14 April 2004

Inumeracy, the scourge of Big Media


Sir, I am used to scare stories about Greenland’s ice sheet melting being based on scientific speculation, but your story “Global warming may melt Greenland’s ice, scientists warn” (Apr. 8) contained serious errors of scientific fact. The study the article mentions does not say that Greenland might suffer an average annual warming of 2.7 degrees C., which would be a catastrophe in anyone’s book as the ice would boil, never mind melt, within a few decades. Instead the study envisages a total warming of around 3 degrees by 2350. Furthermore, an increase of 2.7 degrees C. does not represent an increase of 37 degrees F, nor is an increase of 8 degrees C equivalent to an increase of 46 degrees F. Those are the numbers you’d get if you read across from one scale to the other on a thermometer. But because 0 C is 32 F, the actual increase 2.7 degrees C represents is only about 5 degrees F.

This is why Big Media is more reliable than a good weblog - all that fact checking editing.

Posted by orbital at 1:20 PM | View 0 TrackBacks | Trackback URL

There are only conservative conflicts of interest

[source, source]

[9/11 Attack Congressional Investigation] Commissioner Gorelick, as deputy attorney general - the number two official in the Department of Justice - for three years beginning in 1994, was an architect of the government’s self-imposed procedural wall, intentionally erected to prevent intelligence agents from pooling information with their law-enforcement counterparts. That is not partisan carping. That is a matter of objective fact. That wall was not only a deliberate and unnecessary impediment to information sharing; it bred a culture of intelligence dysfunction. It told national-security agents in the field that there were other values, higher interests, that transcended connecting the dots and getting it right. It set them up to fail. To hear Gorelick lecture witnesses about intelligence lapses is breathtaking.

But she’s a Democratic staffer and therefore (unlike a Republican) able to be completely objective.

UPDATE: Rep. Sensenbrenner calls for Gorelick to resign from Commission.

Posted by orbital at 11:44 AM | View 0 TrackBacks | Trackback URL

Shut 'em all down and let the Chairman sort them out


The China blogosphere widely reported that all blogs using Typepad and all blogs.com-based blogs have been blocked just as blogspot blogs were earlier last year. Six Apart ruled out technological problems on their end.

The Great Firewall of China strikes. And people wonder why Taiwan doesn’t want to be part of this.

Posted by orbital at 11:22 AM | View 0 TrackBacks | Trackback URL

Big Media innovations


[NY Times writer Adam Nagourney] achieves a significant breakthrough, pioneering a solution to a problem that has plagued American journalism for decades. The dilemma is this: What do you do when you have a strong opinion about your subject? You can’t just say what you think—not within the strictures of “objective” reporting, anyway.

The traditional response to find someone—an “expert”—to spout what you think back to you. Then you can quote this expert, citing their expert credentials (while ignoring other experts you disagree with). But this approach—call it the Norm Ornstein Solution—comes with its own set of problems. The necessary expert might not be available for spouting at a moment’s notice. Worse, experts like Ornstein soon become public figures, featured on talk shows, subject to the pundit’s distressing imperative to be entertainingly contrarian. If you only have time on deadline to make one phone call, do you want to call someone who might have something interesting to say? The question answers itself!

Nagourney’s alternative solution debuts quietly in the 14th paragraph of his ‘comes-at-a-time-when’ stage-setter on Bush’s press conference. Nagourney wants to debunk the (admittedly silly) GOP spin that says Bush benefits even from bad Iraq and 9/11 news because it keeps voters’ attenion on national security. But Nagourney can’t just come out and write “What crap!” (Even if that were “objective,” it might offend his source, Rep. Roy Blunt.) At this point, an ordinary reporter would call pollster Geoff Garin. But Nagourney makes a more ingenious move—he gets a quote from Adam Clymer. Why is Clymer an expert? Because until nine months ago, he was a veteran … reporter for the New York Times. A reporter who had to find outside experts because he couldn’t quote himself! (Clymer now works for something called the National Annenberg Election Survey.)

Think of the advantages of this approach—Clymerizing, let’s call it. For one, the unpredictability problem is solved. Clymer’s views are well-known to Nagourney—they were colleagues for years. And if Clymer wasn’t reliably anti-Bush before the current president called him a “major league assh-le” over an open mike in 2000, he should be now! Another advantage: Clymer obviously knows with some precision exactly the sentence a Timesman like Nagourney needs on deadline.

This was a phone call with a roughly 100% chance of success. Clymer delivers:

“I would be surprised if television coverage of American servicemen getting shot or killed in Iraq, or of people questioning what the Bush campaign did in response to 9/11, is good for the president’s re-election,” said Adam Clymer, a former political reporter for The New York Times ..

Clymerizing has a bright potential future, as reporters learn that it’s more cost-efficient to simply cite each others views rather than venture into the uncharted waters of expertise beyond the Times bubble. It’s not as if Clymer and other ex-reporters aren’t real experts—Times readers have been accepting their opinions (laundered through the mouths of others) for years. With all the buyouts in journalism, there should be plenty of recent retirees available to quote. Johnny Apple might soon become available! If not, a few strategic out-placements could put the necessary experts in place to meet any impending requirements.

Between ex-colleagues, and wives of colleagues (like Hollywood’s Amy Pascal, quoted by her husband’s L.A. bureau co-worker last week), and ex-colleagues who are also buddies of publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. (i.e., Democratic investment banker Steve Rattner) the Times could rapidly develop a veritable orchestra of in-house “trained seals” ready to supply congenial opinions on every subject. And they said the paper’s drive for efficiency ended with the departure of Howell Raines …

The only thing more efficient, you’d think, would be for the reporters to completely eliminate the middleman and actually state their opinions themselves. But you’d be wrong. If reporters stated their own opinions they’d have to back them up. That could get messy.

Primarily because that would require contact with actual facts, and few journalists like to get their hands dirty with that kind of thing these days.

Posted by orbital at 10:28 AM | View 0 TrackBacks | Trackback URL

Counter protesting

Via IMAO, a few tales of counter protesting the anti-Western protestors. There’s a nice photo essay of the Washington DC protest / counter-protest. Some actual Iraqis showed up and were not happy with the anti-Western protestors. There are more photographs here. Lt. Smash did a counter-protest in San Diego with many classic bits of dialog, such as

He starts out by cursing us, again, as “——ING FASCISTS,” and denounces the same police officers to whom he whined about us as “JACKBOOTED NAZI STORMTROOPERS.” Then he goes on to express pity for the military, who after all are only “BUSH’S PAWNS,” who have no other choice but to join the military because they have been “ECONOMICALLY OPPRESSED BY BUSH’S CORPORATE FASCIST CRONIES!”

I respond by grabbing the megaphone and shouting back, “SO NOW YOU’RE SAYING WE’RE STUPID AND POOR? HEY, THANKS A LOT!



At this point, Red really starts losing it. He’s spouting his Marxist revolutionary propaganda with such fervor that we can see the spittle flying out of his mouth even from back in the cheap seats.

We respond with a little chant of our own:


Now Red has gone completely over the edge. He’s calling for “REVOLUTION NOW,” and starts frantically waving his red flag. “WE’RE NOT GOING TO STOP UNTIL THE RED FLAG FLIES OVER THE WHITE HOUSE!”

Yes, that’s what I think of when I think “patriotic” - the red flag of Communism flying over the White House.

Posted by orbital at 7:03 AM | View 0 TrackBacks | Trackback URL