April 11, 2008

Lag Times

It took me about 5 seconds to figure out that Basra was a sort of "final exam" for the Iraqi army. Were they ready to fight? It took me about 2 days to come up with my answer, "yes they are, but they still need lots of work". I found the points obvious enough that I didn't bother writing about them. The NY Times caught up today and agrees with me. After their previous spin of a disaster for Maliki of Tet like proportions became unsustainably discordant with on the ground reality, the NY Times is backing and filling.

The NY Times still isn't quite right. It's simply not correct to say that "The struggle for control of Sadr City is more than a test of wills with renegade Shiite militias. It has also become a testing ground for the Iraqi military, which has been thrust into the lead." Rather Prime Minister Maliki, for the good of his own country, has called this national pop quiz on his military's indigenous capability. That was obvious from the beginning of the Basra push and has shown up in previous NY Times reporting, but why include this misstatement so late?

For me, this is equally obvious but I might as well say it, the NY Times is trying to avoid crossing over into becoming a national joke for the independents who still sometimes listen to what they say. This is the battle for Peoria. It's a battle that they are losing and their stock price and circulation figures show it.

HT: Glenn Reynolds

Posted by TMLutas at 06:34 AM

August 29, 2007

Media Titling Dishonesty

Iraq Sunni Arabs say deal won't end boycott reads the headline from Reuters Canada talking about Sunday's encouraging wide ranging deals on de-baathification, oil revenue sharing, and releasing detainees. But that's not precisely what the Sunni parties said. Spokesman and parliamentarian Saleem al-Jubouri made it clear that Sunnis are merely waiting to ensure that the deal is real, that they won't rejoin the government for a false, paper agreement.

"We are not boycotting political dialogue, but this does not mean that we are returning to the government," he told Reuters.

"Yesterday's agreement covered a number of issues ... but we are waiting for action on the ground."

Political leaders in Iraq have announced broad agreements in the past but have struggled to implement them or hammer out details.

Jubouri said the most progress was made on the issue of rehabilitating Baath Party members, and good steps were also taken on setting up a way to free detainees, tens of thousands of whom are held in U.S. and Iraqi jails without charge.

The Iraqi political culture seems to be one of brinksmanship. If the deal does go through, the Sunnis will rejoin the government right around when the September report rating the success of the surge will be presented. If we are well prepared, we can absorb the rapid progress at the last minute and judge wisely how to proceed after September 15th. This type of misleading title does little to prepare the public regarding what is going on, and what might be going on fairly soon.

It's too soon to tell whether the deal agreed to on Sunday will be real. Like the sunni leadership we should be watching with interest and we need to demand our western news media give us the straight story.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:31 PM

May 10, 2007

Media Disconnectors

Mass media is usually viewed as a connecting force but a recent article by Fred Thompson made me rethink the assumption to take the dynamic to a finer granularity. Sometimes media can be a disconnecting force.

Sarkozy’s victory over anti-American political forces was not just decisive; it was far more of a mandate than our own current congress claims. In his first post-election speech, he went out of his way to say, “I want to call out to our American friends to tell them that they can count on our friendship.”

So what’s happening here? Could it be that we’ve mistaken the French media for the French people? Might the same be true of Germany, where pro-American Angela Merkel beat a critic of the U.S. to become that nation’s leader?

I've written before about the very obvious problem I've seen about how many foreign observers mistake the visible US media for the american people instead of the ideological and cultural sectarian, coastal elites that they actually represent but it struck me that the problem may just be that mass media in general is not aligned with the ideas and aspirations of their national and local populations anywhere. Other than the occasional Sarkozy type breaking through their national media's bias on their election eve victory speeches how can ordinary people tell? Almost all information we currently get is filtered through these media, leaving a profound effect on our foreign dealings and even more so in countries where large constituencies actually care about foreign policy (in the US, this constituency usually hovers at or below 1% of the voting public).

Certainly blogs can be a canary in the coal mine, giving faces and voices to alternate viewpoints that don't make it into the international scene much no matter how popular they may actually be among the people. However, individual independent voices raise their own problems of determining how popular the alternative presented is. I love Iraq the Model but have no idea how popular their collective viewpoint actually is in Iraq.

A wikipedia scale effort could probably outline the factions and what they think is important but would not be able to give reliable figures on popularity. Partisanship would be too tempting, inflating "my side" and minimizing "the other guy". Polling could sort out the various faction strengths but it suffers from the defect of being expensive and also tending not to ask the same questions and not the same way, leading to "apples and oranges" comparison and more distortion masquerading as data.

All of that distortion weakens connectivity and collectively threaten to break it. The stress placed on the atlantic relationship between europe and america these days stems in part to media created/enhanced distortions on the political, economic, even cultural realms. Ultimately either the distorting/disconnecting forces are rendered irrelevant by being worked around or you get Great Schism like break which takes a very long time to mend. It's a challenge that's going to have to be met and overcome decisively but we just don't have the tools yet.

HT: Instapundit

Posted by TMLutas at 02:38 PM

October 03, 2006

Original Reporting III: Interviews

This interview series by Patterico probably shows the easiest, earliest road to original reporting. There is an intimacy, a certain level of trust that leads to good interviews and blogging is a very intimate medium. If your interview target is already reading you, there is a level of trust there that has generally ceased to exist between the public and most mainstream media reporters.

As someone (maybe me if I can get funding) creates the local news distribution infrastructure I posted about earlier to create virtual local newspapers or local news paper sections, a lot more interviews are going to be put out. After all, even if the readership is relatively small, it's flattering to be interviewed. It's intriguing to not be forced through the same local news filters that most newsmakers are tired of going through. The interview format is a real winner and a leading indicator of a reporting shift that's going to be profound.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:55 PM

October 02, 2006

Original Reporting II: Starting Small

Part of the difficulty of original blogosphere reporting is that it has a distribution problem. It is hard work, even for small stories, compared to just spouting off about events or philosophy. You have to actually get dressed, go out and do some research, for one thing. And such small items are usually a local story. In a 10,000 person community, there might be 3,000 blog readers there but only a dozen who regularly read a particular blog produced locally and those dozen may be only a small fraction of that particular blogs readership.

What is needed is a way for local blog stories to be linked/distributed so that one can make a virtual "local news" section carrying all the blogospheric content of your neighborhood/town/city/county/state without having to root through a lot of blogs who might only occasionally provide a local angle to their writing.

It's not that hard to conceive of such a system. Posts get tagged and pinged, a central database is updated and people who want to read about news affecting 10543 and surrounding zip codes goes to a news.google.com type aggregator page that contains just that information.

Once you have an outlet (and perhaps revenue sharing?) the incentive to provide local news increases. Blogging becomes, at least sometimes, geographically oriented with people looking to local voices about local issues. The newspaper loses another of its reasons for being because local news becomes something the locals can create.

Posted by TMLutas at 03:37 PM

August 14, 2006

Chilling Free Speech

Via Instapundit I find The Brussels Journal, a blog that I find the usual mix of sense and stupidity on the immigration restrictionist right. I gear up to register and comment, critically, on a particular article that I think is a bit too friendly to the UK's BNP but I stop. The form never gets submitted, my commentary will never be written, because of articles like this which pretty much makes it clear that there's going to be a messy prosecution in these guys future. Furthermore, it's pretty unclear to me whether IPs are going to be (or perhaps already are) tracked which means that they'd very likely be able to trace me even if I put in a fake registration.

I'm uninterested in getting my name dragged through the mud and being called to testify in a spurious political prosecution in the EU. My life is complicated enough. The probability of my coming to actual harm is low but so is the benefit of signing up and entering my comment.

