October 2010 Archives

Money quote from this op-ed piece by Julian E. Zelizer, emphasis mine:

The study found that Americans are philosophically conservative but operationally liberal. While they do express strong distrust of government in general, when asked about specific programs they usually voice their support. More Americans have more negative views of government than they did 10 years ago, yet most people still consider Social Security and Medicare to be “very important” and almost half support government regulation of health care.

If you’re wondering why Americans are rejecting the current Congress and why Democrats are hurting, wonder no more, though the article goes on for a few hundred words more and he misses the glaring, huge point.

The point is this: When the Congress does something (Obamacare) of which less than half the people in the country approve (and which this writer and others view as a victory, nonetheless) and are more negative about government than before, the Congress should expect some turnover in the party which did the doing.

Or did everybody forget 2008 already?

Reuters deals out a shameless plug for Obama. The headline reads “job creation,” but then the article fails to mention the actual job creation.

You can read the article here. It mentions “jobs” once but devotes the vast majority of its column space to the ongoing Rhode Island/Democratic/Republican battles.

How’s that about jobs? It isn’t, so the headline is nothing more than campaigning for Obama.

If you successfully peddled “Hope” and “Change” as a successful campaign platform, I believe that does indeed qualify you as a snake oil expert. But if that’s all the media can get out of your message—again—then it is, indeed, a shallow message.

Source article here

Arsalan Iftikhar is wrong, too.

Let’s put the shoe on the other foot, shall we?

Imagine if you are in a country which has been invaded by Americans wearing standard issue Battle Dress Uniforms. Think you might be nervous when you see someone in BDUs? Well, by everybody’s interpretation of this situation, you are a bigot if you say, “I get nervous when I see an American in BDUs.”

By the definition of the word bigot, however, “everybody” would be wrong.

Webster’s:

bigot: a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance

Where’s the hate or intolerance in what Mr. Williams said?

OK, another try. Princeton University:

bigoted - blindly and obstinately attached to some creed or opinion and intolerant toward others; “a bigoted person”; “an outrageously bigoted point of view”

Is Mr. Williams “blindly or obstinately attached” to his opinion—and being intolerant? I would guess that if he got up and said, “If I see a Muslim on the plane, I demand that he be kicked off the plane,” then, yes, I’d say he was being intolerant.

No, he’s just “nervous.” Shots make me nervous. Heck, doctors make me nervous. Lawyers… even more so. But I don’t hate doctors, I don’t hate lawyers, and I’m not intolerant of either. But if I say, “(X) makes me nervous?” Bigoted? Hardly.

But wait! “Bill,” you say, “that person has a reason to be nervous around Americans in BDUs. They attacked that person’s country!”

Ah, yes, “without reason.” Wiktionary:

bigoted - Being a bigot; biased; strongly prejudiced; forming opinions without just cause

Let’s review for a moment, shall we? Who was it, exactly, who attacked America on 9/11? Was it (a) evangelistic Christians (b) Jewish fundamentalists (c) Buddhist monks or (d) Muslim extremists?

Which of these aforementioned groups keeps up pressure on American interests with suicide bombers and the like? Oh, sure, the remaining groups have their share of extremists and nutjobs, too (except, perhaps, for the monks), but, really, which group has shown a tendency to give Americans pause for thought?

OK, then, let’s get past the question of bigotry. I think I’ve made my case: he wasn’t expressing a bigoted opinion.

But let’s assume that he did, in fact, express a bigoted opinion. Was NPR right to fire him? Let’s go to Mr. Iftikhar’s opinion and coverage of the subject:

Once Williams made that factually wrong statement, he then no longer continued being a “news analyst”; he had crossed over the line into simply voicing his paranoid and irrational fears to the general public.

“Juan Williams is a news analyst; he is not a commentator and he is not a columnist,” [National Public Radio CEO Vivian] Schiller told an Atlanta Press Club luncheon Thursday. “We have relied on him over the years to give us perspective on the news, not to talk about his opinions.”

She added, “NPR news analysts have a distinctive role and set of responsibilities. This is a very different role than that of a commentator or columnist. News analysts may not take personal public positions on controversial issues; doing so undermines their credibility as analysts, and that’s what’s happened in this situation. As you all well know, we offer views of all kinds on our air every day, but those views are expressed by those we interview — not our reporters and analysts.”

Problem: Mr. Williams was in no way, shape or form bound to not express his personal opinions in public on controversial issues. How do I know this? I read the source. From NPR’s Ethics Code:

V. Outside work, freelancing, speaking engagements

  1. The primary professional responsibility of NPR journalists is to NPR. They should never work in direct competition with NPR. An example of competing with NPR would be breaking a story or contributing a feature for another broadcast outlet or Web site before offering the work to NPR.

