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Monday, July 23, 2007
Sheppard's Swiftly Shifting Standards
Topic: NewsBusters

In a July 17 NewsBusters post, Noel Sheppard claimed to be concerned that Bill O'Reilly might be unfairly targeting Daily Kos as "one of the worst examples of hatred America has to offer" in O'Reilly's efforts to get JetBlue to disassociate itself from Daily Kos' annual convention by citing selected website entries:

Were these statements made by DKos diarists, or in the comments sections? There is indeed a difference that shouldn’t be ignored, or we are acting exactly like that which offends us.

If, on the other hand, such statements were representative of management’s views, O’Reilly should have made a stronger case to prove that. For instance, were the offensive comments made by Moulitsas or any of the major contributors? On the days the vitriol he cited occurred, what percentage of the comments did this hate-speech represent?

What should always be kept in mind concerning message boards at political websites is that a percentage of the commentary is likely going to be offensive to management and contributors. Without stepping on any toes, there are many comments made at NB message boards that I completely disagree with, and don’t condone in any way. I imagine the same happens at O’Reilly’s website, too.

As such, in the Internet Era, I think individuals and corporations must be careful in attaching too much relevance to what occurs at message boards unless it can be demonstrated that management either shares or condones such views. 

But Sheppard made no effort to investigate O'Reilly's claims to see if, in fact, they were by diarists or commenters. In fact, as Media Matters pointed out, all of the examples O'Reilly cited did indeed come from commenters, not diarists.

In a July 20 post, Sheppard praises O'Reilly for being "[d]epending on which side you believe ... extremely or moderately successful" in getting JetBlue to disassociate itself from Daily Kos. Nowhere does Sheppard mention that O'Reilly pulled his inflammatory Daily Kos statements from commenters, not diarists -- a behavior Sheppard purported to deplore just three days earlier. Instead, Sheppard joins in the attacking of Daily Kos:

However, it seems incontrovertible at this point that this is clearly a Democrat campaign website now. They do fundraisers, invite candidates to write diaries, hold conventions with said candidates, etc.

As such, Daily Kos clearly walks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck. With that in mind, it's time for Markos to grow up a little bit, and recognize that if he wants to play with the big boys, he's going to have to play by big boy rules.

Sheppard shouldn't have even bothered to write that July 17 post if he was going to immediately ignore the standards he set for himself in it.

Posted by Terry K. at 12:47 AM EDT
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Limbaugh's Disingenous Column
Topic: WorldNetDaily

David Limbaugh's July 20 column -- printed at WorldNetDaily and NewsMax -- was a disingenous attack on Chris Matthews.

Limbaugh started off by claiming that Matthews' appearance on "The Tonight Show" should be required viewing for "[t]hose who deny the overwhelming liberal bias of the mainstream media." Limbaugh conveniently forgets thatMatthews was a reliable basher of President Clinton. Limbaugh himself once praised Matthews as "usually fair to Republicans and intellectually honest."

Limbaugh then noted that Jay Leno stated that "God told him [Bush] that we should fight this war," adding, "Matthews said Bush needed 'a little humility.' Even Abraham Lincoln, Matthews said, didn't claim to have God on his side in the Civil War." Limbaugh responded: "While I can't prove a negative, I am confident Bush never said that God is on our side in this war – though it wouldn't bother me if he had – or that God directed him to attack Iraq." But he never quotes Bush directly on what he has actually said on the subject, only paraphrasing that "[h]e has said he continually prays for divine guidance and reads the Bible every day."

In fact, the UK Guardian reported:

George Bush has claimed he was on a mission from God when he launched the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, according to a senior Palestinian politician in an interview to be broadcast by the BBC later this month.

Mr Bush revealed the extent of his religious fervour when he met a Palestinian delegation during the Israeli-Palestinian summit at the Egpytian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, four months after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

One of the delegates, Nabil Shaath, who was Palestinian foreign minister at the time, said: "President Bush said to all of us: 'I am driven with a mission from God'. God would tell me, 'George go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan'. And I did. And then God would tell me 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq'. And I did."