No doubt that this is going to come up time and again as the eurocrats bury european freedom.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:32 AM

June 23, 2006

Laughing at Ignorance

Now that we know that at the time of OIF there were at least 500 WMD in the form of artillery shells and rockets carrying chemical weapons, the entire "no WMD in Iraq" story line that the anti-war left has depended on to erode support for this war is itself washed away by facts. Most of these munitions have been discovered mixed among conventional weapons of similar type. This makes them incredibly hard to detect, a true needle in a haystack search if you don't have the search key for where they are.

But is proper credit being given? It appears not as many MSM outlets and networks are simply not covering the story, keeping their readers and viewers in the dark. I've long noted that uncomfortable stories bring out this behavior in biased media sources and that, out of sheer embarrassment, a fraction of 1% is mocked out of ever trusting those media outlets ever again every time it happens. This is a big example of the phenomenon and it's important to not only correct the record and inform our peers but to also ask them "how can you possibly depend on these clowns for your news?". The point is to drive up that fraction of 1% so that the penalty for bias and misinformation grows.

Posted by TMLutas at 02:38 PM

March 14, 2006

Punishing the Demagogues Next Time

Jim Geraghty, commenting on the death of the Dubai Ports World deal, notes:

3) Those who demagogued this issue and helped organize the campaign of misinformation… got away with it. No consequences. No deterrence from using this tactic again. Expect to see it again in the near future.

No matter where you come down on the deal, there was a clear element of demagoguery to the resistance to it. This is the kind of support that one should be ashamed of, that fans flames high and is not in the best interests of the country. It's going to come back, stronger than last time. Will the other side be ready, and with what?

Posted by TMLutas at 10:00 AM

March 07, 2006

Another Individual Blog Goes Dark

Donald Sensing is signing off on his individual blog. He was always on my daily read list, first up ahead of Instapundit, in fact.

Unlike the millions of teenagers who blog a bit and then drop their blogs, Rev. Sensing had an audience, an impact, and an influential group home. He'll be updating his thoughts (when he has time) on Winds of Change.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:25 PM

December 23, 2005

And Then There Were Four

NBC is buying out its partner, Microsoft and taking a controlling stake in MSNBC. This sets up an interesting dynamic. The right-wing narrative says that media bias is crippling the MSM as left-wing reporters turn off their listners/viewers. This is somewhat supported by the end of MSNBC, the fourth US national network not identified as center or center-right.

The alternative narrative of the left is that media fragmentation is really what's going on with high-cost structure national networks being hammered worst of all. This is not discredited by the MSNBC failure as consolidation and cost-saving closings would be a natural thing to do in that sort of environment.

The real proof of the pudding of which narrative is right would be the creation of a new network that would compete with Fox from the right. If such a network would happen and be a success, it's case closed on the question of consolidation v. bias narratives and all the networks would have a great deal of soul searching to do.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:09 PM

November 05, 2005

Danish Riots

I knew that Paris was burning over the deaths of two youths and that it overshadowed similar riots in Denmark. I never did find out what the Aarnhus riots were about until now. It seems like the muslims are continuing their push for CGI films of Mohammed, this time with mass violence instead of targeted assassination. I can see rioting over a lot of things but cartoons?

Jesus wept.

Posted by TMLutas at 05:38 PM

Changing Media Labels

James Pinkerton has a nice retrospective on Reagan but a throwaway line really grabbed me:

That was my problem, and that was the country's problem: we all spent too much time credulously absorbing the pessimism put out by the Main Stream Media, although back then it was just "The Media.

It's taken us 20 years to go from "The Media" to the "Main Stream Media". What will they be called 20 years from now? How will that affect us all?

It will certainly widen out the acceptable marketplace of ideas. Without universally acknowledged gatekeepers, we're going to have to deal with excluding the quacks some other way than just starving them of attention. After all, they could just start a blog...

We're also going to find ourselves more misunderstood in the world. The world is used to looking at a few outlets and saying that this is the US. They are quite likely to continue doing so long after such a simple approach ceases to work.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:52 PM

September 15, 2005

MSM Decomposition Recipe

James Pinkerton gets the tactical moment right in his metanalysis of the MSM assault on President Bush. I think he doesn't quite get the MSM's vulnerability

So is there any hope for the administration? And, more to point, for a fair and balanced media? And for a limited government to go with it?

Sure there's hope, for two reasons:

First, the MSM is still shrinking. It hasn't disappeared yet, and it may never go extinct, but new players continue to crowd into the marketplace, including Google News and now, even more dramatically, Yahoo!

Second, libertarians and conservatives have proven that they can win arguments, even in such touchy areas as race and poverty. There's a reason Republicans have won seven of the ten presidential elections since Lyndon Johnson launched the Great Society. So by all means, let's compare the domestic ideas of the national Republicans to those of the national Democrats -- letalone the New Orleans Democrats. Let's put Rudy Giuliani up against Ray Nagin, and see which approach the country prefers.

The missed point is why is the MSM shrinking? It isn't new entrants. They only exist because there is unmet demand. If the MSM was on its game properly, it'd be able to fight back the new entrants and buy out the marginal successes after their venture owners tired of being in the asterisks of market share.

The MSM is shrinking because every time after they pull a fast one on the people, a few percentage points more people get fed up with it and seriously look for alternatives. A few percent more that were already looking settle on alternatives to add to their mix. A few percent more that already have alternative news sources just turn off the MSM as not worth the time and the effort to sort the wheat from the chaff anymore. Most deadly, a few percent more people start viewing those who depend on MSM news with contempt for being led around by the nose.

It's that last group that is the most deadly because it sets up a counterculture enforcement mechanism that speeds the transfer of consumers of MSM away from those outlet. Even the least political, least observant person around can understand a sudden chill in a group conversation and the raised eyebrows that go with an incredulous "you watch/listen/read that?".

This is industry suicide and very demonstrably contrary to shareholders' interest. I do wonder when the shareholders will realize it in an actionable fashion and stop the political activity that is tanking their investments.

Posted by TMLutas at 03:56 PM

June 23, 2005

Fake But Accurate Environmentalism

Dan Rather will go down in history for bringing the damning phrase "fake, but accurate" into the vernacular. Apparently, we've had the journalistic phenomena long before Dan Rather squandered his credibility on fake memos to try to take down a president. Here's an environmental story that is common knowledge, but wrong.

The legend began in a 1998 commentary in Nature, a leading scientific journal. Graciela Chichilnisky and Geoffrey Heal, economists at Columbia University, stated, “In 1996, New York City invested between $1 billion and $1.5 billion in natural capital in the expectation of producing cost savings of $6–8 billion over 10 years . . . .” The authors explained that the city “floated an ‘environmental bond issue’ and will use the proceeds to restore the functioning of the watershed ecosystems responsible for water purification.” The article said that natural processes in the Catskills—“water purification processes by root systems and soil microorganisms, together with filtration and sedimentation during its flow through the soil,”—previously kept the water quality high, but “sewage, fertilizer and pesticides in the soil reduced the efficiency of this process to the point where New York City’s water no longer met EPA standards” (Chichilnisky and Heal 1998, 629–30). . .
Contrary to the article in Nature, the quality of New York City water has not declined in recent years. Water at the reservoir source and drinking water in New York City remained in compliance with standards set by the Safe Drinking Water Act, and “[t]he Catskill/Delaware water supply currently meets all necessary criteria” (National Research Council 2000, 200).