No problem here.

2. NPR journalists must get written permission for all outside freelance and journalistic work, including written articles. Requests should be submitted in writing to the employee’s immediate supervisor. Approval will not be unreasonably denied if the proposed work will not discredit NPR, conflict with NPR’s interests, create a conflict of interest for the employee or interfere with the employee’s ability to perform NPR duties. Supervisors must respond within seven days of receiving a request.

Not a problem here.

3. NPR journalists must get written permission for broadcast appearances or speaking engagements, whether or not compensated. Requests should be submitted in writing to the employee’s immediate supervisor, and copied to the Communications Division at mediarelations@npr.org. Approval will not be unreasonably denied if the proposed work will not discredit NPR, conflict with NPR’s interests, create a conflict of interest for the employee or interfere with the employee’s ability to perform NPR duties. Supervisors must respond within seven days of receiving a request.

I have to assume that Mr. Williams followed procedure here. And, if that’s the case, then just what the heck was NPR management thinking he would do if he went onto Bill O’Reilly’s show? Would he not offer his opinion? Or just offer his opinion on non-controversial issues? Would he just offer stock facts? O’Reilly’s show is all about opinion on controversial issues. Would they have fired him if he had made a non-bigoted statement about, say, his favorite color? “The color blue makes me nervous, Bill.” Whammo, Mr. Williams! You’re outta’ here! You can’t objectively report on art anymore!

3. NPR journalists may not engage in public relations work, paid or unpaid. Exceptions may be made for certain volunteer nonprofit, nonpartisan activities, such as participating in the work of a church, synagogue or other institution of worship, or a charitable organization, so long as this would not conflict with the interests of NPR in reporting on activities related to that institution or organization. When in doubt, employees should consult their supervisor.

Not relevant.

4. In general, NPR journalists may not without prior permission from their supervisor do outside work for government or agencies principally funded by government, or for private organizations that are regularly covered by NPR. This includes work that would be done on leaves of absence.

Not relevant.

5. NPR journalists may not ghostwrite or co-author articles or books or write reports - such as annual reports - for government agencies, institutions or businesses that we cover or are likely to cover.

Not relevant.

6. NPR journalists must get approval from the Senior Vice President for the News Division, or that person’s designee, before speaking to groups that might have a relationship to a subject that NPR may cover. Generally, NPR journalists may not speak at corporation or industry functions. NPR journalists also may not speak in settings where their appearance is being used by an organization to market its services or products, unless it is marketing NPR or its member stations’ interests, and then only as permitted in Section IX, Item 5 (below). NPR journalists are permitted to engage in promotional activities for books they have written (such as a book tour), although they are expected to get approval from their supervisors on scheduling.

Not relevant.

7. NPR journalists may only accept speaking fees from educational or nonprofit groups not engaged in significant lobbying or political activity. Determining whether a group engages in significant lobbying or political activity is the responsibility of the NPR journalist seeking permission, and all information must be fully disclosed to the journalist’s supervisor.

Not relevant.

8. NPR journalists may not speak to groups where the appearance might put in question NPR’s impartiality. Such instances include situations where the employee’s appearance may appear to endorse the agenda of a group or organization. This would include participation in some political debates and forums where the sponsoring group(s) or other participants are identified with a particular perspective on an issue or issues and NPR journalist’s participation might put into question NPR’s impartiality.

Well, one might wonder if this is relevant. Bill O’Reilly and his gang are certainly not impartial. But, again, if it were a problem, why would NPR management have approved this engagement?

9. NPR journalists must get permission from the Senior Vice President for News, or their designee, to appear on TV or other media. Requests should be submitted in writing to the employee’s immediate supervisor and copied to mediarelations@npr.org . Approval will not be unreasonably denied if the proposed work will not discredit NPR, conflict with NPR’s interests, create a conflict of interest for the employee or interfere with the employee’s ability to perform NPR duties. The Senior Vice President or designee must respond within seven days of receiving a request. It is not necessary to get permission in each instance when the employee is a regular participant on an approved show. Permission for such appearances may be revoked if NPR determines such appearances are harmful to the reputation of NPR or the NPR participant.

Interesting as this is more specific to TV appearances. It doesn’t contradict section 3, certainly, but neither does it say, “You’ll be fired.” It just says that the permission will be revoked.

10. In appearing on TV or other media including electronic Web-based forums, NPR journalists should not express views they would not air in their role as an NPR journalist. They should not participate in shows electronic forums, or blogs that encourage punditry and speculation rather than fact-based analysis.

I’m going to have to guess that Mr. Williams would have said what he said no matter the forum. If this isn’t the case, then, yeah, he was wrong. What are the consequences of violating Section 10, then? Firing? Disciplinary action? Indeterminate.

