Straight Talk - Part V

31 May 2008

At a town hall meeting, Sen. McCain (R-AZ) recently had this to say about Iraq:

So I can tell you that it is succeeding. I can look you in the eye and tell you it’s succeeding. We have drawn down to pre-surge levels. Basra, Mosul and now Sadr city are quiet and it’s long and it’s hard and it’s tough and there will be setbacks.
Have we really drawn down to pre-surge levels? No. McCain was either lying or misinformed. Neither is very reassuring when the guy is running for President. Also, just to remind everyone, McCain was also mistaken on whether Iran was training Al Qaeda and sending them into Iraq. He was even mistaken as to who declared a ceasefire in Basra. It's really bizarre how this guy has such a reputation for being a "straight-talking" foreign policy expert.

Part I: "I'm the only one the special interests don't give money to." False.
Part II: "
Every time in history we have raised taxes it has cut revenues." False.
Part III: McCain accuses Romney of going out of his way to provide taxpayer-funded abortions to Massachusetts. False.
Part IV: "Iran[] taking Al Qaeda into Iran, training them and sending them back." False.

UPDATE: McCain lies about his statements:

: Obama responds:

FOX News Has the Story - Part XV

26 May 2008

Part I: Sex Robots
Part II: Sex Teachers
Part III: Lingerie Bowl
Part IV: Panty Bandits
Part V: Hooters Haircuts
Part VI: Sexy Stripper Scam
Part VII: Stripper Fitness
Part VIII: Exotic Erotic Ball
Bonus: FOX Attacks
Part IX: Drunk Upskirt Pictures
Bonus: FOX Porn
Part X: Bunny Bar
Part XI: Teens Seen Grinding
Part XII: Porno-Tax!
Part XIII: Sexy Teacher
Part XIV: Sugar Mamas and Boy Toys

The Denial Machine

New Study: Network News Focuses Campaign Coverage on Strategy, Not Issues

Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting has a new study out, detailing how ABC World News, CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News have been covering Election 2008. Discussion of the actual issues (which are relevant to everyone's voting decisions, and should be covered by any sensible journalist) has been largely replaced with discussions of campaign strategy (which requires no effort, and really only helps the candidates themselves - and they can already afford good PR people). Among its findings:

Of the 385 news stories aired on ABC World News, CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News:

• 252 stories were mainly about campaign strategy--the “how” of getting elected--and 79 of those were only about strategy.

Only 19 stories, or one story in 20, were mainly about issues.

Eighty six percent of the stories were about campaign strategy/analysis, while 41 percent mentioned issues.

• When issues such as the economy, immigration and the Iraq War were present in a story, they were more often than not referred to in passing, usually in relation to polling.

In the 55 stories that raised the Iraq War as an issue, the networks made no mention of any of the Democrats’ plans for troop withdrawal or their stances on the troop “surge.”

• There was a vast discrepancy in the amount of coverage candidates received, with Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton, John McCain and Mitt Romney all receiving over 900 mentions, while Joe Biden, Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich received ten or fewer mentions.

Kucinich appeared only seven times, with four of those reporting on his exiting the race.

To anybody who has been paying attention to the endless coverage of flag pins, pastors, comments by surrogates, how much you tip your waitress, how old you are, what happened to your passport, how much you paid for your haircut, what your bowling score is, what the ethnic breakdown of the next state is, etc. this comes as no surprise. But still, it's good to have something quantifiable to point to in the future.


UPDATE II: Glenn Greenwald makes an important point:
In addition to how destructive is the premise that readers and viewers crave trivial political reporting, that claim also seems quite factually dubious. The same media outlets which operate on this assumption -- network news programs and newspapers -- watch as their viewership and readership disappears. Given their performance, they shouldn't be particularly confident in their ability to know what the public wants.

Moreover, polls consistently show that Americans hate the type of political coverage our establishment press feeds them. A comprehensive study (.pdf) by Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and U.S. News and World Report is very instructive:

Specifically, Americans overwhelmingly believe "media coverage" of the 2008 presidential race focuses "too much on trivial issues":

They also say -- again, overwhelmingly -- that "large corporations have too much influence over what the news media reports" and "most journalists don't make the effort to get the whole story":

Similar data demonstrates that Americans overwhelmingly believe that the media provides far too little coverage of substantive issues and policy debates and far too much coverage of petty gossip and personality-based attacks.