If its water had not fallen from compliance with Environmental Protection Agency standards, why did the city face a choice between 1) investing “between $1 billion and $1.5 billion in natural capital,” supposedly the cost of purchasing and restoring the watershed, and 2) “building and maintaining a water purification filtration plant” at a capital cost of $6–$8 billion, plus running costs on the order of $300 million annually? The significant change took place not in the city or its watershed but in Washington, D.C.

On June 29, 1989, the EPA promulgated the Surface Water Treatment Rule (SWTR). The SWTR required that every surface-water system serving more than 10,000 people, no matter how clean or safe its water, either filter that water or successfully petition to the EPA for a “filtration avoidance determination” (FAD). This requirement had nothing to do with New York City in particular; its water remained excellent. The SWTR applied nationwide and was intended largely to deal with Cryptosporidium parvum, a microbe that survives chlorination. Arguably, C. parvum could become a problem in the Catskills watershed, where 350 wild vertebrate species flourish, many of which can act as carriers. . .

To comply with the SWTR, . . . the city could—and did—petition for a filtration avoidance determination. To obtain the determination, the city, in a Memorandum of Agreement signed on January 21, 1997, committed itself to partner with landowners and communities to build infrastructure to make sure that future economic development would not impair water quality.

The legend of declining NYC water quality is likely permanently embedded in environmentalist lore. The bureaucratic waste of making NYC expend money to fix what wasn't broken is a story that is condemned to the obscurity of historical footnotes.

Fake but accurate is dishonest myth making and this episode makes me wonder how much of what I know to be true just isn't so. No wonder Dan Rather thought he could get away with it.

HT: crumb trail

Posted by TMLutas at 05:43 AM

June 05, 2005

Al Queda Rule 18

I had known that Al Queda had been instructing its adherents to claim torture happened in custody no matter what the actual facts were. Until John Leo wrote about it I didn't realize the instruction had a handy name, "rule 18". Al Queda's rule 18 is a declaration of war against free press. It is an announcement that they will do their best to coopt the press and to cause them to assert falsehoods and become a legal front for Al Queda propaganda.

The question of the hour would seem to be what special adjustments are the press making as regards to Al Queda rule 18? How are they discounting Al Queda information since they know that Al Queda policy is to lie to them (explicitly regarding torture but there seems no commitment to the truth on any matter)?

I have yet to hear about any measures the media is taking to safeguard the news from Al Queda's infowar campaign. Maybe I just haven't been following the news carefully enough but somehow I doubt it.

HT: Donald Sensing

Posted by TMLutas at 03:48 PM

May 22, 2005

Newsweek High

Glenn Reynolds notes that Newsweek has a cover of the US flag in a trash can. It turns out that the cover already ran (in Japan only) and the story behind it only ran in foreign editions.

I don't have a problem, per se, with showing our flag in trouble. I can actually think of a few situations where it would be entirely appropriate. But what's not appropriate is running it today (opinions will vary on that) and what's completely out of bounds is going behind the american people's backs and doing it only overseas. If you think America is in that much trouble, you need to say it to the people who matter, the US voter. Newsweek didn't do that but did the newsmagazine equivalent of being catty only when you aren't around. That's so immature, it sounds like a story out of high school, a stereotypical high school.

Posted by TMLutas at 02:07 PM

February 16, 2005


Dick Meyer complains about bias complaints saying that an accusation of bias is a conversation ender. I don't agree. I've seen the same dynamic that he has, I've been accused of bias myself. What I don't accept is that bias is anything more than a start of a conversation. "Yeah, I'm biased. And your point is?" is the attitude I take.

The honest truth is that if people who have different biases can't talk to each other and work out their differences, the Republic is doomed and we might as well just start the civil war now. Just because Dick Meyer is biased doesn't mean that he's wrong, it just means that he's not necessarily giving the other side a fair shake in his own presentations. Examining his blind spots, and my own, would lead to a pretty interesting conversation if good humor and good manners don't flee the scene entirely.

The partisan press doesn't much suffer from accusations of bias. Everybody knows that The Nation is on the left and National Review is on the right. When they show bias, it's not a failing but part of their explicit business plan.

I think that for CBS, the problem is very much their own business plan which is to sell their news offerings as objectives. It's the hypocrisy of saying your objective but not delivering the goods that gets so many people's riled up. Whether objectivity is available at all is another question but CBS offers it up and sets themselves up for failure when their reportage is rated by media watchdog groups like FAIR on the left and AIM on the right.

Stop offering up hypocrisy, measure out your bias, let people know what it is, and suddenly it's a badge of honor, not contentious in the least. That's really the tragedy. CBS and the rest of the MSM could end the bias wars by just labeling their product honestly, authentically providing the viewpoint they wish to without any cover of false objectivity. Too bad they have yet to twig to that fact.

Posted by TMLutas at 07:48 PM

February 03, 2005

White House Press Passes

I had a lot of time on the clock yesterday in my car and decided to tune in Rush Limbaugh. As usual he was entertaining and bombastic. One of the issues he covered had deep implications for public issues bloggers. Apparently Talon News Service has been getting one of its men in to the White House Press Pool for press conferences on daily passes for over two years. I hadn't ever heard about daily press passes before (thanks! Rush) and they sound intriguing. A quick perusal of the white house web site left me with no rules but did give me a switchboard number. Hmm... *beep* *bop* *boop*, leave a message, and hopefully I can get the actual requirements reasonably soon.

I don't know whether I'd ever actually apply for one but I can certainly see circumstances when I'd want to. I can certainly see where the blogosphere would generate lots of people who want one. Ultimately, those rules are going to come out, hopefully in a managed, orderly way. If not that, there's always FOIA.

Posted by TMLutas at 07:59 AM

January 29, 2005

Catching Up with RealClear Politics

Falling behind on my RCP reading means that you can go through and watch pundit trends emerge. The chattering class starts talking about a thing, the memes fly back and forth, and then the wave is overtaken by new sport. It's quite interesting to step out and read it not only as commentary on events but also looking at the system of how we do commentary.

Once in awhile, go back and read, the meta-trends are interesting. I can't quite pick out the patterns but I feel them there.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:56 PM

O'Reilly Gloom & Doom

Bill O'Reilly has a flashback to '70s conservatism, you know, that dour grim stuff that made conservatives a minority and liberals rule the roost, the kind of conservatism that dominated before Ronald Reagan made "morning in America" a dominant conservative theme.

O'Reilly thinks that the US stands alone, that there is no hope of breaking through a dominant world media attitude of anti-americanism. This is quite rich comming from a Fox commentator. Traditional media decrepitude is just as advanced abroad as it is here and Internet advances mean that the decline curve is likely to be steeper than it was in the US.

O'Reilly also preaches quietism for ordinary americans addressing the problem of anti-americanism abroad. Certainly we shouldn't replicate the Guardian and attempt to influence their elections directly. On the other hand, the US has been doing more elections, more regularly, than any country on earth. We elect people to positions like county clerk which are almost universally appointed positions. We do so because we have a great deal of experience in political skullduggery and how to root it out.

A better approach than to merely refrain from wearing your "orange velour sweat suit" abroad would be to simply ask the question whether their local media give a good picture of reality that lets them make accurate predictions about the future. Accuracy of prediction means they make fewer mistakes in business planning, their diplomats further their national goals better, and so on and so forth. Looking at things objectively, world media has had an execrable record providing good information on which accurate predictions can be based.