11. Any NPR journalist intending to write a non-fiction book or TV or movie script or other guiding documents for non-radio productions based in whole or substantial part on assignments they did for NPR must notify NPR in writing of such plans before entering into any agreement with respect to that work. NPR will respond within 14 days as to whether it has any objections to the project.

N/A

12. NPR journalists considering book projects or TV or movie productions based on stories that they have covered must be careful not to give any impression they might benefit financially from the outcome of news or program events. They should before taking any actions with respect to such matters seek guidance from the Senior Vice President for News, or their designee.

N/A

And that’s it. That’s the entire section of their Ethics Code which applies here. Nowhere does it mention that “news analysts may not take personal public positions on controversial issues.” Since Mr. Williams presumably has read and acknowledged receipt of this Code, perhaps a good, stern talking to is more appropriate than a firing. But his entire conversation with NPR was, in essence, “You’re fired.” “Why?” “Because we said so.”

NPR unfair? Never!

Mr. Iftikhar argues that he knows the difference between a commentator, of which he is one, and an analyst, of which Mr. Williams is one. The interesting thing is that the Ethics Code quoted above does not differentiate between the two, so presumably, Mr. Iftikhar is also under the same responsibilities as Mr. Williams.

So, Mr. Iftikhar, perhaps you’d better keep your opinions—outside NPR, that is—to yourself.

Entire article for your reference here.

Now, let’s deconstruct this thing, shall we?

Here’s what Mr. Williams said:

Look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.

This is what got him fired. He got fired for telling how he feels as a result of an attack by admittedly-extremist Muslims on American soil. There is absolutely nothing wrong with expressing how he feels.

But NPR disagrees.

NPR CEO Vivian Schiller says that NPR expects news analysts and reporters alike “to behave like journalists.”

OK, let’s assume for just a moment that a partially-publically-funded news outlet has the right to decide whether or not they want someone in their employ who agrees or disagrees with their opinions. If they fire everybody who disagrees, then it’s their loss—and ours. Certainly, things that Mr. Williams says in a public venue help them decide whether or not to keep him or not.

But… What about what he said was not journalistic in nature? In fact, he was documenting for posterity how he feels when he encounters Muslims in their religious garb. He could have said, “I feel worried when I encounter a teenager wearing a black trench coat.” Or even, “I feel threatened when I encounter a rancher toting a six-shooter by his side.” Whether or not he has reason to believe that he is or is not, should or shouldn’t be threatened, it is a simple statement of how he feels.

How much more journalistic can you get? Isn’t original/primary source OK? Or does Mr. Williams have to interview another person who expresses the same opinion as he does before he’s allowed to report how a person might feel around Muslims on an airplane in traditional garb?

Or… would it have been OK if it had been on NPR where he could he censored? No, NPR is fair and balanced; that would never happen.

So apparently, NPR thinks its reporters are not entitled to express their own feelings or opinions. Doing so is non-journalistic.

Anyway, the next time you’re listening to Daniel Schorr reruns, remember that he was on NPR, expressing his opinion, and therefore was not a journalist.

Unbelievable. But is it enough to cancel out the theft?

(via Marginal Revolution)

I have yet to figure this one out. On CNN’s “Opinion” page, Special to CNN’s Hilary Rosen expresses her opinion… right? But she couches her essay as if it were fact. To quote:

Consider a few facts that the Republicans keep missing. As they say, you are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts.

She then launches into her own opinions:

The fact is that this White House and the Democrats in Congress have been focusing on jobs.

I presume it’s their own jobs that we’re talking about here, because the unemployment trend, in spite of this supposed focus, has risen dramatically. Even Ben Bernanke’s not convinced they’ve been effective.

To focus on jobs, you have to fix the economy first, which the Democrats did.

Is that a fact? Really? “Did,” as in, already done? And I wonder what definition of “fix” she’s using—it certainly isn’t the one that means repair, mend.

And as important, Democrats have tried to focus on those who have been hurt from eight years of neglect. What does that mean?

If by “neglect” she means “did not overburden with legislation,” then, yes, conservatives are guilty of neglect in stark contrast to the liberal mantra All things can be made better with legislation. If Congress had to deal with the burden of its own legislation, it would give each new bill a second thought before introducing it.

It means 16 different tax breaks and supports for small business owners, who were neglected by the Republicans for eight years.

Small business owners enjoy this kind of neglect. It’s easier to run their businesses when they don’t have to deal with mounds of reporting (support isn’t paperwork-free) and tax paperwork (and neither are tax breaks).

It means making student loans more affordable by cutting middleman subsidies, which had been growing for eight years.

