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  • Does anybody actually edit the WashTimes?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Just an additional thought about what CF highlighted earlier today, and how the WashTimes used photos of the Obama schoolchildren for a news article about schoolchildren being murdered in Chicago:

    And the additional thought is this, does anybody edit that newspaper or is it just a hodgepodge of whatever scraps of content employees can slap together? I'm serious. The egregious crimes against journalism that now regularly seep out that newsroom are just mind-boggling.

    Think about the specifics of today's case. The Obama children, of course, are not actually mentioned in the news story. But somebody at the WashTimes thought it made perfect sense to insert the image of the underage White House occupants into a story about murdered kids in Chicago.

    And no, this was not an example of an unfortunate juxtaposition, where the the Obama girls photo was actually part of another, more innocuous story and because of a layout quirk simply appeared near the murdered-kids story. Instead, the Obama girls photo was specifically selected to accompany the article.

    Ordinarily I'd say that's just God-awful judgment on the part of the Times editors. But increasingly, I get the feeling that there isn't anybody at the Times actually making editorial decisions.

    (h/t No More Mr. Nice Blog and Shakesville)

  • Camille Paglia plays dumb about Fox News

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Salon's conservative columnist turns her ire on talk radio this month:

    Talk radio has been seething with such intensity since Barack Obama's first week in office that I am finding it very hard to listen to it. How many times do we have to be told the sky is falling? The major talk show hosts, in my opinion, made a strategic error in failing to reset at lower volume after Obama's election. When the default mode is feverish crisis pitch, there's nowhere to go, and monotony sets in. Lately, I've been doing a lot of tuning in and impatiently tuning out. As a longtime fan of talk radio, I don't think this bodes well for the long-term broad appeal of the medium. I want stimulation and expansion of my thinking -- not shrill, numbing hectoring and partisan undermining of the authority and dignity of the presidency.

    According to Paglia, right-wing talk radio has jumped the hate tracks. Notice however, what goes unmentioned in her critique? It's the fact that Fox News has virtually duplicated the "seething" of talk radio; that Fox News has turned itself into a "feverish crisis" outpost under Obama.

    There's no denying Obama hate has becoming a run-away phenomena within the GOP Noise Machine. But Paglia suggest it's just an AM problem.

  • WashPost, please define "requirement"

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Here's the Post headline today:

    Obama Makes Empathy a Requirement for Court

    Pretty much lifted right from GOP talking points, right? Conservatives have latched onto the idea that "empathy" is the top priority for Obama's upcoming SCOTUS justice pick, even though that evidence is quite thin. And conservatives think that Obama's supposed interest in "empathy" is a really big deal. So, voilà, so does the Post.

    But "requirement"? That's a huge stretch, and one the daily never justifies. Here's as close as the article comes to making the case [emphasis added]:

    When President Obama talks about the traits he admires in a Supreme Court justice, he ticks the predictable boxes -- intellect, integrity, respect for the Constitution and the law. And sometimes he talks about Lilly Ledbetter and the quality he defines as empathy.

    Note how Obama only "sometimes" brings up "empathy." (Lilly Ledbetter is in reference to a recent SCOTUS case.) Yet just two paragraphs later the Post declares Obama is "making empathy a core qualification."

    There's simply no proof that that's the case. Indeed, the article only points to one instance in which Obama has even mentioned empathy in references to justices. Ever. But now it's become a "requirement"? Plus, the Post ignores that fact that, as Media Matters has pointed out, conservative Republican senators in the past have pointed to "empathy" as being a key trait that successful justices must have. i.e. It's not a new idea, and it hardly seems newsworthy.

    But the Post dutifully follows the GOP spin and treats "empathy" is a hugely important code word.

  • Ignoring facts to prop up the Pelosi story

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Nobody loves a process whodunit like the Beltway press corps. Mostly because they're easy to cover and contain virtually nothing of lasting substance. Which means the Pelosi/torture story has become a D.C. blockbuster as far as the press is concerned. (The rest of the country? Probably not so much.)

    But in order to keep the story afloat, key facts must be ignored. And (surprise!) they are. Perfect example today comes from Carolyn Lochhead at the San Francisco Chronicle, who adopts the prerequisite breathless tone to lay out the facts [emphasis added]:

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is getting blog-thrashed daily over what she knew when regarding torture memos, a tempest that began, ironically, enough when her ally President Obama released the Bush torture memos and she upped the ante with her calls for a truth commission... In the end, it could all come down to Pelosi's statements versus CIA notes.