It's therefore unsurprising that the news media is held in the lowest esteem of all institutions -- even lower than the widely reviled Bush-led "executive branch" -- and that perception is only worsening:

Leave to the side (for the moment) the question of whether political journalists have an obligation (by virtue of the numerous privileges in the law and otherwise they are given) beyond maximizing ratings. The standard excuse that journalists like Harris give for their obsession with insipid gossip -- "it's what The People Want" -- is the opposite of what The People say when they speak for themselves. And while it's possible that what The People say they want is not really what they want, the declining audience and influence of establishment news outlets across the board is potent evidence of how false is the justification that the political media focus on irrelevancies because it's what The People demand.

The political media focuses on trivialities because it's easiest, because it's what they do best, and because it's the way that they (and the sprawling corporations that own them) avoid alienating those in political power on whom they depend.

How Clean Is "Clean Coal"?

25 May 2008

John McCain Supports Telecom Amnesty

24 May 2008

You may remember that back in February, John McCain voted to grant amnesty to the telecommunications companies that illegally participated in domestic surveillance programs.

Chuck Fish, one of John McCain's campaign volunteers, recently suggested that John McCain might not be willing to grant amnesty in the future unless there were hearings and a public apology for spying on Americans. Even though this suggested position is still pretty weak, and absolves those who knowingly broke the law without even a slap on the wrist, the McCain campaign has responded to clarify its position:

John McCain through his votes and statements has shown a commitment to winning the battle against Islamic fundamentalists whose quest is to destroy the United States. John McCain believes that as part of this battle, companies who assist the government in good faith should not be punished, but he also believes that Congress must put forth clear guidelines for requesting the participation of private companies, provide proper Congressional oversight of any such participation and protect all Americans privacy.

After careful and deliberate consideration, fact-finding, and exploration of options, John McCain has continued to support renewal of the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act. The granting of retroactive immunity supports the continuing efforts of participating companies yet should be done with explicit statements that this is not a blessing for future activities.

I'd just like to point out two tired, dishonest tactics used in this response. First, with regard to "good faith," AT&T has an army of lawyers, and they were fully capable of determining what the law was, and how to comply with it. "They thought it was legal" is no excuse. Second, FISA is not set to expire, and it is all too common for people to suggest that it requires renewal. This is a question of retroactive immunity, not a question of whether or not we will have any domestic surveillance laws at all.

But there you have it. Retroactive immunity. Given McCain's position here, I would like to once again highlight some very important conflicts of interest regarding McCain's top adviser, lobbyist Charlie Black:
Last year, AT&T paid $400,000 to Black's firm. Black was taking money from AT&T to lobby on FISA and simultaneously advising McCain. McCain, needless to say, voted in favor of granting amnesty to AT&T and the other telecoms at exactly the time that his close adviser, Black, was taking money from AT&T to influence Congress on its behalf. And, of course, AT&T and Verizon are among McCain's top donors.

David Cay Johnston: Free Lunch

22 May 2008

Political Ads: John McCain

21 May 2008

Political Ads: Sam Graves

John McCain and the Federal Budget

The Budget According to John McCain: Part I
The Budget According to John McCain: Part II

Charlie Rose: Jonathan Zittrain

20 May 2008

Bill Moyers: Melody Petersen

16 May 2008


CNN and Coal - Again

You might remember that the coal industry sponsored CNN's presidential debates, and that the only energy and environment questions asked related to the problems with nuclear waste storage. No questions on the problems with coal, on the candidates' cap-and-trade proposals, or on renewable energy portfolios.

Well, it looks like that's not the end of it:

CNN senior business correspondent Ali Velshi has been promoting coal-to-liquids technology and praising “clean coal, 99 percent clean” for an entire month. On Tuesday, CNN held a no-holds-barred coalfest, promoting coal-to-liquids and coal gasification technologies, calling coal “seductive,” and criticizing “blogs” who “go nuts” and “environmentalists” who “want to get rid of coal.”

What’s motivating CNN to closely mirror coal-industry talking points?

One hopes it has nothing to do with this:

The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity is a $45 million front group for over 40 companies in the coal industry.

John McCain and the Federal Budget

15 May 2008

The Annenberg Center does a fact check on John McCain and the budget here and here. The Center for American Progress does its own analysis here (full report here). The bottom line: big deficits.

UPDATE: In other news, unless he supports 100% auction, it looks like McCain's cap-and-trade plan might not be all that great (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities does an analysis here). Isn't all this stuff far more relevant than pastors, flag pins, age, bowling scores, etc.?

UPDATE II: I know that I'm pretty down on McCain on this blog, but in his defense, McCain has actually opposed the new farm bill that just passed. Among other things, it contained "a race-horse-owner tax break for the Senate Minority Leader from Kentucky" and some lopsided food subsidies favoring "cheap, unhealthy junk food." This is really a classic example of bad politics, and the cable news networks have largely given it a pass. Even though the bill had large, bipartisan support (including Clinton and Obama), it should really be the job of an independent media to look into these things (PBS is still cool, though).