If we can just get ordinary people to open their eyes and see how badly they are being served by their media, they will behave exactly as we have done here. They will seek out alternatives that do the media's job better. New media will rise in their nations too, and the endless parade of hit pieces on america will slow down because they are money losing fantasies, not reality. In all too much of the world, they are money winning fantasies today.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:44 AM

January 16, 2005

TV's Replacement

Damien Penny alerts us to the future of television. Fox (of course) is experimenting with failed shows, selling them pay-per-view over the Internet. This model actually makes the paying customer the viewer, instead of the advertiser. If they can keep their costs down, the next step will be to start offering smaller shows that aren't profitable on broadcast but would be profitable on the Internet exclusively via that medium. The final step will be for advertisers to offer their ads on a pay-per-view system with the advertisers paying you "Fox bucks" to watch their stuff and answer a question or two at the end to make sure you're not just downloading and playing in the background (real cash will come later as somebody disintermediates the network out of the business).

Congratulations! You've got a viable business model for visual entertainment in the 21st century.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:42 AM

December 28, 2004

Bilious Fisking

Jason Van Steenwyk, I salute you. You've committed a real work of art. Bob Herbert should hang his head in shame.

Posted by TMLutas at 03:13 PM

November 27, 2004

Understanding America

I've got a new essay in the works. The absolutely poor performance of the international media in explaining what goes on in the US is not only risible, it's dangerous. If there was some sort of kit that could be passed along directly, bypassing international media filters, the danger of serious misunderstanding could be ameliorated. So here's a rough draft:

The USA is a country of vast importance in today's world but it is also misunderstood by so many. There are a great deal of parties who are either interested in telling a distorted picture of the US or who are utterly incapable of providing enough or the proper kind of information to provide people with the tools to properly predict what the US will do. If the world is surprised by Lesotho or Burundi, it will easily recover, misunderstanding the most powerful military power, a huge political, economic, and social influence on the world is a great deal more serious.

The US is a democratic republic based upon two parties and five political traditions. The traditions endure far better than the parties and move between the parties, influencing their political platforms. If you do not understand what are the five political traditions and only take in information from one or a few of them, the US will always surprise. For those who are unfamiliar with them, the five traditions are Jeffersonian, Hamiltonian, Madisonian, Wilsonian, and Jacksonian.

The US is a revolutionary country whose revolutionaries were essentially conservative. This fact of history is especially important today. When challenged, the conservative strain in any country goes back to the founding principles of the nation. For the US, such challenges turn conservatives into a very unusual sort of radical. This unusual political circumstance is generally a footnote in American history. Existential challenges are rare and has happened only twice in the US' history, in the formation of the Republican party and its ascent to power under Lincoln and today in George W Bush's administration with it's War on Terrorism.

Mass media in the US is configured in a very unusual way. Following a decades long period (starting in the 1930s) of center-left dominance, traditional media was predominantly center-left. This led to the center-right having their story told largely by hostile voices, a situation which led the center-right to create it's own counter-institutions in new media outlets of newsmagazines and journals of opinion as well as in dying media backwaters such as AM radio. The international visibility of center-left dominated media is much higher than that of the center-right media for two reasons. First, the center-right has tended to be more concerned with reversing center-left dominance at home than winning converts abroad. Second, the powerful force of AM talk radio programs are technologically unsuited to reach far and only the very few most popular programs are rebroadcast abroad, mostly on armed forces radio and mostly without the benefit of caller feedback which is a large part of what makes such programs so powerful.

The new media construct called the blogosphere is also being used in different ways by the left and the right, ways which directly influence popular opinion in the US. This influence is twofold. First popular blogs are being read directly, influencing political opinion. Second, larger media figures are picking up predigested news stories from the blogs and using them as news, fact checking, and commentary arms. This sort of use is not always attributed and some of the oddest moments in US mainstream media these days come from journalists answering blog charges without ever acknowledging their opposition's existence, a phenomenon that dates back to before the blogosphere when Matt Drudge's Drudge Report website and Rush Limbaugh's EIB radio program suffered this cordon sanitaire for years.

If you (outside the US) depend on getting information about the US from news sources who maintain their own cordon sanitaire and do not read, listen, or react to the alternative media structures of the US center-right, you will be laughably misinformed, even dangerously uninformed, though you do your part and consume your national news media voraciously. Far too many foreigners seem dangerously uninformed about american realities.

If you woke up and neither you, nor anybody you knew, could explain why George W Bush was reelected, it's a strong warning sign. If everybody was depressed over how such a bad man could have possibly been elected, this is a dangerous warning sign that you and your set have not gotten enough information to even come close to predicting the US. It's not a problem of you disagreeing with the US electorate. Diversity is the spice of life. It is that those whose opinions were different were invisible to you and when they made their force felt at the ballot box, you were shocked by their very existence. Your news media had an absolute duty to explain these people to you and they failed to do so. That failure is just one data point in a very busy graph.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:40 PM

November 10, 2004

The Cocooning Left?

I haven't bothered to do a formal count but I'm getting the feeling that the left posts their emails attached to their stories significantly less frequently than those on the right. They also seem to respond less often when I disagree and drop a note to them than when I do conservative pundits and reporters.

It's just a suspicion at this stage but I wonder if what I'm spotting is something of a right-wing advantage in that they'll listen and thus fall less frequently victim to the echo chamber effect, hearing only those who agree with them leftists are more likely to spin comforting cocoons.

If I ever get my eclectic reading and information gathering habits under better control, I might do a study on it... Hopefully somebody with a much better work ethic beats me to the punch.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:37 PM

October 20, 2004

Internal/External Polling

Why do candidates have internal polls? Why don't they trust the public polls? If candidate sponsored internal polls are providing campaigns with better information, why aren't public pollsters catching up and asking the same questions? It's not like they don't know what questions are being asked. Media organizations are filled with former campaign people. There is a big revolving door effect between the two types of institutions.

So what do the candidates know that the public does not from these polls and what would it take for the public to erase the information gap?

Posted by TMLutas at 10:52 AM

War Polling Implications

Putting aside the presidential race for a moment a new poll has huge implications on the War On Terror (WOT).

Where the poll got interesting was on the war. 69% said the war on terror was a real war as opposed to a figurative war. The Republicans were most likely to feel that way at 87% and the Democrats least likely to feel that way at 56%. Independents were at 65%. Interestingly, this quesiton really captures the 9/11 mentality, I think. When asked if the war was being waged too aggressively, not aggressively enough, or just right, surprisingly 32% said not aggressively enough with 35% saying just right. Only 25% thought it was being waged too aggressively. When asked which candidate would "more aggressively fight the war on terrorism," 61% said George Bush and only 25% said John Kerry.

The question in the poll that stood out was "do you think it is more important to win the war in Iraq or end the war in Iraq?" 46% said win and 46% said end. Republicans at 69% said win and only 23% of Democrats said win. Among Independents, 46% said win and 45% said end.

That approximately 7 in 10 voters feel that we are in a real war, a war that is non-westphalian, is incredibly disruptive to the current international system which is based on westphalian principles and which can not survive in a non-westphalian world. This poll means that a durable majority in the country that supplies nearly 50% of the world's military force essentially believes that all the international applecarts are going to have to get turned over. Furthermore, this is one of the two issues that they feel are most important for the country to face today. This is an electoral tiger that neither candidate is entirely comfortable riding though President Bush comes a lot closer to popular sentiment than Senator Kerry.

What I truly wish would be that this section of the poll gets expanded out and run internationally. The expansion would ideally detail both the consequences of WOT being a real war and answer the question of who started and who can stop this war.

Did the WOT start when George W Bush proclaimed it or did prior Al Queda attacks start it? If a new president stops fighting the WOT as a war and takes a law enforcement approach, does that mean that the war is over or do underlying facts have to change in our enemies before the war can be over? What has to happen, who has to give up for the war to end? And, most provocatively, do the people know and understand our enemies' war aims, what we would have to do for them to declare victory?