Mr Bush went on: "And now, again, I feel God's words coming to me, 'Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East'. And, by God, I'm gonna do it."

While the White House has denied Shaath's account, Limbaugh should have noted that Leno and Matthews have a basis for making such a claim about Bush; instead, he attacks Matthews for "distorting the truth" by "unequivocally implying that Bush has claimed to get his marching orders directly from God and that that is scary – as if he's in some kind of spiritual trance."

Limbaugh quoted Matthews as saying, "I think we gotta be damn skeptical of this crowd, because on WMD, on the connection to 9/11, on the surge … on the torture, on every step of the way we've been given misinformation to the point now, we just did a poll, a fifth of the American people believe we found weapons of mass destruction when we got there. They're still indoctrinated. … How do we get all this misinformation? From the top, unfortunately. It's a sad thing." To respond, Limbaugh goes into full disingenousness mode:

  • "The administration never said Iraq attacked us on 9/11. It never said there was an operational relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida, just that there was a relationship, which there was. ... If two-fifths of the American people believe Iraq attacked us on 9/11, it isn't Bush's fault, because he never said that." Limbaugh narrowly defines his response, focusing only on Bush. In fact, Vice President Dick Cheney has tried to tie Iraq to al-Queda and 9/11.
  • "Only grassy-knoll nutcakes and anti-military types believe the 'brass' authorized systematic abuse of enemy combatant detainees." Limbaugh doesn't mention a 2002 memo by Justice Department lawyer John Yoo that pushed previous limits on "interrogation techniques" by narrowly defining what was torture. The Justice Department's advocacy of ways to seek ways to make such so-called "enhanced interrogation" permissible can very well be seen as coming from the "brass."
  • "And if one-fifth of the people believe we found new WMD stockpiles (we clearly did find old WMD), it isn't because Bush said so. Yet Matthews says this 'misinformation' came from 'the top,' meaning Bush. But he knows that Bush has never said we've found WMD there. Never. He's said quite the opposite. This one isn't even arguable." Limbaugh again draws his question narrowly, saying that because Bush never said, nobody said it. In fact, there's an important related issue: numerous war supporters -- and, thus, Bush supporters, have claimed that Saddam had WMD and that they were moved to Syria just before the war. While the Bush administration has denied this claim, shouldn't Limbaugh be taking his fellow conservatives to task for forwarding such misinformation that reflects badly on the Bush administration?

Matthews actually has a point, and rather than acknowledging that, Limbaugh merely attacked him by not telling his own readers the full truth.

Posted by Terry K. at 11:04 PM EDT
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Media Mythbusters Making Its Own Myths
Topic: Washington Examiner

A new website has launched, Media Mythbusters -- promoted in a July 19 Washington Examiner column by Lorie Byrd -- with the goal of purporting to "debunk myths that take hold as a result of inaccurate or irresponsible media reports." But the website and the folks behind it are apparently intent on building a few myths of their own.

The first myth involves the partisan nature of the website. Ideologies are kept under wraps and most language is neutral, but site leader Byrd of the Wizbang blog -- as well as the rest of the declared contributors -- are all conservatives, and their target is the media they deride as liberal. Don't look for any myths promulgated by, say, Fox News here. Don't expect a section on Amir Taheri, who used conservative-leaning papers (aided by conservative blogs like NewsBusters) to spread the false claim that the Iranian parliament passed a law that would require the country's Jews and Christians to wear colored badges to identify them and other religious minorities as non-Muslims.

Indeed, the list of subjects covered (listed on the blog) -- Rathergate, Stephen Glass, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth -- reads like a who's who of conservative attacks on the "liberal" media. And even then, there's a lot more myth-making than truth happening. Indeed, many of the entries appear to be copied-and-pasted out of conservative blogs.

