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  • Slate Destroys Climate Denier Myth That CO2 Is Not A Pollutant

    Blog ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS


    Carbon dioxide is a pollutant, and don't let the deniers tell you otherwise, says Slate writer Phil Plait.

    A recent New York Post op-ed by physicists William Happer and Rod Nichols praised the Supreme Court for delaying the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Clean Power Plan, which would create the country's first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants. Happer and Nichols' main argument: burning fossil fuels brings more good than harm, because carbon dioxide (CO2) is "emphatically NOT a 'pollutant,'" and in fact we need much more of it to help plants and agriculture.

    In a February 18 column, Plait ripped into this "ridiculous," "in-your-face wrong" claim as a "typical denier distraction technique, trying to downplay or distract you from what's really going on." He noted that while some carbon dioxide is necessary for plant life, burning fossil fuels and thus releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is warming up the globe "too quickly for many living things to adapt." Carbon pollution is causing rapid changes to the Earth's climate, and, as Plait explained, that speed is the "danger; the rate at which we are heating the planet is unprecedented."

    The EPA has the authority to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act -- authority upheld by the Supreme Court -- if not through the Clean Power Plan, then by other means.

    Yet conservative media pundits and science deniers commonly glorify carbon dioxide. Post op-ed co-author Happer has previously praised carbon in The Wall Street Journal and on CNBC, where he compared the "demonization" of carbon dioxide to the "demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler."

    And this talking point is actually becoming more common among fossil fuel industry front groups. A 2015 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that organizations that have received corporate funding -- as Happer's organization, the CO2 Coalition, has -- have become more likely in recent years to publish "contrarian texts" touting "the positive benefits of CO2":


    As Plait noted, the "dangerously naïve" claim that carbon dioxide is beneficial "ignores huge, overwhelming issues" associated with global warming, such as severe drought and deadly storms. He likened making this claim to "being happy the paint job on your car is nice as you drive toward a brick wall at full speed with your eyes closed." He concluded (emphasis original):

    Don't let the deniers fool you. They cherry-pick, they leave out inconvenient facts, they focus on minutiae, and they steamroll anyone who disagrees.

    More carbon dioxide is not a good thing. It's extremely dangerous. Anyone telling you otherwise is blowing hot air.

  • Fox Dismisses Video About Systemic Racism As "Dumb," Instead Highlighting Complaints From "Outraged" Parents


    Fox News levied a series of complaints and attacks against a Black History Month video by the African American Policy Forum that portrays the barriers of institutional and historical anti-black racism. Fox ignored the substance of the video, which was shown to students at a Virginia high school, and instead focused on complaints that the video is "trying to make students feel guilty for being white." Fox's diatribe against the video underscores a long-standing pattern of shortsighted race coverage at Fox and in mainstream media.

  • CNN Leaves Anti-Choice Domestic Terrorism Out Of GOP's National Security Debate

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    During the final Republican presidential primary debate of 2015, which was focused on national security and terrorism, CNN moderators failed to ask the Republican presidential primary candidates about the deadly shooting attack at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood, which has been linked by many in the media to heated anti-Planned Parenthood rhetoric from the GOP.

  • Media Mock The GOP's "Ridiculous Manifesto" Of Presidential Debate Demands


    Media commentators criticized the Republican presidential candidates' demands to media sponsors for future presidential primary debates, noting that because debates are "a chief means for Americans to hear and weigh the ideas of the candidates," they're "too important to be guided" by a "ridiculous manifesto" of demands from candidates.

  • Media Dismantle Rep. Jim Jordan's "Smoking Gun" Evidence That Clinton Deliberately Misinformed About Benghazi

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Media outlets refuted Rep. Jim Jordan's (R-OH) baseless claim that Hillary Clinton deliberately misled the public about the cause of the Benghazi, explaining that his allegations disregarded how intelligence evolved in the immediate aftermath of the attacks and ignored the possibility that "the attacks could be both an example of terrorism and influenced by outrage over the video."