UPDATE III: Former Energy Department official Joseph Romm looks at John McCain's climate speech in four parts (Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV).


This is painful/hilarious to watch. It also reminded me of the time Matthews called out an Obama supporter who wasn't even aware of his legislative accomplishments. The two main lessons you can take from this are: (1) the appeasement argument pushed by Bush, McCain and Lieberman lately is just plain silly, and (2) don't shoot your mouth off on television unless you know what you're talking about.

UPDATE: I still don't like Chris Matthews, though.

UPDATE II: It looks like Matthews made his own historical mistake in the same interview.

Edwards Endorses Obama

14 May 2008

George Stephanopolous Fails at Logic

12 May 2008

Former Clinton press secretary George Stephanopolous reads the exit polls, and then comes up with a bizarre conclusion:

We did ask a question I know in the exit polls about Reverend Wright, Barack Obama’s former pastor and whether that was influencing voters. What did we find? Right down the middle. About half said it’s important, about half said it was unimportant. Of those who said it was important, look at this in Indiana, 70% went for Senator Clinton. Of those who thought it was unimportant, again right down the middle, 65% for Barack Obama. So what you thought about the importance of Reverend Wright basically determined your vote.
Wow, that's some pretty seriously flawed logic there. It's as if he's straining to justify his network's obsession with the issue by once again inflating its importance.

First of all, you have a clear majority of voters who consistently say that Wright will not affect their vote at all (77% of those who lean Democratic say that it has absolutely no affect whatsoever on their vote). Therefore, to say that "what you thought about the importance of Reverend Wright basically determined your vote" assigns way too much importance to the issue in the first place. Second of all, to take a correlation and turn it into a causation is just plain bad logic. Perhaps the people who thought it was one relevant factor in the decision-making process had other reasons to vote the way they did. There are, after all, issues out there besides pastors and flag pins (health care, the war in Iraq, gas taxes, etc.). Third, even the data that Stephanoplous uses as his justification is pretty weak stuff. 65% of the Indianans responding to the survey who thought Wright was not important went for Obama, and we're supposed to assume that this was a determining factor? 70% of the Indianans responding to the survey who thought Wright was somewhat important went for Clinton and we're supposed to assume that this was THE deciding factor for them? Couldn't it be that those who were already predisposed to vote for Clinton were more likely to say that her opponent's scandal was a big deal?

This chart from Gallup perhaps explains the situation a little more clearly:

Bill O'Reilly, In a Nutshell

Bill O'Reilly Snaps...Again - Watch more free videos

Rockefeller Gives It Another Shot

11 May 2008

It looks like several telecommunications companies have a part in writing a law to grant themselves immunity. Sen. Rockefeller (D-WV), who has received plenty of money from the telecommunications industry, is once again complying. As former constitutional litigator Glenn Greenwald observes, "Their strategy is to craft a bill that they can pretend is something short of amnesty for telecoms but which, in every meaningful respect, ensures an end to the telecom lawsuits." If nothing else, Rockefeller is persistent in his attempts to grant amnesty to those who knowingly violated our surveillance laws.

Graph: Public Transportation

(h/t Paul Krugman)

Poll: Opinions on Global Warming

10 May 2008

Pew Research has a new opinion study on the subject. It's kinda depressing that public opinion on the topic could be so vastly out of sync with expert opinion, particularly among Republicans. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that FOX News and the Drudge Report consistently misrepresent the facts on this topic whenever it comes up. To pick out just one of the endless supply of examples, FOX News recently pushed a bit of misinformation from James Inhofe (R-OK), claiming that "400 prominent scientists" dispute global warming. This, despite the fact that one didn't have to be a scientist at all, and didn't even have to dispute the idea of anthropogenic warming, in order to make it onto Inhofe's dishonestly compiled list. Many scientists, upon learning of their inclusion, have requested that their names be removed. To take just another example, FOX regularly relies on former Exxon lobbyist Steven Milloy to spout numerous lies, which I've covered here, here, and here (and elsewhere). This is not journalism - and it apparently has an effect on public opinion. The only word that seems to fit here is "propaganda" (or possibly "ignorance").

UPDATE: For more information on the interaction between warming temperatures and hurricanes, as well as the actual scientific debate between William Gray and Kerry Emanuel, I highly recommend reading Storm World.

UPDATE II: With regard to the original post, it's perhaps best to just take a look at the temperatures themselves, via NASA:

John Boehner (R-OH) on Mother's Day

In a bizarre move, House Republicans have decided to vote against a feel-good resolution supporting Mother's Day. Seriously.