I suspect that if the poll were taken among the political elite and among the general population, a huge, yawning chasm would appear in their responses. In this bifurcated nation between the people and the powerful, it would be President Bush on the side of the people, with the powerful's champion being Senator Kerry.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:18 AM

October 08, 2004

Al Jazeera Participation in Kidnappings

According to a released kidnap victim in a lawsuit he just filed, Al Jazeera actually produced a jihadi propaganda tape featuring him reading a statement, thus becoming active participants in his kidnapping. If this lawsuit is won, Al Jazeera has no business being credentialed as journalists anywhere in the world until they act strongly to clean house.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:55 AM

October 02, 2004

Maybe Bush Isn't So Out-Of-It After All

Andrew Sullivan has an article entitled President Out-Of-It, a harsh attack on President Bush's assertion that there are 100,000 trained Iraqi soldiers and police today. As his source Sullivan quotes a Spencer Ackerman article to the effect that "internal Pentagon documents" obtained by Reuters count only 22,700 as trained enough to be "minimally effective."

There's only one problem, it's just not true. Ackerman links to the Reuters article as it's published by Yahoo. Here's the only use of the 22,700 figure:

Training has yet to begin for the 4,800-man civil intervention force, which will help counter a deadly insurgency. And none of the 18,000 border enforcement guards have received any centralized training to date, despite earlier claims they had, according to Democrats on the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee.

They estimated that 22,700 Iraqi personnel have received enough basic training to make them "minimally effective at their tasks," in contrast to the 100,000 figure cited by Bush.

For the 99% of Sullivan's and Ackerman's readership who didn't dig into the links, they swallowed some Democrat party spin passed off as internal Pentagon documents. This isn't a case of malfeasance (lying), but misfeasance (screwing up).

Hopefully, there will be a quick correction over the weekend.

In support of the 100,000 figure, there's this, an article explaining what one Capt. Steven Alvarez is doing in Iraq. Just a few days before the debate, he too is using the 100,000 figure. Of course, he could know less than some staff guys in Washington, DC serving on the Appropriations committee but I somehow doubt it.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:33 AM

September 21, 2004

Judging Iraqi Progress For the US Election

Mort Kondrake writes "Insurgents control more than three dozen cities and towns" in Iraq. In some alternate universe where the news media was doing its job, I would know the names of those towns. I would know if and when we took any of them back and I could easily check on their control status to build up a six week timeline of whether we're making progress or falling further behind in Iraq as more insurgent controlled municipalities were added to the list.

So why isn't Kondrake sharing his list? Why aren't some reporters doing the basic spade work of daily monitoring of who controls these towns and whether any others have slipped into the control of the insurgents in Iraq? Why are such simple factual jobs seemingly beyond the capabilities of worldwide news organizations?

I smell a rat.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:32 PM

September 16, 2004

The Sky is Not Falling

The Financial Times has an article on Green Zone security and both Andrew Sullivan and Dan Drezner are needlessly panicking over a slick bit of journalistic manipulation. Here's why things are not as bad as they appear.

You've got a 2nd hand report of an anonymous briefer. Well, he's not really anonymous because you know that he's in charge of perimeter security and he's a major. That's likely to narrow down to one man which the FT reporters cannot name because, by the rules of their game, they would then have to go with him to get comment and he'd then likely clarify things in a way that would not be conducive to their article thesis.

It would take ten minutes to go find a press officer and ask for the chain of command in terms of who is in charge of perimeter security and note down the relevant name. So why did they violate basic journalistic protocol and not seek comment and verify, on record if possible, the substance of the allegation? Piercing the veil of pseudonymity would have advanced the story if what you were after was the truth and it was easy to do so why not do it?

Furthermore, the quote in the headline does not appear in the article. Who are they quoting? Did anybody ever represent that the Green Zone was totally secure? People have been lobbing in mortars for some time yet only now it's 'no longer totally secure' as the bad guys ramp up their pre-election offensive? Also, I like the flag. I believe it's the Saddam era flag they are using, you know, the one with Saddam's personal handwriting on it? Nice, impartial touch that bit.

The FT is not playing it straight and people should call them on it. It's not Dan Rather territory but still...

Posted by TMLutas at 02:23 PM

August 18, 2004

Writing For Pay?

I just submitted my first item for publication. It's a reprint of an earlier blog post but it's an evergreen, with little timeliness component to it. I wonder how long it'll take before I find out whether they publish?

Posted by TMLutas at 04:56 PM

August 10, 2004

Found Person Report

It looks like The Religious Policeman is back from vacation but apparently has decided to keep his head down for now.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:53 PM

August 08, 2004

Letter to the Paper XXVII

The Annenberg Center's FactCheck.org site writes about the Swift Boat Veteran's for Truth ad and, unhappily, seems several days behind the facts:

Doesn't it embarrass you folks that George Elliot has been saying for days that the Boston Globe article you cite misquotes him and he stands by his Swift Boat Veterans for Truth affidavit while you make no mention of that fact? I don't expect you to run lockstep in spin or interpretation but I would expect an organization entitled Fact Check to keep up with the facts.

Be fair and cite the August 6 Houston Chronicle article claiming his "retraction" hit the Boston Globe as a result of reportorial error. You can find the Houston Chronicle article on the web here:

The press release denying the Boston Globe report went out the same day as the story (August 4). As of my writing, that's 4 days ago.

I wonder when they'll fix the article with the new facts as they evolve? This is a gut check time for Annenberg.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:38 AM

July 23, 2004

Adding to My Reading List

I'm putting ZenPundit and SoxBlog on my daily read list after being grouped with them in this highly flattering "Sons of PNM" post on Dr. Barnett's blog. So far, they're very good reads. You should take a gander too.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:57 PM

July 22, 2004

Are Enough Recruits Entering the Armed Forces?

IraqNow has an article on troop recruitment where Jason Van Steenwyk ends up with "My baloney detectors are singing these days." Mine are too but I'm not quite sure who's dishing out the baloney or is everybody doing it.

The Washington Post article on the Army's Delayed Entry program notes that we're at a 3 year low with 23%. The 2001 number was 22% and the 2000 number was 19%. The Army's goal is 35%. Would it have killed the Post to put in a graph showing the historical numbers since the system was started (most likely with the volunteer Army in the 70s)? How common is it to have a 23% number or lower? We don't know from the story and I have no idea where to find such information.

This is the kind of grunt work that makes professional reporting a real job that will survive blogging. It's worth paying for that information because with the data, you can judge how bad things are. If we were hitting 35% for most of the 80s and the first half of the 90s, that says one thing. If we've hit 35% once or twice in the entire history of the program with low-to-mid 20% levels being the norm, I'm a whole lot less excited about our impending manpower crisis.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:54 PM

July 19, 2004

What is Journalism?

The LA Times should really recategorize itself as a comedy daily. It provides so much unintentional humor, this story on blogging and journalism being a case in point. The thrust of the piece is that stories that don't show both sides, don't provide calm, cool objective analysis are simply not journalism.

If that were the case, journalism in the US during the 18th century simply didn't exist. This is such a historically challenged piece that it wouldn't get a passing grade in a freshman history of journalism course. That it made it onto the pages of one of the major metropolitan newspapers of the United States is simply an embarrassment. That the writer is a director of a Center on press, politics, and public policy at Harvard University simply makes you feel sorry for those poor saps who pay so much money to attend such a center for pointless bloviating.

