Aug 1 2010


Newsweek Blames the ‘Left’ for Bush-Era Disasters

Jon Meacham’s editor’s note in the June 7 Newsweek, looking back on the failures of the last decade, made a fervently centrist point: “The history of these years fails to fit neatly into the ideological categories of left or right, for both public and private enterprises have managed to miss the mark in hours of crisis. Government is not the root of all evil; neither are corporations.” His examples:

From the financial sector to the Roman Catholic Church, it has been a bad couple of years for—to borrow a phrase from a BP chieftain—“big, important” players in global life. Going only a bit further back in the decade, the occupation of Iraq and the response to Katrina seem to mark the beginning of an era in which apparently competent institutions have all too often proved incompetent.

Funny—most of those do seem to fit pretty neatly into the right-wing category: The left opposed the Iraq War, financial deregulation and offshore drilling, and sounded warnings about the housing bubble. Meacham implied that both the Iraq War and George W. Bush’s disastrous non-response to Katrina were “left” policies, because both were failures of government—a taxonomy that would also place Ronald Reagan, Francisco Franco and Augusto Pinochet on the left, since they were all government employees.


The Real Ed Henry

NPR’s Brooke Gladstone (On the Media, 6/11/10), interviewing CNN’s Ed Henry about a squirt-gun party at the vice president’s mansion that Henry giddily tweeted about (Hullabaloo, 6/5/10):

BROOKE GLADSTONE: If these events don’t influence coverage, why do you think the White House throws them? Do they just want to shoot you with a super-soaker?

ED HENRY: Maybe they wanna actually get to know us as people sometimes.

Cherrypicking Polls on Salvador’s President

A June 24 L.A. Times piece by Alex Renderos, with the web headline, “El Salvador President Under Fire,” suggested that “Salvadorans are growing impatient” with former FMLN leader Mauricio Funes, who was elected last year and is now facing an “avalanche of criticism” for the country’s continuing crime and corruption: “Funes’ failures have hit the poor and working class especially hard,” Renderos wrote. “After two decades of one-party right-wing rule, they greeted the rise of the left with great hope. Today they are deeply disillusioned.”

Renderos cited recent poll results showing Salvadorans concerned about crime and corruption under the new government—but ignored numbers from the very same poll indicating that Funes himself remains quite popular: “Respondents in a recent poll by the Universidad Centroamericana’s Instituto Universitario de Opinión Pública (IUDOP) gave the president a grade of 6.8 out of 10, down somewhat from the 7.16 score he earned last September but still a sign of continued support,” reported the news service Noticen (6/10/10), which went on to note that “figures released in April by the polling firm Mitofsky put Funes’ approval rating at 83 percent, the highest of any Latin America leader.”

‘Growing’ Afghan Debate Still Imperceptibly Tiny

Under the headline “Debate Grows Over Afghanistan Drawdown Plan,” the Los Angeles Times (6/16/10) reported that “recent setbacks in Afghanistan have intensified debate over the wisdom of the Obama administration’s plan to begin withdrawing U.S. military forces next summer and highlighted reservations among military commanders over a rigid timeline.” The article’s sources, though, ranged from U.S. military officials, who were portrayed as having “reservations” about a withdrawal timeline, to Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.) who also has serious reservations about a withdrawal timeline. Not part of this “debate”: the 53 percent of the U.S. public (ABC/Washington Post, 6/3-6/10) who say the Afghan War wasn’t worth fighting.


For NYT, Killing Civilians Means You Don’t Want To

The attack, in which three vehicles were destroyed, illustrated the extraordinary sensitivity to the inadvertent killing of noncombatants by NATO forces.

—Dexter Filkins, New York Times (5/30/10), reporting on a U.S. drone attack that killed 23 civilians

Sometimes the Tinfoil Helps

The Washington Post’s Lori Montgomery (6/9/10) went after critics of the White House’s deficit reduction commission, saying they were giving the commission a “sinister cast” and using “heated rhetoric” to convince people that there’s a “secret plan” to cut Social Security. But as Montgomery eventually acknowledged, this conspiracy theory is actually true, with the commissioners all in agreement on “adjusting Social Security benefits.” They’re not planning on adjusting them upwards, are they?

Hooray for Frankenfood

A Time magazine piece headlined “How Frankenfood Prevailed” (6/28/10) didn’t really pretend to offer a discussion about genetically engineered food. There are three quotes in the piece: two from a Monsanto executive, the leader in the genetic modification industry, and one from an academic—whose job is funded in part by another major agribusiness company—praising Monsanto’s corporate strategy.

“The industry claims that after nearly 15 years of GM-crop use, there are no well-documented food-safety problems,” the magazine’s Ken Stier told readers—with a parenthetical acknowledgment that “a couple of critical reports challenge this assertion,” no further information given. Time noted that “some problems could arise—for instance, superweeds that have adapted traits from herbicide-resistant GM plants.” Actually, this problem already has arisen, as research reported in other media attests (New York Times, 5/4/10). Overall, Time concluded, “biotech crops seem to mostly benefit the environment.” One thing that doesn’t benefit the environment is corporate-handout journalism like this.