsible for differences in individual performance in society at large. Below I demonstrate that a single factor can always be constructed that "explains" all correlations in responses to a test or correlations in scores across a battery of tests, but in general this g is not constructed by conventional linear methods. There is much evidence that more than one factor -- as conventionally measured -- is required to explain conventional correlation matrices among test scores. Herrnstein and Murray's measure of IQ is not the same as the g that can be extracted from test scores available in their data set. They do not emphasize how little of the variation in social outcomes is explained by AFQT or g. There is considerable room for factors other than their measure of ability to explain wages and other social outcomes.

[Let me just add that the sentence "They do not emphasize how little of the variation in social outcomes is explained by AFQT or g" is crucial. There is widespread belief that Murray and Hernstein demonstrate that their "g," flawed as it is, explains a great degree of the variations in social outcomes.]

2. In their empirical work, the authors assume that AFQT is a measure of immutable native intelligence. In fact, AFQT is an achievement test that can be manipulated by educational interventions. Achievement test embody environmental influences: AFQT scores rise with age and parental socioeconomic status. A person's AFQT score is not an immutable characteristic beyond environmental manipulation.

3. The authors do not perform the cost-benefit analyses needed to evaluate alternative social policies for raising labor market and social skills. Their implicit assumption of an immutable g that is all-powerful in determining social outcomes leads them to disregard a lot of evidence that a variety of relevant labor market and social skills can be improved, even though efforts to boost IQ substantially are notoriously unsuccessful.

4. The authors present no new evidence on the heritability of IQ or other socially productive characteristics. Instead, they demonstrate that IQ is more predictive of differences in social performance than a crude measure of parental environmental influences. This comparison is misleading. It fails to recognize the crudity of their environmental measures and the environmental component that is built into their measure of IQ, which biases the evidence in favor of their position. Moreover, the comparison as they present it is intrinsically meaningless.

5. Finally, the authors' forecast of social trends is pure speculation that does not flow from the analysis presented in their book. Most of the social policy recommendations have an ad hoc flavor to them and do not depend on the analysis that precedes them. The appeal to Murray's version of communitarianism as a solution to the emerging problem of inequality among persons is a deus ex machina flight of fancy that is not credibly justified.

Both Sowell and Heckman were too polite to focus on the explicitly racist elements of the book, instead of the shoddy arguments in support of that racism. And, for that we have Digby. Part 1:

It’s true that the authors argued with wide eyed innocence that the book merely said that there are individual and group differences in intelligence and that these differences seriously influence the organization of work in modern industrial societies and that unfortunately they are pretty darned immutable, but golly gosh kerwillikers, that doesn't mean we all can't get along.

Nothing wrong with that, right? It’s just a little reminder that each individual should be judged on their own merits, and that's a good thing.

Unfortunately, the book also said some pretty strange things, even if you accept that IQ is the best indicator of future success and that IQ is immutable, which Herrnstein and Murray do, and even if you use their thoroughly discredited logistic regression analysis that assumes no IQ socioeconomic status interaction (when in fact, IQ and SES are highly intercorrelated) concluding that low IQ causes poverty. In other words, even if you take their completely flawed and discredited analysis at face value, when you get into the book (written btw for the lay reader -- no peer review) it isn't hard to see the real agenda.

In spite of all their studied concern about the “cognitive elite” and the danger to our society of all the smart people conspiring to keep out the odd and unusual smart poor person, we find that what they are really worried about is a supposed downward pressure on the distribution of IQ in the United States, which they call “dysgenic” pressure. They believe that blacks are experiencing much more severe dysgenic pressures than whites and speculate that part of the problem may be differences in reproductive strategies among the races. They blithely mention in passing a theory that blacks have the largest genitals and the highest frequency of sexual intercourse among the three major races but reserve judgment on whether that is relevant, saying that only time will tell.

(Who can really say what effects those huge black dicks have on those lil’ chocolate gals? It’s possible that once they set eyes one of those monsters they just can’t control themselves and those inferior genes just keep on gittin passed down. Better keep them large genitals away from the white wimmin!)

They also conclude that Latino immigration is putting downward pressure on the distribution of American national intelligence. They conclude, "Putting the pieces together--higher fertility and a faster generational cycle among the less intelligent and an immigrant population that is probably somewhat below the native-born average--the case is strong that something worth worrying about is happening to the cognitive capital of the country"

Oh lordy. Those wetbacks are bringing us down.

The authors believe that low birth weight and high infant mortality are probably caused by "prenatal negligence" on the part of stupid poor women rather than inadequate availability of medical care. They also trot out some unpublished research the relation between crime and low IQ, and between civility and high IQ. (I guess this shows which side of the bell curve the average dittohead falls on.)

They argue that America's “current fertility policy” subsidizes births among stupid poor women (most of whom happen to be black and latino) and, therefore, for the good of the country, welfare should be eliminated and policies should be put in place to lower the birth rate amongst these groups.

They also believe that our immigration policy is a danger to society because it assumes an indifference to the individual characteristics of immigrant groups.

But, they believe fervently in individualism. They say it over and over again. Once you deal with the birth rate of the oversexed blacks and close the borders to the dumb Mexicans that is.

And BTW: neither author ever conducted or published any research in scientific journals (which are subject to peer review) on the genetic basis of IQ and poverty in his entire career.

Part 2:

One can surely spend a lot of time refuting this nasty book in scientific terms --- it's as a rich target for scholarly ridicule as you can think of -- but common sense will tell you what the book is really all about just by reading the acknowledgements in which the authors declare they benefited especially from Richard Lynn's work and advice, a professor of psychology at the University of Ulster whom they describe as "a leading scholar of racial and ethnic differences."