For those who are similarly historically challenged, something very close to the blogging style was the rule, not the exception in the 18th century as well as a great part of the 19th. It is only in the 20th century that the US press caught the "objectivity" bug. If you wanted both sides of a story, you bought papers on both sides and did your own synthesis, not taking either side as gospel truth. The same process goes on with blogs today. I run through a large variety of blogs, left, right, libertarian, and even the occasional communist and nazi gets on my reading list. With me doing my own synthesis, I'm sure that I'm being exposed to the best arguments on every side and I can judge for myself who's blowing smoke and who has a real point to make on the subject.

From a conventional "objective" newspaperman's point of view, this is profoundly disturbing as a great deal of their "value added" is in providing that synthesis for the reader. This provides an awful lot of power for the 4th estate and the reappearance of a lively, growing format that gives the job of synthesis back to the reader has got to be threatening to both their business model and their social standing.

Look for lots more mud to fly before there's a resolution.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:05 AM

July 16, 2004

Campaign Desk Acquires Comments

Campaign Desk is the Columbia Journalism Review's blog-like attempt to cover the campaign. Up until now they haven't had comments. This has now changed. It's really amazing how few people are participating in their forums. After a free registration (must provide valid email), they do allow you to create new topics.

Have at it people, I am.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:12 PM

July 12, 2004

Letter to the Paper XXVI

Michael Powell has decided to blog. He's looking for feedback on the FCC and its policies. Here's my contribution:

One of the things that I have not seen discussed to date has been the upcoming revolution in Internet Protocol (IP). With the US Army mandating a transfer to IPv6 starting 2007 and 2011 being the cutoff date of IPv4 for their use, it seems quite likely that this period will see widespread transition in backbone providers to IPv6 and other users. With encryption built in, a Quality of Service (QoS) bit, and a huge new address pool it seems a no brainer that IP owners could quite easily protect their monopolies against copying by distributing via encrypted multicast over IPv6. The legitimate goal of IP protection would be accomplished without infringing on the legitimate right to copy as detailed in the fair use doctrine. And as a bonus, encrypted multicast, for those who choose it, would have no significant legacy equipment problems. If you can't understand it, you don't get it.

So what is the justification for the much broader protection that the new broadcast bit provides? It seems to interfere in the market for consumer electronics by restricting new entries from the Open Source Software (OSS) world. It provides inferior protection of broadcasts because legacy equipment will still be able to copy. And it stomps on legitimate fair use rights because, in combination with the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA, exercising your legitimate right to copy is a crime even if it is for fair use.

I don't mind IP creators maintaining their monopoly via technology as long as they don't get to expand their rights beyond the law via an unfortunate exercise in setting technology standards.

HT: BeyondVC

Posted by TMLutas at 09:43 AM

June 29, 2004

Make Them Pay

Hugh Hewitt opines that the media wants Iraq to fail and is betraying their stated principles of objectivity in order to fight against the victory of US foreign and war fighting policy. While this is morally odious, my bad opinion isn't likely to sway any journalists. However, denying this copperhead media the financial fruits of credibility and influence in society is their most crucial weakness. If nobody's listening, nobody will pay to advertise and their broadcast licenses and printing presses will get sold at auction in bankruptcy proceedings.

May that day come soon.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:06 AM

June 20, 2004

NY Times to Clinton: You've Used Up Your Free Bites

Bill Clinton just got a wakeup call from the NY Times. He's no longer the head of the Democrat Party, he no longer gets a free pass since his fate can no longer sink the party, and he's made a lot of enemies over the years.

I've never had a lot of sympathy for clinton but this review is of a brutality that had me wincing in sympathy without even realizing it.


Posted by TMLutas at 09:58 AM

June 12, 2004

Fixing Military Reporting

As I was just finishing off my previous note it struck me that what the media really needs is a set of credible people who watchdog their military coverage and embarrass them into hiring some people who are competent in matters military. This isn't for any sort of ideological reasons but just so they have sufficient expertise to competently exercise their news judgment.

But who would do it? It struck me that we've a set of groups who are perfectly capable of pulling it off, veteran's groups. If some local VFW posts start embarrassing the local media because they're running AP or UPI pieces that are shamefully incorrect on the basic facts, the local outlets are going to start giving the wire services an earful. A report card grading system could be instituted, the military reporting competence index with an award show yearly. I'm sure that CSPAN would cover it.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:27 AM

June 05, 2004

Media Unprotected

The DNC is taking a huge risk by moving their convention media center outside convention security. Viking Pundit thinks this will just annoy the media. I think it'll be much worse than that. The name of the game for protesters is to gain media attention. If the media is outside of the security perimeter, there is nothing between the protesters and the media. They won't be bothering to protest the convention. The smart ones will just ring the media center and protest there. If they besiege the media and they can't get to the convention, the only story they'll have is the protest.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:08 PM

More Media Follies

Jason Van Steenwyk over at Iraq Now is doing very good work exposing media incompetence covering the military. They can't be bothered to fact check simple things like rank, military structure, and unit identification on our own forces. How can we ever trust them to even get the basic facts right on the other side?

The only nit to pick over the excellent Iraq Now coverage is we haven't found out yet who he thinks (beside himself) we should be depending on to get real news. Who are the good guys of military media coverage?

Posted by TMLutas at 08:30 AM

June 02, 2004

Iraqi Government Assembles

I seem to recall an awful lot of people worried that we wouldn't be able to find enough credible figures to staff an Iraqi transitional government. Now that Prime Minister and President have been named and are both suitably thankful for what the US has done and properly rebuking the US for what it has failed to do, the critics seem to have turned to other things. Is it because now they'll have to insult real people who can actually respond to calumny and libel? Or is it because they see that maybe the transitional government might turn out all right after all.

There's a lot of ruin in a nation. There's so much that even Saddam and the Baath couldn't spoil Iraq completely and kill all the potential honorable leadership. Go independent Iraq!

Posted by TMLutas at 07:44 AM

Depending on Fools

I've come to the conclusion that past a certain point, if you depend on unreliable mass media sources exclusively for your outlook on the world, you just can't be taken seriously as an intellectual. There is a new wing opening in the house of moonbattery, the "mainstream media" wing. Just like an exclusive use of LaRouche sources is a sure fire way to identify a kook very quickly, I'm coming to the conclusion that you can no longer be a serious intellectual on the important questions of the day and exclusively derive your news from CBS/ABC/NBC/CNN and even the AP.

All moonbat publications occasionally get the story right, sometimes even frequently enough that you can include them in regular rotation in your reading list but you can never rely on them exclusively. This is going to have profound effects on the viewership of the "mainsteram" media. I look forward to their collapse and replacement by a more diverse crew.

Posted by TMLutas at 06:44 AM

May 18, 2004

Policing the Media

Iraq Now is doing very good service with posts like this. The idea he is running with is to embarrass journalists with their errors on military matters until they start to address their awful military coverage and get the facts straight. He's got the right idea. It isn't only about ideological bias. The media get the plain facts wrong all too often and then wildly spin from there.

Until people are ashamed of putting out such poor product, we're all going to be in trouble by depending on such voices to inform our opinions on what's going on in the world.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:21 AM

May 16, 2004

Feeding the Beast

I currently have great sympathy for the difficulty of hitting your entertainment/news writing goals (being in major writer's block territory). So when I read the following, my interest spiked:

So who's right?

Well, nobody, really: If you look closely, you'll see that neither the Globe nor NBC provide much evidence to support their contentions. But the contradictory stories ran regardless -- the proverbial beast must be fed, after all, even if it's got nothing to eat but gristle and stale crackers.