For instance, Byrd claimed in her Examiner column that the "Sunni burning six" story -- in which the Associated Press reported that several Iraq Sunnis were burned alive, a story corroborated by an Iraqi police captain named Jamil Hussein -- "was retracted, and that 'Capt. Jamil Hussein' was a pseudonym." But nowhere in Media Mythbusters' Jamil Hussein section does it unequivocally state that the AP retracted the story.

Further, in the Jamil Hussein section is a copy of a blog entry by Michelle Malkin asserting that because parts of four mosques were still standing, they were not "destroyed" as the AP reported; nowhere does the entry note that at least one of those mosques had its dome blown off -- which arguably fits the description of "destroyed."

The site is in a wiki format and presumably subject to change. We have doubts about how much change will actually occur, though, or whether any balance will be brought to the site. While the site's front page states, "Many of the Media Mythbusters contributors are members of the New Media with experience debunking and/or reporting on questionable reporting from major media outlets," it then adds, "Only approved contributors will be allowed to post at the Media Mythbusters site" -- something of a departure from a true wiki, which has fewer restrictions on contributors.

So, in the future, look for Media Mythbusters to become a cudgel to bash the "mainstream" (read: "liberal") media -- and for ConWebWatch never to become an "approved contributor," despite our own history of busting media myths.

Posted by Terry K. at 12:44 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, September 16, 2007 1:03 PM EDT
Friday, July 20, 2007
David Thibault, R.I.P.

A July 20 article by Susan Jones states that former CNS editor-in-chief David Thibault has died of cancer. Our condolences go to his family and friends.

Jones writes of Thibault: "Under his leadership, the fledgling Cybercast News Service thrived and grew into a real journalistic powerhouse in the 'new media.'" At the risk of speaking ill of the dead, we note that Thibault was responsible for a few lowlights as well:

  • Thibault vociferously defended CNS' efforts to smear Democratic strategist Paul Begala, falsely claiming that Begala had said that Republicans are trying to kill him and his family.
  • Thibault similarly praised CNS' attacks on Rep. John Murtha, promoting smears advanced by defeated political opponents and other disgruntled and dead folks. Thibault even attempted to argue that CNS wasn't a conservative news organization.
  • Thibault insisted that Jeff Gannon -- the former Talon News employee discovered to be a conservative shill who moonlighted in the sex trade -- was no conservative because he was a "homosexual hooker" and that the only reason Gannon was singled out was that he "would have betrayed the liberal cause with conservative-slanted writing."

Lest you think this is too harsh, we remind you that upon Peter Jennings' death in 2005, the first response of the Media Research Center was to remind its readers that "[t]he MRC's archive is packed with documentation of liberal bias from Peter Jennings."

Posted by Terry K. at 6:03 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, July 20, 2007 6:22 PM EDT
Bates Falsely Attacks Sun-Times Columnist Over Obama
Topic: NewsBusters

A July 20 NewsBusters post by Michael M. Bates offers a misleading defense of Mitt Romney's bashing of Barack Obama's support of age-appropriate sex education by misleadingly attacking a Chicago Sun-Times column and hiding details about Obama's plan.

Bates referred to the July 20 Sun-Times column by Lynn Sweet, which asserted that Romney "is twisting benign comments Obama made about sex education." Bates wrote: "Ms Sweet notes that Obama emphasized that sex education needs to be "age appropriate." Left unstated is what exactly that means." Bates later asked: "What about parents who don't want schools teaching these concepts? How easy would it be for them to opt out and would their children be stigmatized if they did?"

In fact, Sweet did explain what "age appropriate" sex education is: "Obama spokesman Bill Burton said Obama backs teaching youngsters about inappropriate touching by strangers. And Obama would let parents opt out of a sex education course."

Bates concludes: "Ms Sweet is wrong about how benign all this is." And Bates is wrong in failing to report all the facts in his attack on Sweet and Obama.

