Blog

  • County Fair gets results

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Earlier today we tagged the WashPost for publishing the Worst Headline of the Day and suggested editors change it online. The headline's been changed.

    The original unfortunate, and insulting, headline read, "Obama plays the ethnic card."

    It now reads, "Obama Courts Ethnic Press."

  • WaPo reporter inadvertently (but correctly) criticizes WaPo's tax reporting

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    During an online discussion today, Washington Post reporter Alex MacGillis was asked about the media's focus on President Obama's proposed tax increases for the very few Americans who make more than $200,000 a year rather than the proposed tax cuts for the rest of the country:

    90 percent vs. 2 percent?: Barack Obama has proposed a budget that, among other things, would reduce taxes on more than 9 out of 10 Americans and increase taxes on around the wealthiest 2 percent of the population (actually, just letting Bush's tax cuts expire on schedule). Flipping through the Sunday talk shows, it's striking to see how uniformly wealthy media celebrities think it makes sense to characterize this is a "tax increase" or "raising taxes" and to leap immediately to a discussion of what the impact of these "higher taxes" will be. I think that the 95 percent of people whose taxes are set to go down might be more interested in learning about the impact of lower taxes, don't you, Alec?

    Alec MacGillis: You definitely have a point on this one. The TV talk of 'raising taxes' does often leave out the broader context, and Republicans have done their best to frame the debate this way as well. Also left unmentioned often is that the higher rates for the rich will not kick in until 2011. We'll see if the White House decides it needs to do more to push back on this, to make clear again just who would be hurt and helped, because the fact is that polls are showing that taxing the rich right now is a much more popular proposition than it has been in years past.

    Ah, but it isn't just "The TV talk of 'raising taxes.'" Alex MacGillis' own newspaper, the Washington Post, has done as much as any other news organization to drive the obsessive focus on the few Americans who will pay more taxes rather than the many who will pay less, as I explained in my column on Friday:

    By my count, at least 484 of the article's 1,284 words were about the tax increases in Obama's proposal. Among those 484 words was this quote from House GOP leader John Boehner: "The era of big government is back, and Democrats are asking you to pay for it." That simply isn't true, unless you make more than $200,000 a year -- though the Post simply presented Boehner's claim without rebuttal.

    And how did the Post address the tax cuts in Obama's plan? The article devoted just 39 words to them. Among other omissions, the Post completely ignored the fact that the plan makes permanent the Bush tax cuts for the vast majority of Americans.

    And by the following Monday, tax cuts had disappeared entirely from the Post's reporting. Under the headline "Aides Defend President's Budget; White House and Fiscal Conservatives Set for Showdown," the Post reported Obama's budget would be "raising taxes on top income earners and oil and gas companies" and again quoted a Republican criticizing the tax increases. But there wasn't so much as a hint that most Americans would see their tax bills go down.

  • Irony alert: Jim Cramer wants everyone to stop with the ad hominem attacks

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    In his mainstreet.com column, the CNBC loud mouth claims it's time for a "serious non-ideological debate" about the economy, and to stop the name calling.

    This, from the man who recently has:

    repeatedly characterized President Obama and congressional Democrats as Russian communists intent on "rampant wealth destruction," claiming Obama is "taking cues from Lenin" and using terms such as "Bolshevik," "Marx," "comrades," "Soviet," "Winter Palace," and "Politburo" in reference to Democrats.

  • Obama and the New York Times

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    A belated note on this one, but there was a fair amount of hand-wringing going on inside the Times newsroom after Obama won the election and failed to make time on his schedule for a sit-down interview, pre-inauguration, with the newspaper; an event which had become something of a tradition in recent years with previous presidents.

    Normally, as a media critic I'd be in favor of presidents granting as much access as possible, and in favor of continuing the Times' tradition as a way for news consumers to get in-depth answers to important policy questions.

    But now I'm not so sure Obama wasn't right to ignore the Times. Not after its third question put to him last week:

    "Are you a socialists, as some people have said?"

    "Some," as in Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck and Jim Cramer. Is that where the Times staff now looks for relevant and insightful commentary?

    If I were bing generous, I'd say I could see what the Times reporter was thinking when he posed the question, which was to mention an out-there accusation and allow Obama to address it on his own terms. That the Times wasn't endorsing the socialist meme, but it was giving the president a chance to confront this critics in detail.