The story goes on to examine two uninspired stories about John Kerry's presidential campaign in further detail. It unfortunately misses the point. There are people being tortured in Uzbekistan, people are profoundly ignorant about oil supplies and how higher oil prices will make worldwide oil reserves grow tremendously, we are on the verge of a new era in space as private groups enter the space club, there are a thousand interesting stories that could have gone to fill the maw of the beast and then, horrors, when there is actual news to report about the presidential race, everybody could go out and report it.

Maybe, we might get through this very long campaign season without utterly loathing the political process because we're incessantly beaten over the head with uninteresting, uninspired, unimportant "news" just to fill time.

It's a big world out there. Why must people walk in lockstep in their reporting? There is no reason beyond a horribly unproductive, inbreed media culture.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:40 PM

May 01, 2004

Biased Media

Right Wing News has an educational analysis of US media negativism about the Iraq war. The only thing missing is the observation that the US media, as negative and biased as it is on Iraqi war coverage, was viewed as jingoistic hyper-patriotic and biased too much in favor of the US side in the war by the majority of the EU press. That is the size of the media gulf that we have to address if we are to avoid a division of the Atlanticist West.

Posted by TMLutas at 07:00 AM

April 29, 2004

Proportional Casualties

In reading a WSJ piece on the attempted Al Queda attack in Amman I was struck by the top end figure of up to 80,000 casualties. Looking up Jordan's population, as near as I could figure it, it has somewhat shy of 6 million people in it. For the US, the proportionately equivalent figure for Jordan's 80k casualties would bee approximately 4 million. That's the equivalent of losing a major city.

This is grand drama and is getting very little coverage given how huge this is for Jordan and the entire Middle East. No doubt there are well off families living in nice houses in Amman who gave generously to Al Queda and its cousins. They are now realizing that they just barely escaped losing their lives to an attack that they may very well have helped pay for. No doubt they are, even as I post this, rethinking their prior financial commitments to this cause. No doubt many of the good citizens of Amman are also rethinking their tolerance for clerics who preach the Islamist version of jihad.

Indiscriminate area weapons against muslims are likely to be the worst blunder our enemies have made in years. It desperately deserves coverage, perhaps a nightline segment, maybe tomorrow?

Posted by TMLutas at 03:43 PM

April 23, 2004

SD Gannett Loses Its Mind

It's getting nasty out in South Dakota as blogging criticism of the major Gannett paper in the state and its star political reporter has led to intemperate criticism of his indirect competitors. The paper, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, is being criticized because it is shilling for Tom Daschle, using a reporter who has been giving confidential advice to Democrat candidates for years while supposedly objectively covering them. And all this done without any disclosure. Since it apparently is the largest paper in the state, a great many of their stories are picked up by smaller, hometown newspapers all over the state and it's the go to news source for the national press when they want to cover South Dakota politics.

The accusation that there is a "violent" group of bloggers acting as a "cabal" to get his paper and his political reporter has got to mark the biggest domestic leap into looney land for 2004.

It looks like South Dakota could use a new paper of record.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:29 AM

April 20, 2004

Yadda, Yadda, What?

Sometimes a column just writes itself. Other times a column reads itself. Sometimes I can skim awfully fast over a column and get what the author is saying because there isn't an original thought in the whole thing. I've read it all before. I maybe read 2 words in 10. Thomas Friedman's current effort is not one of those columns but it contains two of the boring variety in an ingenious device.

He spends a couple of paragraphs describing the theme of two utterly conventional pieces of analysis, complete columns that you could write yourself given the short descriptions he provides. I've read dozens like them.

Then he gets to his actual theme and the meat of the column, which is admitting that the status quo was at least as big a mess as this new situation and with far less hope for the future as it was a deadlocked dance to the death. Now that is interesting because Friedman speaks for the thinking liberals. If he's giving even grudging praise to such a bold move by the President, there's a shot at building a consensus around this new policy.

Friedman lays down three reasonable markers of what he wants for the future. Success in uniting enough of Likud to pull off the pullout (this will happen as Netanyahu is onboard and no successful Likud revolt will happen with Sharon united with Netanyahu), Bush administration followup in making sure the plan is implemented without stalling (I am not so sure this is such a big deal because it's a unilateral plan and you don't have excuses to stall on a unilateral plan) and finally that the Palestinians need to get their act together and actually govern this new mini-state in Gaza. This, unfortunately, is a real roadblock. Will the men with guns permit functional civilian leadership to emerge and rule?

Posted by TMLutas at 03:15 PM

April 14, 2004

Debka Really Hates Sharon

The only conclusion I can draw from this article on the recent Sharon visit is that Debka absolutely hates Ariel Sharon. The idea that settled treaties will be opened up because a US President says things in a variation of past formulas is beyond the usual tinfoil hat stuff that can mark Debka's work. With Debka, the question has always been who is behind it. Part of the question can be answered now. It's not Ariel Sharon.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:22 PM

April 09, 2004

First Amendment Idiots

When will people learn that if you don't defend your rights, you lose them. Two reporters erased their tapes on the (likely unenforceable) demand of a woman identifying herself as a law enforcement officer. This is a replay of the "consensual search" rules where people can ask to search but if you stand on your rights, they cannot force a search without a warrant.

If accurately reported, a Supreme Court justice is walking up to (but not crossing) the line marked illegal censorship. The problem is that reporters simply gave in to legally unenforceable demands. These people need a severe reprimand from their bosses at a minimum (and maybe a career change) and a quick tutorial on their 1st amendment rights in any case.

The problem is neverending. Rights must be defended to remain in force in the day-to-day life of a society. It is a civic duty to peacefully resist attempts at encroaching on our rights. It is how we continually ensure that government remains our servant and not our master.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:13 AM

April 08, 2004

Rating Air America

It's astounding, really how mendacious the stuff over at Air America is. Every time I tune in to catch whether there is good radio going on, and thus a network that's likely to survive, I trip over fact after fact that is just wrong. If they do manage to survive the commercial challenges of establishing a new radio brand, they're going to get eviscerated by the fact checkers like Donald Luskin.

Will they survive and evolve into something decent? I actually hope so. Based on what I've heard so far, I have serious doubts.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:48 PM

March 30, 2004

Death of the Mainstream Press

It's articles like this that chronicle the death of mainstream media. Every time the media, left, right, or center, embarrass their readers by demonstrably leading them astray on the facts of a current events controversy, the credibility of their media outlet suffers and they lose consumers. I don't say they lose customers because the mainstream media's customers are advertisers, not their readers or viewers. A loss of consumers is a significant loss of revenue only in that the customers (advertisers) won't pay as much to reach fewer people.

Thus the media buy each other up to shore up their consumer numbers and more and more people go off to alternate media to get their facts and opinions. It's not even a matter of ideology, per se. If I'm on the right wing or the left wing, what I care most about is having enough of the important facts of the day to live my life and not be exposed as woefully ignorant. And unless I live my life in an echo chamber, a steady diet of biased news is going to leave me both misinformed and under-informed. That's unacceptable and it's why I have a wide variety of reading and why a growing number of people are following that line.

Eventually, the mainstream press will grow moribund as shrinking revenues make them less and less able to maintain their content standards and thus their readership, eviscerating their attractiveness to advertisers. They will enter a fallow period until some entrepreneur will do for TV what Rush Limbaugh did for AM Radio. But this regeneration will only happen after they hit rock bottom and stay there a good while.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:50 PM

January 21, 2004

Media Diversity

Iraq Now has an interesting observation on media diversity. It's long been a conservative critique that media diversity has been limited to skin color and that a truly ideologically diverse media would work much better. The fact that nationally there has been a dearth of business and finance coverage of military personnel wartime tax policy during major deployments over the past two years is clear evidence that the news media's lack of diversity isn't just a partisan complaint that just impacts Democrats, Republicans, and elections.