The esteemed professor Lynn, who helped the authors so much, has been quoted as saying, "What is called for here is not genocide, the killing off of the population of incompetent cultures. But we do need to think realistically in terms of the 'phasing out' of such peoples.... Evolutionary progress means the extinction of the less competent."

Now, one could overlook that and assume perhaps that the authors were merely using his "work" for their(seriously flawed) statistical analysis, but since the book comes to much the same conclusions, albeit in more politically correct terms, it's clear that they were kindred spirits.

I can't speak for other liberals, but when a book uncritically uses the work of someone who advocates the "phasing out" of certain races and then goes on to use a completely flawed statistical model (that fails to take into account socioeconomic status) to prove that certain races have lower IQ's due to their genetics, then I don't think it's unfair to say that it is a political work and not a scientific one.

It's not the liberals who were being "unfair" or "afraid" by rejecting the book out of hand, it was those who pretended that Murray and Herrnstein weren't cynically using the language of science (by treating g theory as "mystical," for instance)to "prove" to their lay readers that blacks and Mexicans were "problems" (and that those problems are immutable because of their race), so no matter what the government or others try to do, they are going to remain a problem unless we get them to stop breeding and immigrating. That is what the book concludes whether anybody wants to admit it or not.

I for one don't think it is "unfair" to reject that kind of racist garbage out of hand but neither am I afraid to discuss racial differences in IQ. But, here in the United States, particularly as it pertains to African-Americans and Mexican-Americans, a genetic definition of "race" is a useless and phony construct. Murray and his ilk apparently don't care to admit that the "blood" of both of these races has been mixed with European "blood" for so many centuries that it is virtually indistinguishable from his own. Whatever differences exist between the races in this country cannot be explained by genetics alone, a fact which The Bell Curve ignores with its dishonest analysis.

As with "Creationism," Steven J. Gould and others were obligated to refute the shoddy science on which the book is based and they demolished it. But, since the book is obviously a racist political document, I find it a bit absurd that in order to be "fair" liberals in general have to argue the underlying scientific conclusions when the political agenda is right up front and clear for all to see.

It is both a work of astonishing scientific dishonesty AND a racist tract. One needn't refute it's scientific conclusions to point out its political intent.

I normally end this discussion by quoting quoting Andrew Sullivan's bio and his thoughts on the subject when TNR published the Bell Curve. But, in hunting for those I find that Andrew Sullivan is still keeping a copy of the book under his pillow. From the 11/23/04 New Republican:

And this, of course, cuts to the chase of the meritocratic project. The inequalities of ability are far more crushing than the inequalities of a rigid class system. And the great mixed blessing of a democracy in which everyone has a chance at success is that inequality of results seems crueler and starker. It cannot be blamed away. We're not there yet, of course. But you only have to read The Bell Curve (no, not its racial chapter) to see where we are headed.

An open market society with an effective educational system in an economy that increasingly values brainpower over brawn will lead inexorably to greater and greater inequality. And that inequality may be even less tolerable for those at the bottom than in days gone by. We can ameliorate this. But even if we improve the education system, the result is greater efficiency in advancing inequality. Human envy will not die. Neither will differences in human ability. And resentment will grow.

Contrary to myth perpetuated by Bell Curve apologists, there wasn't just one "racial chapter" which is "bad" and the rest of the book is fine and dandy. It's pretty much bollocks from start to finish, and the stuff on race isn't confined to one chapter. Andrew Sullivan, bigot or fool or both?

Op-Ed Needed

This is one Dean Baker needs write. As he's pointed out several times, the assumptions about economic growth (pessimistic) made by the Social Security Trustees are literally incompatible with assumptions future equity returns (optimistic). They've tried to make the point by giving people a little test -- having them fill in the combinations of capital gains/dividend earnings which give rise to the 6.5-7% returns assumed by the destroyers of Social Security.

However, the point of this test is lost on most people, and they need to turn it around. The important point is that if the stock market grows at 6.5-7%, then the economy must grow significantly faster than the trustees predicting. As DeLong says:

That means that the profits of currently existing and traded companies (not aggregate profits!) have to grow at 3.5%-4% per year... That means that the economy as a whole has to grow at 4.5%-5% per year forever... That's much higher than the Social Security actuaries' long-run growth assumption, which heads for productivity growth of about 1% per year and very low population growth by 2050.

I want a nice little op-ed pointing out how long the Fund will remain solvent if the economy grows at 4.5-5% forever, a requirement for stock returns of 7%.

Torture Day on the Sunday Shows

All of our brightest conservative lights have been sent out to advocate torture, it seems. Jesse says:

It's disturbing to hear the axis of Kristol, Krauthammer and Hume (who's a "journalist", although he's always replaced by a conservative when he's not on the panel, for some reason) talk about torture, because they really, really want to stick something scalding hot up someone's clenched something, and they're just trying to get all these morally facile "anti-torture" idiots to come to the conclusion that there is a situation in which torture might be okay...which, for some reason, will devolve downwards into the conclusion that torture is okay when used in other situations. It's an inane argument - I could, for instance, come up with an utterly contrived thriller-esque situation wherein I must expose myself to a room full of children in order to save lives, but if I'm seriously pushing it, the underlying argument isn't about saving lives. It's about wanting kids to see my naughty bits.


The torture brigade isn't really concerned about winning the war. They're playing a videogame in which they don't realize that they may never run out of bullets, but as long as they keep doing what they're doing, they're never going to run out of enemies. The strategy, however, will never change, as they can point to their score and the corpses on the ground and declare that victory is almost around the corner.


Late Night

Have fun.