04
Mar

For some excellent reading on the Russia-Ukraine situation…

Check out Julia Ioffe’s recent work at The New Republic:

Putin’s War in Crimea Could Soon Spread to Eastern Ukraine

Barack Obama Calls Vladimir Putin About Ukraine

Kremlin TV Loves Anti-War Protests—Unless Russia Is the One Waging War

Putin’s Press Conference Proved Merkel Right: He’s Lost His Mind

Ioffe is as good as it gets when it comes to translating the baffling world of Russian politics for an American audience.

19
Feb

Lover vs. Partner

Why does The Daily Beast refer to David Miranda as Glenn Greenwald’s “lover,” instead of “partner?” They link to an Al-Jazeera America article that uses the term “partner” so why the change in terminology? “Partner” obviously has more serious connotations and given the severity of Miranda’s situation, that’s clearly the appropriate word to use.

This isn’t the first time I’ve scratched my head after seeing something on The Daily Beast but degrading the relationship between Greenwald and Miranda with the term “lover” irritates the hell out of me (for whatever reason).

Update: As I wrote this, The Daily Beast changed the headline to “partner” and apologized for the error. Apparently I’m not the only one bothered by such things. 

16
Feb

How To Make Irresponsible Journalism

letterstomycountry:

NBC News has posted this gem of a headline, "Pot Fuels Surge In Drugged Driving Deaths."  Like every good story, it leads with a compelling anecdote—in this case, someone who was killed by a stoned driver.  Then it cites the following statistics:

As medical marijuana sales expanded into 20 states, legal weed was detected in the bodies of dead drivers three times more often during 2010 when compared to those who died behind the wheel in 1999, according to a new study from Columbia University published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

“The trend suggests that marijuana is playing an increased role in fatal crashes,” said Dr. Guohua Li, a co-author and director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia University Medical Center. The researchers examined data from the federal Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), spanning more than 23,000 drivers killed during that 11-year period.

But wait!  Buried towards the bottom of the article are these statistics:

A separate study — also based on FARS data — found that in states where medical marijuana was approved, traffic fatalities decrease by as much as 11 percent during the first year after legalization. Written by researchers at the University of Colorado, Oregon and Montana State University, the paper was published in 2013 in the Journal of Law & Economics.

Those authors theorized pot, for some, becomes a substitute for alcohol. They cited a recent, 13-percent drop in drunk-driving deaths in states where medical marijuana is legal.

“Marijuana reform is associated with … a decrease in traffic fatalities, most likely due to its impact on alcohol consumption,” said Michael Elliott, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group, a trade association in Colorado.

So there’s an increase in marijuana-related crashes in states with some form of legalized pot, but there’s also a corresponding decrease in alcohol-related crashes.  The net result is a decrease in the overall number of traffic fatalities.  Yet NBC still chose to run a headline that, without context, suggests that legal pot is leading to more traffic fatalities, which it is not.  The opposite is in fact true.

Most people aren’t going to dig to the bottom of the article to get this important contextual information.  Instead, they’ll see the headline, read the first couple paragraphs, and the message they’ll get is that legal pot is increasing the number of traffic fatalities—without realizing that legal pot has actually reduced traffic fatalities overall.  

Presenting the story in this manner is irresponsible.  The headline is misleading, as are the initial supporting paragraphs.  A lot of people are going to walk away from this article with the wrong message because NBC presented it in a poor fashion.  And now, we get to listen to anti-pot crusaders tell us about how legal pot activists have blood on their hands, despite the fact that legal pot hasn’t actually increased the number of people dying in traffic fatalities.  It has actually reduced them.  And if this story leads people in battleground states to vote against legalized pot, it will be NBC that has blood on its hands, not legalization activists.

15
Jan

Glenn Greenwald: The Dogs You Rescue Do Even Greater Things For You

Glenn Greenwald: tireless scourge of the NSA, part-time dog whisperer. 

07
Jan
While vitriol is universal on the anonymous web, it does appear that folks consider women ripe for personal attack on certain subjects while men are not.
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Comment left on Conor Friedersdorf’s article When Misogynist Trolls Make Journalism Miserable for Women, which is itself a response to this stunning piece by Amanda Hess.

Journalist Dana Goldstein responded to Hess’s piece on Twitter this morning, writing that “when a white supremacist site published my photo, I got weeks of anti-semitic rape threats. It was terrifying. And at the time (2008), my male editors did not seem to understand why it was real-world scary, not just Internet weird.”

Male journalists and bloggers should probably be more aware of the additional layer of vitriol that is often present in hateful comments directed at female writers. Not only are women subject to abuse because of what they think, they’re also vulnerable to violent threats because of who they are. This is a problem that most straight, white, male journalists simply never encounter.

23
Dec

A Brief History of the New York Post

1801: Alexander Hamilton and his Federalist cohorts found the Post. Its commitment to abolitionism and its much-lauded reporting garner praise from, among others, the great liberal philosopher John Stuart Mill.

2013: A Post photographer stakes out a woman’s apartment all night in order to acquire proof that she and Eliot Spitzer are “shacking up.”

04
Dec

A Metaphor for America

Scranton, Pennsylvania, was once a robust manufacturing centre. Now its factories are abandoned, its municipal coffers empty, its citizens in despair. This is how the dream ends.

