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Posts Tagged ‘washington post

Whitewashing Bernanke’s Involvement in the Crisis

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Dean Baker gets an excellent catch in what, upon first glance, I thought to be rather solid Washington Post article. Quality from the Post is such a rare beast that I think you’ll forgive me for the mistake. It’s like a guy who gets excited over a bigfoot sighting, but it just turns out to be some hairy guy.

As you probably know, President Obama has hundreds of positions left unfilled within his administration. This is partly due to his not getting around to them, but in large part also due to “Republican” obstructionism, wherein certain senators have placed holds on several key appointments, tossing them into the bureaucratic abyss.

The Post article purports to be about three major posts that Obama has yet to fill in the Federal Reserve and the candidates who may fill them. Now, I’m all for calling attention to Obama’s unfilled administrative positions. They’re a major bottleneck in the bureaucracy and are causing his administration to move sluggishly on matters that urgently need attention – ironically, Federal Reserve issues. It looks as though he’s finally going to bite the bullet and make these appointments during Congress’ recess, which he should have done all along.

So far, so good – it’s all newsworthy. But was it really necessary for The Post to inject yet another ode to Fed Chief Ben Bernanke in its already too-long article? We know how they feel about Bernanke – they’re all for him. If anyone doubts it, I invite you to visit their editorial page. On any given day I guarantee you’ll find some apology for Mr. Bernanke’s malfeasance from one of their establishment cheerleaders.

The phrase in question describes Mr. Bernanke as having “led efforts to make the Fed’s bank oversight more effective and focused on broad risks to the economy that arise out of banks’ decisions.

Not only is that so vague as to be rendered meaningless, but it is also patently untrue.  “More effective”? “Broad risks”? “Bank’s decisions”? How effective? What risks? Which decisions? These are mistakes one goes over in Reporting 101.

They’re sloppy mistakes, too – and they betray a complete vacuum where the writer’s knowledge of history should be. Aside for Lawrence Summers (current National Economic Adviser, who authored the bill that got us into this mess), Timothy Geithner (current Treasury Secretary, who was #3 at the Fed while the banks turned into casinos), and, of course, Alan Greenspan, Mr. Bernanke is the single biggest reason why 1/4 of the workforce is desperately seeking work.

He actively campaigned against oversight, was completely blind to the risks facing our economy (“The subprime mess is largely contained“), and, in fact, actively encouraged those risks by keeping interest rates at almost zero for three straight years after the dot-com bust. This is a matter of public record. A five minute Google search and articles from The Post itself were enough to reveal this.

What’s worrying is that The Post seems to be unaware of this – or if they are aware, put a willfully misleading clause in their “news” article. I can understand it when journalists lie in the Op-Ed pages; that is, after all, what they’re for. But to put a factually ignorant opinion in a serious news article betrays, I think, some very perverse ethics.

Media’s “Independent Analysts” Actually Paid Lobbyists

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Some great investigative reporting from Sebastian Jones over at The Nation:

Since 2007 at least seventy-five registered lobbyists, public relations representatives and corporate officials–people paid by companies and trade groups to manage their public image and promote their financial and political interests–have appeared on MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, CNBC and Fox Business Network with no disclosure of the corporate interests that had paid them. Many have been regulars on more than one of the cable networks, turning in dozens–and in some cases hundreds–of appearances.For lobbyists, PR firms and corporate officials, going on cable television is a chance to promote clients and their interests on the most widely cited source of news in the United States. These appearances also generate good will and access to major players inside the Democratic and Republican parties. For their part, the cable networks, eager to fill time and afraid of upsetting the political elite, have often looked the other way. At times, the networks have even disregarded their own written ethics guidelines. Just about everyone involved is heavily invested in maintaining the current system, with the exception of the viewer.

But not only cable news channels are guilty of this. A couple months ago, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting revealed that The Washington Post allowed an anti-social security lobbying firm to write, in full, a front page article. The article, originally from the “Fiscal Times”, a front organization for a Wall Street billionaire and former Nixon Cabinet member, sought to scare readers over the looming deficit crisis Social Security presents. These fears have been thoroughly debunked (notably by economist Dean Baker), but this didn’t prevent The Post from  putting forth this lobbyist’s views as uncontested “fact”.

Online journal Politico is also heavily implicated, as Ken Silverstein at Harper’s reports. Not even the web is safe. Our staid media outlets have basically been reduced to pimps, selling their hard-won public respect to the highest bidder. This behavior is criminal, and should be prosecuted.