On Wednesday afternoon, the House had just voted, 412 to 0, to pass H. Res. 1113, "Celebrating the role of mothers in the United States and supporting the goals and ideals of Mother's Day," when Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.), rose in protest.

"Mr. Speaker, I move to reconsider the vote," he announced.

Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), who has two young daughters, moved to table Tiahrt's request, setting up a revote. This time, 178 Republicans cast their votes against mothers.

It has long been the custom to compare a popular piece of legislation to motherhood and apple pie. Evidently, that is no longer the standard. Worse, Republicans are now confronted with a John Kerry-esque predicament: They actually voted for motherhood before they voted against it.

Republicans, unhappy with the Democratic majority, have been using such procedural tactics as this all week to bring the House to a standstill, but the assault on mothers may have gone too far. House Minority Leader John Boehner, asked yesterday to explain why he and 177 of his colleagues switched their votes, answered: "Oh, we just wanted to make sure that everyone was on record in support of Mother's Day."

By voting against it?

I don't get it. Happy Mother's Day, everyone!

UPDATE: Incidentally, H.R. 1113 is titled "Inflammatory Bowel Disease Research Enhancement Act." But that's an entirely different issue.

UPDATE II: This is the same Boehner who stacked a global warming committee with Republicans who, as a requirement for committee membership, had to renounce their belief in global warming. Boehner is an obstructionist, plain and simple. That's what he does.

Sound Bites Getting Shorter

03 May 2008

From CJR:

In the Journal of Communication’s winter issue, Indiana University professors Erik Bucy and Maria Grabe update a landmark 1992 study, which found that clips of presidential candidates speaking between 1968 and 1992 had dramatically shrunk from an average of one minute to under ten seconds each. Since 1992, say Bucy and Grabe, sound bites have been further compressed into eight-second nibbles. Meanwhile, B-roll of candidates has expanded, and image bites (no words from the candidates) now take up more airtime than sound bites in campaign coverage.

But do the details of the findings offer any hope? Are sound bites, though shorter, more numerous? Nope. Denser with policy content? Afraid not. Shrinking in proportion to the length of news stories? On the contrary. Since 1992, the number of sound bites has hovered at a bit over two per story. Only a third of sound bites address substantive issues or breaking news; and in the average two-minute campaign story, candidates speak for less than twenty seconds.

Chris Matthews

02 May 2008

Cooking the Books

John McCain on Civil Engineering

01 May 2008

From an AP story, titled "McCain blames Minnesota bridge collapse on wasted money":

Republican John McCain said Wednesday that the bridge collapse in Minnesota that killed 13 people last year would not have happened if Congress had not wasted so much money on pork-barrel spending...."The bridge in Minneapolis didn't collapse because there wasn't enough money," McCain told reporters while campaigning in Pennsylvania. "The bridge in Minneapolis collapsed because so much money was spent on wasteful, unnecessary pork-barrel projects."
Of course.

UPDATE: In other news, John McCain wants to suspend the federal gas tax, which is where the Highway Trust Fund gets its money in the first place. This is a bad idea.

UPDATE II: This guy is ridiculous.

UPDATE III: He also says that he wants to kick Russia out of G8.

FOX News on Lincoln-Douglas

Apparently, the people over at FOX News are having some trouble telling the difference between Stephen Douglas (who participated in the Lincoln-Douglas debates) and Frederick Douglas (the African abolitionsit, who probably would have difficulty getting a senate seat at a time when slavery was still the law).

UPDATE: Staying on the FOX theme, I love this video of Bill O'Reilly and Hillary Clinton talking about health care. It really seems that O'Reilly isn't concerned with discussing - or even hearing - the facts from the other side. As soon as Clinton starts to discuss the substance and reasoning behind her plan, O'Reilly says something about how complicated the whole thing is, and tries to move on to the next topic. That doesn't seem like good journalism to me. Rather than discussing health care in any kind of detail, it appears that O'Reilly just wants to get his "socialism" and "bankrupting the country" talking points in there.

Ben Stein Invokes Godwin's Law Again

"When we just saw that man, I think it was Mr. Myers [i.e. biologist P.Z. Myers], talking about how great scientists were, I was thinking to myself the last time any of my relatives saw scientists telling them what to do they were telling them to go to the showers to get gassed … that was horrifying beyond words, and that’s where science — in my opinion, this is just an opinion — that’s where science leads you," - Ben Stein.

UPDATE: The Anti-Defamation League isn't happy with Stein's overuse of Holocaust comparisons.

UPDATE II: Here is Stein giving us his thoughts on science generally.