This is a fairly bleak and devastating portrait of my hometown, Scranton, Pennsylvania. It’s hard to dispute most of the core observations: loss of business, erosion of prosperity, physical and spiritual decay, etc. Yet, the author, Chris Hedges, misses some crucial points. Call it foolish pride if you want, but many people who live in Scranton love their city. Maybe the “metaphor” is that, despite challenging circumstances, Americans care deeply about their home and do their best to improve it? Waltzing into someone else’s home and then shaking your head at how miserable and awful you perceive it to be is incredibly condescending and entirely unhelpful.

Also, Scranton just isn’t as bad as this article pretends. The city’s crime rates are significantly lower than national crime rates and its current unemployment rate (7.5%) is only slightly higher than the national rate (7.3%). Hedges also violates Godwin’s law by invoking Nazi Germany at his article’s conclusion, demonstrating that he doesn’t really have anything of value to say about Scranton…or America.

12
Nov
People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?) This family represents the cultural changes that have enveloped parts — but not all — of America. To cultural conservatives, this doesn’t look like their country at all.
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Richard Cohen

Methinks the Washington Post would benefit from updating their op-ed page to the 21st century.

15
Oct

Exclusive: Glenn Greenwald Will Leave Guardian To Create New News Organization - BuzzFeed

15
Sep

David Brooks is constantly wrong

Every time someone mentions David Brooks, I feel this instinctive rage begin to build up inside me.

12
Aug

This is what producers believe makes good radio and television today: for five to seven minutes, you are placed opposite a person who has been determined to have a point of view opposed to yours and you are expected to slug it out. Anything goes, apart from swearing, libel or subtlety. This is, in essence, boxing for people who were bad at PE.

[…]

This is not debate, except in the way that two toddlers debate over one lollipop. The word “debate” implies the ultimate goal is to learn something or at least to determine a way forward, rather than to produce the sort of dramatic shouting match that makes headlines and drives traffic to websites desperate for hits.

21
Jul

It would be beyond unreasonable to expect everyone in the country to be regularly familiar with the articles in Rolling Stone. On the other hand, pretty much everyone has heard of Rolling Stone, which is where the problem lay, in this gap between the popular image of the magazine and the reality of its reporting.

If indeed we were just a celebrity/gossip mag that covered nothing but rock stars and pop-culture icons, and we decided to boost sales and dabble in hard news by way of putting a Jim Morrison-esque depiction of a mass murderer on our cover, that really would suck and we would deserve all of this criticism.

But Rolling Stone has actually been in the hard news/investigative reporting business since its inception, from Hunter S. Thompson to Carl Bernstein to Bill Greider back in the day to Tim Dickinson, Michael Hastings, Mark Boal, Janet Reitman and myself in recent years.

One could even go so far as to say that in recent years, when investigative journalism has been so dramatically de-emphasized at the major newspapers and at the big television news networks, Rolling Stone’s role as a source of hard-news reporting has been magnified. In other words, we’re more than ever a hard news outlet in a business where long-form reporting is becoming more scarce.

18
Jul
Is this Rolling Stone cover controversial as well? Or is it just a picture of a murder suspect who is clearly condemned by the accompanying text?
h/t @AntDeRosa

Is this Rolling Stone cover controversial as well? Or is it just a picture of a murder suspect who is clearly condemned by the accompanying text?

h/t @AntDeRosa

17
Jul
There are a lot of ways to practice the art of journalism, and one of them is to use your art like a hammer to destroy the right people — who are almost always your enemies, for one reason or another, and who usually deserve to be crippled, because they are wrong. This is a dangerous notion, and very few professional journalists will endorse it — calling it “vengeful” and “primitive” and “perverse” regardless of how often they might do the same thing themselves. “That kind of stuff is opinion,” they say, “and the reader is cheated if it’s not labelled as opinion.” Well, maybe so. Maybe Tom Paine cheated his readers and Mark Twain was a devious fraud with no morals at all who used journalism for his own foul ends. And maybe H. L. Mencken should have been locked up for trying to pass off his opinions on gullible readers and normal “objective journalism.” Mencken understood that politics — as used in journalism — was the art of controlling his environment, and he made no apologies for it. In my case, using what politely might be called “advocacy journalism,” I’ve used reporting as a weapon to affect political situations that bear down on my environment.
17
Jul

By depicting a terrorist as sweet and handsome rather than ugly and terrifying, Rolling Stone has subverted our expectations and hinted at a larger truth. The cover presents a stark contrast with our usual image of terrorists. It asks, “What did we expect to see in Tsarnaev? What did we hope to see?” The answer, most likely, is a monster, a brutish dolt with outward manifestations of evil. What we get instead, however, is the most alarming sight of all: a boy who looks like someone we might know.

[…]

We may want the media to reconfirm for us that psychopaths are crazed, nutty, creepy recluses whom we can easily identify and thus avoid. But, as this cover reminds us, that simply isn’t the case. Some psychopaths point guns at cameras; others snap selfies in T-shirts. As Tsarnaev’s many friends could attest, we aren’t as good as we’d like to believe at spotting the evil beneath the surface.

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