But, all the while, missing the basic point: investing in your education should be 100% tax deductible, just like investing in a piece of capital equipment is. Instead, the people whose student loans are most onerous are the ones least likely to be able to take any kind of advantage of any tax breaks on the student loan interest (of all things), the only deductible amount.

It means passing a patient’s bill of rights to control insurance costs, which have been growing for eight years.

Can’t argue with that—much—because they have been, right along with everything else. But I am willing to bet a nickel on its failure because controlling insurance costs is like driving the bus from the rear, facing backwards, instead of attempting to steer from the front, facing forwards. Simply, you can’t control insurance costs because the insurance costs are based on other, uncontrolled/not-yet-addressed costs, such as pharmaceutical costs, malpractice insurance costs, etc.

It means investing in solar and electric cars and alternative energy, which has been neglected for eight years.

You know, funny thing: There are more electric cars on the road now than ever before, and since these cars weren’t just introduced in the last two years, I’d have to say that… Wait, weren’t we discussing people who had been hurt in the last eight years? How’s this relevant?

Then, it means curtailing deceptive banking practices, which have been getting worse and screwing consumers for eight years.

Ah, yes, more regulation. Good for the economy, that regulation stuff. The more the better. It’s certainly keeping the postal service in business as they deliver all of these new notices from the credit card companies, and yet I’m still unaware that my life has been made any better by any of this new regulation. Guess I hadn’t been hurt badly enough to notice that it’s somehow getting better.

And it means providing tax breaks for middle-class Americans, who have been squeezed for eight years.

I’m in that middle class, you know. And yet my taxes are going up. Huh?

Oh, and here’s a doozy:

In 2010, corporate profits will be as high as they have been since 1997. We will see whether the cash that industry is sitting on will be used to invest and grow and create jobs here at home or whether it will pay bonuses to senior executives while shipping jobs overseas.

If Republicans are in charge, they will choose the latter, because they will suffer no consequences for their actions. If Democrats are in charge, they will likely choose the former. We know that because that is what they said they would do at the start of the Obama administration.

To summarize: Republicans will choose to pay bonuses to senior executives because it won’t hurt, and Democrats will choose to invest and grow to create jobs because that’s what they said they’d do. Trust us!

If I assume they’re not liars, these Democrats, then they and the Republicans will somehow magically take corporate dollars (huge profits!) and dispose of them in their own ways. I’m not aware of any way that either party can do that short of turning American corporations’ profits into their own private slush fund. Socialism, here we come!

Now, the rest of the article, which does indeed smack of opinion:

This administration didn’t demonize business. There are countless examples of the White House partnering with business to promote investments that will grow this country’s workforce and restore economic health. They came to the table. But once Republicans started offering businesses the actual store if they helped them get back in power, business pulled back from that table.

The timing was not a coincidence. In fact, Rep. John Boehner said it best on the day the Financial Regulatory Reform billl was on the Senate floor. “The Republicans are the only ones standing between you and reform.” But they had to get in power.

Now, Wall Street and the big banks are sitting on hundreds of billions of dollars in cash, waiting to see if the Republicans will help them line their pockets instead of lending that money into the system to invest in the economy and grow jobs.

I have only two words: [citation needed]. And I doubt she can offer us anything other than a gut feeling based on anecdotal evidence. I’d like for someone to count those countless examples, for example.

I’m not so sure that her motivation in writing this article—which is, I’m certain, to attempt to help Democrats retain power—is any more noble than any other party’s motivation to regain power.

The opinions in this commentary are solely those of Hilary Rosen.

Thank goodness for that.

By the way, note to DNC: Your political strategist, Ms. Rosen, is known for leading an association whose legal strategy and tactics are shady at best and whose salary has been paid by BP, among others. You might want to reconsider your choice…

The announcement of a new Calendar service in me.com had me somewhat excited. I could, finally, sync a calendar among multiple family members with editing privileges for all. Yay!

But when I attempted to upgrade my Calendar service, I ran into this message:

Entourage Sync Problem.jpg

Has anybody run into this, too? And what’s it mean? And is there a workaround? Is Office 2011 going to solve all our woes (in spite of its crappy ribbon interface)?

Comments are on!

Well, ain’t this just nifty: Obama is accusing the Republicans of peddling “snake oil.” Sorta’ reminds me of somebody’s campaign in… hmmm… was it 2008 or so? Something about “hope” and “change”—two incredibly intangible concepts unto themselves.

At least the Republicans are offering something of substance. And since Obama knows nothing of substance, I’m going to have to discount his opinion.

As I’ve said time and time again: Change is running on the other guy’s weaknesses, not your own strengths.1 And hope is incredibly difficult to legislate.2


1 Now we know why he chose this tactic.

2 Though apparently you can try to buy hope for just under a trillion dollars.

49 seconds of pure awesomeness. Click it. You know you want to.