  • Rolling Stone And The Debate Over Sexual Assault Reporting Standards

    Blog ››› ››› HANNAH GROCH-BEGLEY

    UVA Rape report in Rolling Stone

    A Rolling Stone article about campus rape and how universities respond to sexual assault has raised an important debate about what the proper standards for reporting on sexual assault should be -- but it's crucial that whatever standards are ultimately chosen, they don't make it impossible to tell these stories.

    A University of Virginia student named Jackie told Rolling Stone that she was gang raped in 2012 by members of a campus fraternity, and that campus administrators failed to investigate her story when she reported it. Jackie was one of several students in the piece who criticized UVA's response to sexual assaults, and the school is currently under federal investigation for its handling of such cases.

    The Rolling Stone article initially received widespread acclaim and triggered swift action from UVA. But it has since come under fire from critics who say that the magazine violated journalism best practices, particularly with regard to its handling of the alleged assailants. Sabrina Rubin Erdely, the author of the article, and Rolling Stone, have since explained that they corroborated Jackie's story by talking to dozens of her friends, in part to ensure that she had consistently told the same story for years, but were unable to reach the accused rapists (one of whom is identified with the pseudonym "Drew" and others who are not identified at all) for comment -- a fact which was omitted in the article. (UPDATE: After the publication of this post NPR's David Folkenflik brought to our attention that in an interview with him, Erdely said she had not contacted the alleged assailant at the request of Jackie. Her editor Sean Woods made similar statements to The New Republic. These comments appear to contradict other statements Erdely gave to Slate and Woods gave to The Washington Post, on which the criticisms referenced in this post were based.)

    A number of journalists have criticized Erdely for this omission. Slate's Hanna Rosin and Allison Benedikt wrote that the "basic rules of reporting a story like this" include doing everything possible to reach the alleged assailant, and, if one is unable to do so, including a sentence "explaining that you tried -- and explaining how you tried." They criticize Rolling Stone for failing to include such a sentence, writing that this is "absolutely necessary, because it tells readers you tried your best to get the other side of the story."

    The Washington Post's Erik Wemple took this critique a step further, saying that Rolling Stone had "whiff[ed]" with the article and suggesting they should have held the piece until they were able to name the accused in print (Erdely says she had agreed to Jackie's request "not to name the individuals because she's so fearful of them"), or find some other "solid" evidence:

    The publication says it didn't name the perpetrators because Jackie is "so fearful of them. That was something we agreed on," Erdely commented. That's a compelling reason -- to hold the story until Jackie felt comfortable naming them; or until she filed a complaint; or until something more solid on the case emerged.

    In voicing these concerns about Erdely's journalistic practices, these reporters are proposing that there is a standard these types of stories should meet -- perhaps before they can even be published -- which includes a high bar for finding of proof, including doing everything in the reporter's power to identify and contact the accused, informing the reader of those attempts, and possibly going as far as to include their name and perspective in the piece.

    Reporters may find such standards appropriate. Sexual assault, and particularly gang rape, is a terrible crime, and it is logical that journalists would want to tread carefully when assessing the validity of accusations. Rosin's and Benedikt's argument that it would at the very least have been simple for Erdely to include a sentence noting she had attempted to reach out seems reasonable.

    However, previous reports on sexual assaults -- including from the Post and Slate -- have not met these standards, and have not come under similar scrutiny or criticism. Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson, who has said he was not involved in the editing of this particular piece, tweeted several examples of reporting on sexual assault in which publications did not include any mention of ever attempting to contact the accused for comment and did not name the alleged perpetrator.

  • Megyn Kelly may be "smart" -- but is her television show?

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Apparently it's "Megyn Kelly Is Smart" week at the Washington Post Co.

    Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz writes today: "Having profiled Megyn Kelly awhile back, I can tell you that the lawyer-turned-journalist is smart." He then quoted Troy Patterson's recent Slate profile of Kelly, in which he praised her for having "a former lawyer's precision with language." (Slate is owned by the Washington Post company.)