    According to Lochhead it's those CIA notes that hold the key to Pelosi's future:

    The worst-case scenario for her pits her word against CIA notes in suspect briefings that by their nature grossly limited Congressional oversight.

    What does Lochhead then promptly fail to mention in her report? The fact that the head of the CIA informed Congress that the CIA notes in question may not be accurate or reliable. Isn't that sort of a key fact when claiming that a battle royal shaping up between Pelosi and the CIA notes?

    Not according to today's press corps.

  • Working the refs. It works!

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    At least it worked in Philly, where the Inquirer turned to disgraced Torture Memo Man John Yoo to write a monthly column. Why would the newspaper want someone like Yoo to pontificate in its pages? According to today's report in the NYTimes, it's because the Inquirer was trying to counter claims that the paper has a liberal bias.

    Score one for Newsbusters!

    From the Times:

    "There was a conscious effort on our part to counter some of the criticism of The Inquirer as being a knee-jerk liberal publication," [Inquirer editorial page editor Harold] Jackson said. "We made a conscious effort to add some conservative voices to our mix."

    Guess that's why the Inquirer also tapped former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum to pen a column (at five times the normal pay rate), because the paper was trying to counter criticism from the right-wing. Nothing wrong with diversity on the Op-ed pages, although as Media Matters has noted, if U.S. newspaper lack an opinion voice there, it's a liberal one.

    But also keep in mind that the Inquirer serves an hugely Democratic city in a state that, according to voting patterns, is galloping away from the GOP. But under pressure from the right, the Inquirer scrambles to hire a discredited voice like Yoo's, and a politician like Santorum, who PA. voters overwhelmingly rejected at the polls.

    Meanwhile, our fave part of the Times article was this passage:

    "What I liked about John Yoo is he's a Philadelphian," [publisher Brian] Tierney said. "He went to Episcopal Academy, where I went to school."

    Yoo is perfect for the job because he went to the same exclusive, private high school as the publisher!

    Amateur hour.

    UPDATE: Philly's Will Bunch makes some important points.

  • PolitiFact, please define "false"

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    I'm pretty sure "false" doesn't mean "well, we have no real way of knowing whether it's true or not, but for now, we lean towards thinking it probably isn't, though we reserve the right to change our minds later."

    But that's what PolitiFact seems to think it means. The St. Petersburg Times fact-checking web site declares Nancy Pelosi's claim that the Bush administration didn't tell her it was using torture "false," though it pretty much acknowledges it lacks solid basis for doing so:

    At PolitiFact, we normally would be reluctant to make a Truth-O-Meter ruling in a he-said, she-said situation, but in this case, the evidence goes beyond the competing accounts from Pelosi and Goss. We are persuaded by the CIA timeline, which the agency says is based on "an extensive review of (the CIA's) electronic and hardcopy files."

    It's also important to note that the timeline that contradicts Pelosi was put together at the behest of an administration controlled by her own party. That document provides compelling -- albeit sparsely worded -- evidence that Pelosi's recollection is incorrect. There may be further evidence on this that emerges in the future. Rep, Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, has asked Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair and CIA Director Leon Panetta to release the CIA briefing notes that the timeline is based on. We reserve the right to change our ruling if new information emerges that contradicts the CIA timeline, but for now, we rule Pelosi's statement False.

    Believe it or not, this actually overstates the evidence against Pelosi. Earlier, PolitiFact admitted that the CIA timeline does not directly contradict Pelosi:

    Although Goss says waterboarding was part of the discussion, there's nothing in the CIA timeline that states it was specifically discussed in the briefing Pelosi attended. So if we stick strictly to public documents released so far, there's no conclusive evidence that Pelosi was briefed on waterboarding.

    So, at one point, PolitiFact tells us that the CIA timeline does not say waterboarding was discussed in the meeting Pelosi attended. Later, in order to justify its conclusion that Pelosi's claim not to have been told about waterboarding is "false," PolitiFact tells us the CIA timeline "contradicts" Pelosi and provides "compelling" evidence that her memory is incorrect. Well, which is it?

    The real problem here is PolitiFact's insistance on declaring Pelosi's statement "true" or "false," when the painfully obvious reality is that PolitiFact just doesn't know whether it is true or false. Other media would be wise to take PolitiFact's conclusion with a grain of salt.