    But sorry, that approach doesn't fly because there's no precedent for that at the Times when interviewing previous presidents. There's no precedent, that I'm aware of, of asking the POTUS to address the most incendiary claims that were being thrown at him by his detractors. For instance, I can't imagine that, if given the chance for a sit-down interview with Bush, post 9/11, a Times reporter would have asked the president to address the conspiracy theory that claimed he plotted the terrorist attacks himself. That represented idiocy then, just as the socialist talk represents idiocy now.

    So why did the Times dignify it?

    The simple truth is that by asking Obama whether he was a socialist, the Times effectively endorsed the divisive right-wing rhetoric; the Times shoved it into the mainstream. Looking ahead, I'm not sure Obama will make an effort to accommodate the Times for more sit-down interviews. And given the Times' performance last week, I'm not sure that he should.

    UPDATE: Greg Sargent got a response from Peter Baker, the Times reporter who asked the socialist question. Here's Baker's response in full. It's actually quite a comical bit of revisionism, if you keep in mind the actual posed to Obama was, "Are you a socialist?"

    According to Baker:

    The goal of the question was to get at the same issue your sister publication, Newsweek, was addressing with its recent cover story, "We Are All Socialists Now."

    The point is not the label, per se, but the question of whether the times and the solutions under consideration represent some sort of paradigm shift in our national thinking about the role of government in society. In a moment of taxpayer bank bailouts and shifting tax burden proposals and exploding deficits and expansive health care and energy plans, what is the future of American-style capitalism?

    We were also interested in exploring how a new president defines his political philosophy, something that has been the subject of intense debate. We wanted to draw him out on all of that and I think his answers, both in the interview itself and the follow-up phone call, were interesting and important.

    Seems to me if Baker wanted to address those topics he should have, y'know, asked those questions. Instead he asked a moronic one.

  • Worst Headline of the Day

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Comes courtesy of the WashPost, for a media article about how the White House is making an effort to engage with the Hispanic press:

    "Obama Plays Ethnic Card"

    Why on earth would the Post opt to play off the incredibly loaded and incendiary phrase 'playing the race card' for a headline to a pedestrian article about how the White House is simply granting interviews to Telemundo and company? It's absurd and insulting, and the Post ought to at least change the headline online.

  • Ridiculous complaint of the day*

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Slate's managing editor is angry. "Fuming," in her words. What has Jill Hunter Pellettieri so upset?

    When she was a child, she used to enjoy staying in hotels, which she found "a world that suspended the realities of life at home."

    But now hotels are harshing her buzz by letting her decide whether her bath towels need to be washed or can be re-used.

    No, really: that is why she's "fuming." She explains:

    [O]n entering a hotel room, I still immediately review the room-service menu, bask in the prospect of fresh, silky sheets, and inspect the bathroom to ensure I have fluffy, clean towels for every possible need. Then I spy one of those little placards, nestled among the tiny soaps or hanging from the towel rack, asking me to reuse my linens: "Save Our Planet ... Every day millions of gallons of water are used to wash towels that have only been used once ... Please decide for yourself." And, like that, my hotel buzz fizzles.

    I'll admit that I sometimes choose not to participate in this program and request fresh towels and sheets every day. Before you write in scolding me for being a wasteful person, let me qualify that by saying it's not the program, in theory, I'm against. I'm all for saving the environment. But I don't want to be guilt-tripped into going green. It's the two-facedness of it that gets me-save our planet! Conserve our resources! It's up to you, hotel guest. Forsake that washcloth (or two!), or those crisp sheets that are your right when you pay for the room, and to what end-so the hotel can save money on laundry? How many natural resources are wasted printing all of these little signs? Here's an idea: Instead of printing out a placard for every room in the hotel, wash my towel.

    Now, let's reiterate: the hotels in question aren't requiring Jill Hunter Pellettieri to re-use bath towels. They're offering her the option to do so. And she's upset because while exercising this option conserves water and energy, it also saves the hotel a few pennies. Pennies that, as far as she knows, keep the price of her hotel room lower than it might otherwise be.

    I can't imagine that most Best Western guests are so delicate as to have their weekend stays ruined by a two-inch sign offering guests the option of reusing bath towels. And I can't imagine most readers of Slate's "Green Room" department share Pellettieri's annoyance at being offered the option to voluntarily and at no cost help reduce energy and water consumption.