    Now, I've never met Megyn Kelly. But the odds are pretty good that she is smart. Maybe she even makes Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates look like morons. But ... well, there's this:

    Fox's Kelly claims polls don't "look good for Obama" on terrorism, but her own evidence and Fox poll disagree

    Fox's Kelly repeats discredited falsehood about stimulus funds for "abandoned train station"

    Oops ... In report on "science czar" and "regulatory czar," Fox's Kelly acknowledges they're "not really" czars

    Fox's Kelly minimizes Alito's link to "conservative alumni group" -- but Alito didn't

    Sessions contradicts Megyn Kelly's claim that Sotomayor needs a GOP vote to get out of committee

    Kelly claimed Alito's wife was "crying hysterically after Ted Kennedy made her cry"

    Fox News' Kelly mocked ACORN for accurate statement about Florida registration law

    Fox News' Kelly asked whether Michelle Obama gave "her critics fodder" with word she didn't say

    After teasing story by saying "Obama makes a little girl cry," Fox News' Kelly acknowledged it was not true

    Granted, anchoring a live television show isn't easy. Anybody doing such a job is going to make some mistakes. Those blunders don't prove that Kelly isn't as smart as Kurtz and Patterson say. (And they might not even be blunders -- they might be intentional dishonesty.) But it's more than a little strange that these reporters are so quick to praise Kelly's intelligence and precision with language without ever assessing whether her on-air performance reflects that intelligence and precision. Or what it says about Kelly --and Fox -- that such a smart person would make such false claims.

  • What is the New York Times' "agenda"? How about MSNBC?

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Slate's Mickey Kaus:

    I guess there are two distinct axes on which you can judge press organizations--actually, there are many more than two (see below), but two are important here: 1) Neutrality--Are they attempting to be "objective," trying to serve the "public interest" in some balanced way, or are they ideologically (or otherwise) driven in a way that inevitably colors their coverage--what topics they pick, what 'experts' they rely on, etc. 2) Independence--Whether they are biased or generally neutral, can somebody--a political party, a Mafia family, a government-- tell them what to do?

    I think it's pretty clear MSNBC and the NYT and are not neutral. They all have an agenda and they pursue it. But they are independent. The Obama White House can't tell Bill Keller what to do. They can't tell Keith Olbermann what to do. (They can suck up to him, and it will probably work, but that's a different issue.) Breitbart is for sure independent--I can't see anyone telling him what to do.

    Ok, Mickey. If it's "pretty clear" MSNBC and the New York Times have an "agenda" and "pursue it," it should be pretty easy for you to explain what that agenda is.

    And, fair warning: You'll need to reconcile your claims about the Times' "agenda" with the paper's handling of the 2000 election and the Bush administration's Iraq claims, and your claims about MSNBC's "agenda" with ... Well, with lots of things.

    So, let's have it, Mickey. What is the New York Times' agenda. What is MSNBC's? How do they "pursue it"?

  • Mickey Kaus, still spun

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    For the 10th anniversary of his blog, Mickey Kaus takes a stroll down memory lane, giving readers who missed some of his work a second chance to become exasperated at his inanity. Here's one reminiscence:

    Worst case of being spun: Watching from the press area, I thought Gore cleaned Bush's clock in their first 2000 debate. Then I went to the spin room where Stuart Stevens immediately mentioned that Gore hadn't been to Texas with James Lee Witt, as he'd boasted. Didn't that play into the festering press meme that Gore was an insecure embellisher? It sure did. I wrote a goading piece saying this was a test of whether reporters could trash a Dem as they had said they would. (It was a test they passed.)

    Since a butterfly flapping its wings could have tipped the 2000 election the other way, and since Gore would have been a better president than Bush, I've been feeling guilty about that piece. It's true that a) there were other reasons Gore "lost" the debate among viewers--he grunted and sighed obnoxiously, something I couldn't hear in the press area. And b) every Dem political pro I've talked with thinks it was inexcusable-- and telling--that Gore boasted about Witt when he knew and was surely told that any new little boast would kill him. Still ... flap, flap ....