Written by pavanvan

February 26, 2010 at 7:17 pm

Profiles in Idiocy: Anne Applebaum

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Anne Applebaum has won major accolades for her Gulag: A History, for which she owes a huge debt of gratitude to Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and which constitutes the poor man’s history of the Soviet Union – for when you want your histories dull and without universal insights into human nature. Her work for The Washington Post, however, has been singularly atrocious, and one wonders what, exactly, she learned from all her research into the depths of evil.

Her columns consistently and unapologetically disavow international law, human rights, or any concern for civilian casualties – each week brings a new and more forceful call to “defend our allies” and “defeat our enemies”, usually with only the most token concern for anyone who might stand in our way.

Her latest article, horrifically entitled: “Prepare for War With Iran – In Case Israel Strikes” displays all of her odious tendencies, and is worth discussing in detail.

She starts by observing that President Obama is unlikely to launch a pre-emptive strike on Iran. Why?

The president will not bomb Iran’s nuclear installations for precisely the same reasons that George W. Bush did not bomb Iran’s nuclear installations: Because we don’t know exactly where they all are, because we don’t know whether such a raid could stop the Iranian nuclear program for more than a few months, and because Iran’s threatened response — against Israelis and U.S. troops, via Iranian allies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and Lebanon — isn’t one we want to cope with at this moment.

Apparently this lady hasn’t heard of a little thing called international law. You see, under normal circumstances, countries aren’t allowed to go mindlessly bombing each other on flimsy pretexts. This constitutes “aggression”, and the Nuremberg Principles (to which we supposedly subscribe) consider it “the supreme international crime”. I mean, I get that we basically threw that idea out the window long ago, but isn’t Ms. Applebaum supposed to be a scholar who specializes in international relations? What kind of scholar thinks the only reason we don’t go around bombing other countries is because it probably wouldn’t work?

After this bald refutation of the basic principles of international law, Ms. Applebaum raises another specter of war. Even though we may consider it inconvenient to bomb Iran, that doesn’t mean other countries won’t. Other countries like Israel. As she remarks:

The defining moment of his presidency may well come at 2 a.m. some day when he picks up the phone and is told that the Israeli prime minister is on the line: Israel has just carried out a raid on Iranian nuclear sites. What then?

Yes, “what then” indeed? Well, a reasonable observer might note that such a “raid” would be an act of sheer aggression, not to mention one supremely unjustified. After all, Israel boasts of its nuclear weapons every chance it gets, and Iran hasn’t carried out any “raids” on its nuclear sites.  A country truly interested in the rule of law would chastise Israel for its wanton aggression, cut off the extravagant military aid ($2.5 billion per year) it currently supplies the aggressor, and maybe even impose those sanctions everyone likes to talk about so much. The same sanctions we’re currently threatening Iran with. I don’t remember Israel getting any sanctions when it got the bomb. Oh, that’s right. We gave it to them.

The rest of the article serves as a justification for such Israeli “raids”. As she says:

Many Israelis regard the Iranian nuclear program as a matter of life and death. The prospect of a nuclear Iran isn’t an irritant or a distant threat. It is understood directly in the context of the Iranian president’s provocative attacks on Israel’s right to exist and his public support for historians who deny the Holocaust. If you want to make Israelis paranoid, hint that they might be the target of an attempted mass murder. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad does exactly that.

I have a hard time believing she wrote this passage with a straight face. Perhaps she remembers a little speech given by President Bush, charmingly nicknamed the “Axis of Evil” speech. In it, he specifically named Iran to the eponymous “axis”, and then punctuated that slur by invading another member of said axis. The US mainstream press is is full of naked suggestions that President Obama attack Iran, including this endearing piece by Mr. Daniel Pipes, ludicrously entitled How to Save the Obama Presidency: Bomb Iran. “The American people would support it,” Mr. Pipes contends.

For crying out loud, Ms. Applebaum’s own article is entitled “Prepare for War with Iran”! I wonder if she thinks that might make the Iranians “paranoid”.

Of course, Ms. Applebaum doesn’t want war with Iran. But a country’s gotta do what a country’s gotta do:

I do hope that this administration is ready, militarily and psychologically, not for a war of choice but for an unwanted war of necessity. This is real life, after all, not Hollywood.

And here we see, finally, in what an alternate reality our mainstream punditry operates. Defending an Israeli war of aggression is no longer a choice, but a necessity. Should Israel, without consulting us, begin a unilaterial bombing campaign on Iran, the United States has no choice but to fight Israel’s war for it. I mean, does Ms. Applebaum expect us to buy this nonsense?

Next she’ll be telling us that it’s necessary for the US to remain the “sole superpower” for the indefinite future. Oh wait…

Investigative Journalists Are Better Spies Than CIA

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From The Washington Post:

KABUL — On their first day of class in Afghanistan, the new U.S. intelligence analysts were given a homework assignment.