    UPDATE: * By "of the day," of course, I mean "of six days ago," when the Slate piece was posted. Gristmill's Kate Sheppard dealt with this nonsense on Friday:

    Yet another climate finger goes to Slate and its managing editor, Jill Hunter Pellettieri, for publishing this asinine piece equating green efforts at hotels and other businesses with being "cheap." At first, we thought the article was a parody, lampooning Slate's love of vapid, self-important contrarianism. If only that were true. We're so sorry you feel like it's a tremendous act of "self-sacrifice" to sleep in the same sheets two nights in a row, Jill. We'll cry you a river while the ice caps melt.

  • It's that last 1.9 percent that matters ...

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Over the weekend, CNN's John King described the omnibus spending bill as "packed with thousands of earmarks" and "full of-maybe 8,000, 9,000 of these so-called earmarks." At The Daily Howler, Bob Somerby explains it just isn't so:

    According to King, the "huge" spending bill was "packed with" earmarks. (Was "full" or earmarks.) Semantic question: Can a bill really be "packed with" X when X comprises less than 1.9 percent of the bill? CNN viewers didn't have to ask—they weren't given the overall numbers.

  • New York Times plays dumb about Jim Cramer

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    The daily has a big piece on CNBC today, looking at the criticism it's been under in recent days for its previous Wall Street cheerleading, and the way its anchors and pundits have morphed into political talking heads as they unload on the Obama administration.

    The Times though, plays dumb in the article about CNBC loud mouth Jim Cramer. Here's how the Times describes his recent behavior:

    In recent weeks some have perceived the network to be leading the campaign against President Obama's economic agenda. Mr. Cramer, who calls himself a lifelong Democrat, said last week that the administration's agenda was "destroying the life savings of millions of Americans."

    Gee, that doesn't sound so bad, right? In fact, it hardly seems newsworthy. Of course, what the Times politely ignores (no need to embarrass Cramer, after all) is the fact that in recent weeks Cramer has become completely unhinged and has:

    repeatedly characterized President Obama and congressional Democrats as Russian communists intent on "rampant wealth destruction," claiming Obama is "taking cues from Lenin" and using terms such as "Bolshevik," "Marx," "comrades," "Soviet," "Winter Palace," and "Politburo" in reference to Democrats.

    The Times interviewed Cramer for the article but apparently didn't ask why he was calling the new president a communist. Isn't that pretty much the definition of playing dumb?

  • Irony alert: CNBC doesn't want to be blamed for the Dow's dip

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    This is rich.

    CNBC talkers have no problem blaming Obama for the Dow's recent decline, conveniently ignoring months worth of disastrous economic news, over which the new president has had no control. But defensive CNBC anchors and personalities think it's unfair to blame them.

    From the NYT article today on CNBC, here's the relevant passage:

    When the CNBC anchor Erin Burnett appeared on "Real Time With Bill Maher" on HBO on Friday, Mr. Maher raised a similar issue. "This is the channel that Wall Street watches all day," Mr. Maher said. "I think this is more than a channel; I think it affects what happens on Wall Street. Why didn't anybody there predict what was going to happen?"

    Ms. Burnett said that the dot-com bubble was predicted, too. "It's easy to say 'a bubble.' You don't know when it's going to burst," she said, adding that the questions of timing and magnitude were missed by many financial experts. Separately, in a telephone interview Friday, the "Squawk Box" co-host Joe Kernen said of the market turmoil, "Ask yourself whether you really think it's CNBC that caused it, or was it the housing bubble that caused it? I think we know what caused it."

    See, CNBC didn't cause the market turmoil, it's the fault of the housing bubble. Except, of course when it's not and CNBC's talkers blame Obama.

  • World Net Daily columnist compares Obama to spousal abuser, while calling abused women "dunderhead[s]"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    From Prelutsky's March 4 World Net Daily column:

    Judging by the early days of his administration, I have had to re-evaluate him. He's even worse than I feared. It's been one disaster after another. His appointments have been a series of embarrassments. His hard sell of the Pelosi-Reid trillion dollar earmark makes him look like the worst sort of fear monger. And, considering the fact that he was sold to us as eloquent and a fellow who could think on his feet, his use of a teleprompter at his press conference reminded me of the Wizard of Oz, the con man behind the curtain. I guess you can take the man out of Chicago, but you can't take Chicago out of the man.

    Frankly, I don't know why anybody continues to hold Obama in high esteem. Maybe it's like those women who marry charming fellows only to discover after the vows have been exchanged that he's an abuser. In spite of the black eyes and split lips, the ladies are just too embarrassed to call the cops and have their friends and relatives discover what a dunderhead they've been.

    A tip from reader A.B. helped to contribute to this clip. Thanks and keep them coming.