Archive

  • THE BLIND (QUOTES)...

    THE BLIND (QUOTES) LEADING THE BLIND (PRESS). If you want to know how political journalism came to be in the state it's in -- c.f. "prone" -- and, therefore, how the present administration came to run merrily amuck, look no further than the following paragraph from Saturday's Washington Post , in which various West Wing moles 'n trolls try to make Hamden chicken salad out of that which our fathers told us one could not make chicken salad. To wit: "A senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the issue is still being debated internally, seemed to hint at the potential political implications in Congress. "Members of both parties will have to decide whether terrorists who cherish the killing of innocents deserve the same protections as our men and women who wear the uniform," this official said." Leave aside what you may think of the notion. Why does any reporter allow a source to remain anonymous on a quote like this, and why does any editor allow...
  • Xenophobia at the New York Times

    The New York Times editorial page went a bit overboard in its anti-Bush tirade on the budget deficit. The basic point, that the Bush administration deficits are too large, is on the mark. (By the way, they could better make this point using the gross deficit [4.0 percent of GDP], which includes the money borrowed from Social Security, or better yet, just report the change in the ratio of gross debt to GDP.) If the Times had left the issue there, all of us econ types could happily applaud this push for fiscal responsibility. But our intrepid Times editorial writers felt the need to push further. They tell us that the debt is especially troublesome because 43 percent is in foreign hands and "debt owed to bankers in Beijing, Tokyo and elsewhere could destabilize the dollar and from there, drive up interest rates and prices." Huh? Okay, let's check the bases here. Most foreigners hold government debt for the same reason that investors in the U.S. hold debt, they value its safety, and also...
  • ON OBJECTIVITY. Wow,...

    ON OBJECTIVITY. Wow, a bunch of young journalists who don't believe in objectivity. I dunno, I'm going to have to side with Mike here. I rather like the idea of objectivity in reporting, by which I mean approaching the world with questions and letting the answers you get shape the story you write, rather than seeking only those facts that you can fit into a pre-conceived narrative. Now, I'm all for news outlets where people allow ideology -- or even just perspective -- to shape the questions they choose to ask, as we do at this magazine, but there's still something to be said for being reality-based in the pursuit of answers, I hope. Even ideological reporters can be objective in their assessment of facts. I sometimes feel like the growth in media criticism as a field has led a lot of people to form higher-than-ever expectations of journalism. Journalism is not the Holy Bible, a set of fixed texts meant to be parsed and prodded and discussed ad infinitum. It's not in the business of...
  • JUST POSTED ON...

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: DIVIDED WE STAND. The Democrats' problem is at once simple and, perhaps, impossible to solve, according to Terence Samuel . Theirs is the party that says we're all in this together. But who still believes that? --The Editors
  • IDEOLOGY IN AMERICA....

    IDEOLOGY IN AMERICA . Thinking about Matt 's post on ideological outlets, this is the sort of thing that's long been attractive to me. I really do think we need less "objective" news and more slanted, but transparent, coverage. The bias you know is better than the bias you don't. But one thing that worries me: A bunch of partisan outlets would be a problem. There's nothing honest or constant about their opinions, and so the whole advantage of knowing their beliefs evaporates when the beliefs become inconvenient and change. In the United States, we have a sharply constrained spectrum of political thought -- only two parties of any relevance, and a public distaste for ideology. All of which is to say, I wonder if we have the culture or the institutions that would make ideological reportage a viable alternative. The UK, France, Germany, and others all have more serious ideological traditions than we do. And while, in the '50s and '60s we had the sort of philosophy-first groups that could...
  • OY. Here we...

    OY. Here we go again. Abu Ghraib, Haditha, and this : Five U.S. Army soldiers are being investigated for allegedly raping a young woman, then killing her and three members of her family in Iraq, a U.S. military official said Friday. The soldiers also allegedly burned the body of the woman they are accused of assaulting in the March incident, the official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.... a U.S. official close to the investigation said at least one of the soldiers, all assigned to the 502nd Infantry Regiment, has admitted his role and been arrested. Two soldiers from the same regiment were slain this month when they were kidnapped at a checkpoint near Youssifiyah. The official told the AP the accused soldiers were from the same platoon as the two slain soldiers. The military has said one and possibly both of the slain soldiers were tortured and beheaded. The official said the mutilation of the slain soldiers stirred feelings...
  • TIME OUT OF...

    TIME OUT OF MIND. So, just to take a clear stand against the rising tide of overt Young Fogeyhood around these parts, I wear baseball caps, okay? My current one comes from Three Chimneys Farm in Kentucky. I wear them for comfort and for style, and because several centuries of Hibernian breeding left me with skin that is well-nigh translucent. I also wear them so that, when I read something like this , I have something handy I can throw across the room besides the obvious cursewords. Who dealt this mess? I mean, a group of important someones at Time freaking Magazine need an essay on the lessons to be learned from TR 's politics, and they all decide to hire a goon who should be kept away from elections for the same reasons we keep Charlie Manson away from the cutlery. And not only that, but a goon who spent a flat year hanging one of Time 's own reporters out to dry. Karl Rove is not a historian. Karl Rove is not a political theorist. Karl Rove is not any combination of the two. He's a...
  • CREDIT WHERE IT'S...

    CREDIT WHERE IT'S DUE. As The Weekly Standard reports , homelessness really is plummeting across the country. Some of it is due to the inevitable effects of a sustained economic expansion and the restoration of balance (and cash) to previously-strapped state and local governments. But some is due to Bush administration policy. Their "Housing First" program has sought to restore the low-cost residences that cities effectively zoned out of existence over the past few decades. To be sure, these aren't palatial accommodations, but some roof is better than none, and it offers a base upon which to begin treating other problems. This approach comes from a radical reevaluation of how to deal with social problems -- treating not the easy cases in the middle, but the hard cases on the fringe, and doing so without the array of preconditions and punishments that so often boot these subjects out of treatment. It's a remarkably nonjudgmental approach, and effective, too. Keep folks on the street...
  • Getting Tough on Immigrants Seeking Health Care

    To paraphrase my friend Brad DeLong, "why oh why do newspapers have to use meaningless numbers when it is so easy to provide information." Today's example is a Washington Post article about a new rule that requires people to show proof of citizenship before they can be covered by Medicaid. The article includes much useful information and comments from both proponents and opponents of the rule. Then it tells us that the Congressional Budget Office estimates that this rule will save Medicaid $735 million over the next decade. Great, everyone realize how much money that is? Okay, we know the Washington Post has an educated readership, but virtually none of their readers has any idea how important $735 million over the next decade is to the budget or their pocketbooks. Let's suppose the reporters had taken a moment to look at projected spending for this period. CBO projects total spending over the next decade at $33.3 trillion, or approximately $111,000 per person. The potential savings...
  • AGAINST OBJECTIVITY. I...

    AGAINST OBJECTIVITY. I guess I appreciate what the Supreme Leader is getting at in his column when he says that "any civil society needs institutions in every realm of life -- in business, the law, the arts, what have you -- that take as their presumptive raison d�etre not ideology but its opposite, impartiality." On the other hand, does it really follow from that that we need The New York Times ? After all, England, France, and -- as far as I know -- pretty much all European countries seem to get on just fine without a broadsheet that aspires to American-style neutrality. Obviously, if the Times were to just vanish tomorrow, that would be bad, but if it were to transform itself into a feisty Guardian -style paper and prompt the creation of a counterpart rightwing national broadsheet, I think that would be good. After all, ideology need not be the enemy of quality. No liberal is going to approve of The Economist 's politics, but it's still a way better magazine than Time or Newseek ...

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