First read a six-page classified military intelligence report about the situation in Spin Boldak, a key border town and smuggling route in southern Afghanistan. Then read a 7,500-word article in Harper’s magazine, also about Spin Boldak and the exploits of its powerful Afghan border police commander.

The conclusion they were expected to draw: The important information would be found in the magazine story. The scores of spies and analysts producing reams of secret documents were not cutting it.

Hilarious.

Written by pavanvan

February 23, 2010 at 3:12 pm

More SOTU Reactions

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The Economist:

An understandably domestic-focused speech could have used more on Iran—probably the biggest issue in American foreign policy and one where a signal from the president in a speech at this level would be huge. Where was an acknowledgment of Iran’s protestors, and the regime’s brutal repression?

*sigh*

The New Republic:

A good defense of the bank bailout, plus an assault on the banks. Obama’s winning smile and sense of humor give his explanation a likeable sheen. He should have done more of that by now. (Geithner still looks, in a friend’s words, “like he got hit by a truck.”)

The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder:

I thought it was… good. It think it helps President Obama. I don’t know if it will help his party. It was a speech about the democratic process — a very effective one. It was a speech that challenged his own party as much as it challenged the Republicans. It had little in the way of policy, and a lot in the way of trying to leverage the character traits that Americans see and like about Obama to persuade them to accept that his way is still the right way.

Ezra Klein:

All in all, it was a good speech. But it was a good speech because it told the story of a good presidency and an able president. I expect Obama’s poll numbers will be up for a few days, but if he wants them to remain there, he needs events to bear out his narrative. And that starts with passing the health-care reform bill.

Does anyone notice what all these “reactions” have in common? They don’t refer to the substance of the speech. It’s all a question of whether or not it “helps” the “Democrats” in 2010, whether or not Obama was ‘likeable’, if his smile is ‘winning’, if he’s got a ‘sense of humor’, what kind of “character traits” he has. Not one word on the patent falsehoods or willful misrepresentations of data in the speech. And thus is the public’s consent manufactured.

Written by pavanvan

January 28, 2010 at 3:14 pm

Climate Misinformation

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Media Matters has a timely and thorough rundown of Mr. George Will’s fantastic assertions in the Washington Post. Mr. Will, the Post‘s resident climate change denier, willfully misinterprets data, offers baseless accusations, and generally behaves as a corporate propagandist might be expected to.

Will claimed “evidence” of climate change is “elusive.” In an October 1, 2009, Washington Post column, Will claimed that “evidence” of climate change is “elusive” and that scientists are overstating the threat of warming when they say — in the words of a September 21 New York Times article Will criticized — that a recent “plateau” in temperatures has “no bearing” on the long-term warming trend. In fact, scientists routinely present strong evidence of long-term warming and its consequences — including a September 2009 United Nations report Will himself cited that says “rapid environmental change is underway with the pace and the scale of climate change accelerating.” [10/1/09]

Will cited no evidence to claim that climate scientists are suppressing or massaging data. In his December 6, 2009, column, Will claimed that “[d]isclosure of e-mails and documents from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) in Britain — a collaborator with the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — reveals some scientists’ willingness to suppress or massage data.” Will cited no evidence to support his claims. He also flogged an out-of-context email to falsely suggest that it made the case for global warming “less compelling.” [12/6/09]

Oh, and The Post is quite aware of their colleague’s flights of fancy:

Will columns criticized by environmental community, Post colleagues. Will’s global warming columns have been widely criticized by the environmental community and have also been criticized by Washington Post editorial board member and cartoonist Tom Toles, Post weather columnist Andrew Freedman, and Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander. Fellow editorial columnist Eugene Robinson also said that Will “cross[ed] the line” in spreading global warming misinformation.

I wasn’t aware such a line existed.

Being over the age of 50, Mr. Will enjoys complete impunity from the effects of his lies. As I’m sure as he figures it, he’ll be long dead by the time the real effects of our civilization are laid bare – the droughts, oil shortages, advancing deserts, agricultural collapse, etc. Thus he has no qualms about acting as an industry cheerleader; committing willful and wanton lies to increase their profits by just that much. If I believed in an afterlife, I’m sure there would be a special place for specimens such as Mr. Will – but since there is, after all, no justice in this world, I’m sure Mr. Will will continue to draw his fat paychecks while composing shoddy and scurrilous pap aimed specifically at deceiving the public.

Written by pavanvan

January 27, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Mission Accomplished

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The Washington Post gives a great article on what we already knew:

Written by pavanvan

January 3, 2010 at 9:27 pm