Soldiers need to know that they're not alone. Civilians need to know if we're doing enough for deploying soldiers and what's the cost of what we already are doing. There's no party or ideology to this, just the nuts and bolts of running a free society. And the media dropped the ball.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:42 AM

December 10, 2003

Tom Friedman Arrested?

In the world today of prosecutors investigating based on headlines and media reports, this article should have Tom Friedman wondering whether he's going to have a public perp walk or be able to turn himself in.

According to the report (scroll down to the bottom of the longer article), Tom Friedman committed common assault and battery unprovoked by anything other than some challenging words. So how does the doctrine of prosecutorial interest based on media reports hold up in this case? It's too early to tell just yet but the man shouldn't just be able to get away with physical violence just because he's a famous columnist for the New York Times.

HT to Glenn Reynolds

Posted by TMLutas at 10:47 AM

November 23, 2003

Walter Duranty's Pulitzer

Thanks to MCJ for an article confirming what I knew months ago, that the Pulitzer Prize committee will not revoke Duranty's prize due his lies over the 1932 govt. caused famine in Ukraine. In their statement, the committee makes it clear that it feels that it is unfair to judge someone's 1931 work by their actions in 1932.

This reasoning is disingenuous and historically obtuse. The gulag was chewing up lives long before 1932. 1932 was just a particular grievance concentrated in a particular region. Duranty, as a newspaperman, should have known this by keeping up on current events from 1917-1921. He started working the Soviet beat in 1922. This means that he had 8 years to figure out what was going on Stalin's extensive gulag system before he wrote the first of his Pulitzer winning articles.

So we are left with two alternatives. Either Duranty knew and lied in 1931, giving an indication that Stalin could go full throttle on killings without concern that the NY Times would expose the horror or the premier NY Times reporter in Moscow was completely hoodwinked for 9 years and his Soviet press release fantasies are just the work of somebody too incompetent to get the story right.

Both of these alternatives call for a revocation of Duranty's Pulitzer. Both scenarios provide an assurance that further, more exaggerated repression would continue to be whitewashed in the influential NY Times (as it was). But because the specific charge against Duranty could be reasonably rebuffed the Pulitzer board did nothing. After all, OJ didn't lose his Heisman trophy after the civil jury found him culpable in the death of his former wife.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:27 PM

October 30, 2003

Dying For The Cameras

There is something of a roll call of shame for the US that Osama Bin Laden likes to roll out in his messages. Lebanon, where we had troops, were bombed, and withdrew, Somalia, where one nasty incident caused us to turn tail and run, and on and on. If we are to win the war on terrorism, this is a legacy that has to be overcome. It won't be easy. One of the reasons that staying the course in Iraq is so important is that the US needs to provide real proof that it can exercise its considerable power and stay the course until the job is done.

There is another legacy that's out there, the legacy of Tet. Militarily, everyone understands that Tet was a disaster for the N. Vietnamese side. It decimated the Viet Cong's strength and they never quite recovered from it militarily. But the chaos raised during Tet was sufficient that it spooked the media into turning against the war and that psychological consequence turned a military defeat into a strategic victory. Every weak power that confronts the US since then tries to replicate the feat.

On the ground, this translates to killing lots of people in as spectacular and showy a way possible to try to impress the press. The bombing of the ICRC in Baghdad is a case in point. The US military isn't going to be impressed by it. The Iraqi people certainly will resent it. But the press is talking quagmire again so this is a net win for the Baathists.

Essentially, the press is being played for a fool, and not for the first time. The Palestinians have been doing this for years. It's gotten to the point where rock throwers won't start until the press arrives and won't continue after the press leaves. So does the media share culpability if a rock that wouldn't have been thrown without their presence injures someone?

In Iraq, nobody seems to have come up with a scenario for Saddam Hussein or Osama Bin Laden to win militarily. All their victory plans depend on the western press covering them and convincing the american people to pull out. In essence, they're writing press releases in the blood of their victims.

But it would not be hard to counter this trend. If the press, for their own reasons and in their own way, devised a strategy that denied militarily doomed movements the forward momentum they desperately need. If the strategy were explicitly analyzed. If it was made clear that these were the tactics of desperation and that without us helping the bad guys, they just can't win, at that point the cost of mounting such operations would start to exceed their utility.

The media isn't filled with idiots. They've got to know that these movements do this stuff on purpose in an attempt to recreate past US humiliations. So why does it seem that all the mainstream outlets think more seriously how they can maintain editorial independence from their advertisers than independence from terrorist manipulation?

Posted by TMLutas at 01:54 AM

October 10, 2003

Is Media Cluelessness on Afghanistan Partially Based on Bad Cartography?

Strategypage has an article on the fact that Afghanistan has never really controlled the southern tribal areas.

The "national" government in Kabul has never controlled the southern tribes in any sense that Western nations understand it. There have often been understandings between the central government and the tribes, quite similar to treaties between separate nations. The central government understands this, the American military leadership understands this, the US government understands this, but the media, in general, is pretty clueless on this subject. This is a largely self-inflicted wound, as the reality of the situation in Afghanistan does not make for good (that is, exciting and easily sold) stories. But portraying the situation as one of national disintegration and constant rebellion does sell. And that's what gets shipped out of the country by most journalists.

I've never actually seen one but I think that maps that draw territory boundaries of these autonomous/limited central influence zones would be highly educational and not just for Afghanistan. While you can fault the journalists to a great degree, it wouldn't be right to ignore the role of the cartographers. If they aren't drawing politically, economically, and legally relevant lines on their map everybody who's not a local or a specialist will be misled. We all deserve better.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:54 PM

October 06, 2003

The What If I'd Like to Know About

So, there was one vial of botulinum Okra B found in Iraq. Ok, let's ask some questions to get at the truth instead of hyperventilating one one side or another.

1. Is this stuff readily available? Is this the stuff you can commonly find in soil all over the US or something a bit rarer and more deadly? In both cases it should have been declared to the UN inspectors but what are we really dealing with here?
2. If the BW scientist who had this in his house got fake ID and flew into the US with it, how long would it take for him to grow enough from one vial to create enough toxin for a 10,000 mass casualty level event?
3. In such an endeavor, would the equipment he would have needed to purchase have been on any controlled access list or available from any appropriate supply shop? Is that the same answer for the equipment needed for both aerosol and ingested forms?
4. Aside from bringing the stuff in, up to the point where he actually poisoned people, would he have broken any laws in the US?

And finally, and most importantly,

5. Why haven't the paid, professional media, especially the science and medicine beat reporters, answered all these questions already.

Maybe I've missed it, but there seems to be a distinct lack of basic reporting going on as to how dangerous that one vial actually is. Alongside all that speculation and the "aha! gotcha!" game, you'd think that they'd devote a reasonable amount of time to outlining what a bunch of guys working as waiters at a food service company could do with the toxin produced by these bacteria if they were in charge of food at a major sports stadium or a large state school system.

Posted by TMLutas at 07:08 PM

July 18, 2003

Canadian/Iranian journalist beaten to death?

Thanks to James Taranto's Best of the Web for giving a wider audience to the arrest and possible beating death of Zahra Kazemi, a Canadian-Iranian photojournalist. Her son wishes an independent autopsy performed but Iranian officials are not permitting it.

Mrs. Kazemi's crime seems to have been photographing a prison. What is Iran so ashamed about regarding its penal system?

Posted by TMLutas at 01:02 AM