    Ok. First of all, Gore didn't lose the debate among viewers. Polls taken immediately after the debate found that Gore won the debate among viewers. He "lost" the debate after reporters like Mickey Kaus began nit-picking his performance to death. Nit-picking that Kaus now admits was off-base. Still, he can't bring himself to tell the truth: Debate viewers thought Gore won. Reporters like Kaus undid that victory via what even Kaus admits was lousy reporting.

    Second, how obnoxious could Gore's grunts and sighs have really been if Kaus wasn't even aware of them at the time?

    Third: Every Dem political pro Kaus talks to is wrong to blame Gore. Had Gore said nothing even remotely inaccurate, the media would have made some thing up. Don't believe me? Review the Love Canal fiasco. Go ahead; I'll just sit over here, slamming my head against the wall while I wait.

    Ok. Finally: Mickey Kaus thought it was an open question in October of 2000 whether reporters would "trash a Dem"? Seriously? What planet had he been living on rock had he been living under? Had he somehow missed eight years of harassment of Bill Clinton? Had he missed the Love Canal and Love Story and Internet debacles? Had he been asleep for the entire presidential campaign up until that point? If Mickey Kaus has a purpose in the world, it is that he is (supposedly) a savvy observer of the media - and he really wasn't sure by October of 2000 whether reporters would "trash a Dem"? That's a level of cluelessness that should be disqualifying.

  • Hitchens refers to Sykes as "our Sable Sapphist"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    From Hitchens' May 18 Slate column:

    There is a mildly racist comedian in England named Jim Davidson who thinks it amusing to ask what West Indians said to themselves while using the black-and-white strips of the pedestrian crossing. ("Now you see me, now you don't; now you see me, now you don't.")* In order for this to be funny in the least--and I frankly despaired of it ever achieving that critical mass so essential to the life and definition of a comedian--it would have to be just as funny if a "white" person was traversing the road in the same way.

    Not laughing yet? Me neither. Well, then, why is it so "edgy" for Wanda Sykes to say that Obama gets lots of praise now, but that if he messes up, it'll be, "What's up with the half-white guy?" This can be remotely hilarious only if said by somebody nonwhite, but almost every paleface in the audience seemed to feel it their duty to rock back and forth with complicit mirth.

    Still, at least that weak opening stuff was in some manner launched in Obama's direction. The rest of Sykes' time was spent vocalizing the talking points of and Air America. If I am in a taxi and Rush Limbaugh is on the radio, I ask the driver to switch the station or switch it off altogether. Limbaugh's life, like his appeal, is a closed book to me. But I presume that he was on painkiller medication for some reason before he began to become dependent on it, and before he became an object of our adorable "war on drugs." It's not so much that it isn't very funny to mock him for his Oxycontin habit. It's that it's near-impossible to imagine our Sable Sapphist lampooning a black equivalent of Limbaugh for an addiction to, say, crack.


    Christopher Hitchens and Slate editors play dumb

  • Tracy Flick returns: Gillibrand is latest female politician to be compared to film character


    Accompanying the appointment of Kirsten Gillibrand to the U.S. Senate is the return of comparisons in the media between a female public official -- previously Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin, and now Gillibrand -- and the character Tracy Flick from the book and movie Election -- a character who has been described as "one of those people who manages to get very far in life while being thoroughly unlikable."

  • Tucker Carlson echoed Kaus, VDARE contributor on Michelle Obama: "I think she's got a chip on her shoulder"


    Discussing recent comments by Michelle Obama, Tucker Carlson said: "I have thought from Day One that Michelle Obama, impressive as she is, clearly intelligent, very handsome, self-possessed -- I think that she's got a chip on her shoulder." Similarly, blogger Mickey Kaus wrote of Michelle Obama: "For whatever reason, she sure seems to have a non-trivial chip on her shoulder and it's not a winning quality." Additionally, referring to a February 16 Newsweek profile, contributor Steve Sailer wrote that Michelle Obama "sounds like she's got a log-sized chip on her shoulder from lucking into Princeton due to affirmative action."