Posted by Terry K. at 4:59 PM EDT
Aaron Klein Bias Watch (Update)
Topic: WorldNetDaily

WorldNetDaily's Aaron Klein has been keeping up his right-wing biases of late:

-- A July 19 article repeats an attack on Israeli President Shimon Peres by the Rabbinical Congress for Peace, but failed to note that the group's right-wing leanings. Klein reported that the Rabbinical Congress for Peace asked for Peres to "repent" for calling on the Jewish state to evacuate strategic territory the they fear will be used by terrorists to attack Israel. Klein has offered no evidence that the congress ever asked Peres' predecessor, conservative Likud party member Moshe Katsav, to "repent" for his actions in a sex and rape scandal -- but as we've documented, Klein has all but refused to report on Katsav even as he repeatedly attacks Peres.

-- We've previously detailed how Klein is so desperate to attack Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that he did so from the left, painting him as a tool of Israeli business interests. A July 19 article serves up another take on that, asserting that "Nineteen families control one-third of Israel's economy, including much of the Jewish state's news media" and -- even more offensive to Klein -- "support major leftist Israeli organizations" and give "campaign contributions to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and foundations associated with newly installed Israeli President Shimon Peres."

This comports with his complete abandonment of his onetime pledge to "report in an unbiased manner." Klein threw off those shackles of balance once and for all in a July 11 screed in which he ranted against "leftist" Israelis. The column was headlined "The Israeli left unmasked," but all that was really unmasked was Klein's identity as a biased, partisan journalist who can't be trusted to tell the full truth (as if we didn't already know that).

UPDATE: Klein also made an appearance on al-Jazeera, which WND links to but does not host (here and here). WND offers no explanation as to why one of its correspondents would appear on a channel that its founder and owner has called a "quasi-news, quasi-propaganda news service that isn't terribly useful" that has "connections with Islamist terrorists around the globe."

Posted by Terry K. at 9:39 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, July 20, 2007 4:42 PM EDT
How's NewsBusters Covering Plame Lawsuit Dismissal?
Topic: NewsBusters

A July 19 NewsBusters post by Noel Sheppard asks: "A federal judge has just dismissed Valerie Plame Wilson's lawsuit against members of the Bush administration. Will this be the lead story of this evening's newscasts?"

Well, probably not, since -- as Sheppard pointed out -- the lawsuit was dismissed on procedural issues, not on the merits of the case. The better question is: How will NewsBusters cover the dismissal? 

If early posts are any indication, it appears relevant issues will be ignored. Missing from Sheppard's excerpt of the article he linked to the fact that the judge who dismissed the suit stated that he did not rule on the merits of the case, and Plame's lawsuit "pose[s] important questions relating to the propriety of actions undertaken by our highest government officials."

Ken Shepherd, meanwhile, repeated another blogger's false claim that "the offending party, Richard Armitage, wasn't even involved in the suit" -- followed quickly by an update noting that Armitage was indeed a defendant. Shepherd also obsseses over "initial reports" from the Associated Press that omitted information he considered important, thus showing his cluelessness over how the AP and other wire services operate in regard to breaking news -- that is, the focus in initial reports is on getting the basic information itself out first, then fleshing out the story in later updates.

(Shepherd's mention of Armitage is a remnant of another obsession of his -- the false, absurd belief that because that because Armitage leaked Plame's name to Robert Novak, and Novak was the first to report it ahead of the reporters to whom Libby leaked, that Libby's leak somehow magically didn't happen.)

And the headline of Mark Finkelstein's post says all you need to know about it: "NY Times Headline on Plame Lawsuit Dismissal Doesn't Mention Her Name!"

Missing from all of these posts, though, was the revelation that the judge, John D. Bates, is a Bush appointee who has previously ruled in favor of Vice President Dick Cheney. Why should NewsBusters have noted this? Because its writers were, as we've documented, quite upset when news outlets didn't state that two judges who ruled against the Bush administration's "policy of holding a sleeper cell suspect at a military brig without redress in civilian courts" were Clinton appointees. If the judge's appointment history was relevant then, why is it suddenly irrelevant now?

UPDATE: Sometime overnight, the exclamation point was eliminated from Finkelstein's headline. 

Posted by Terry K. at 1:48 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, July 20, 2007 8:53 AM EDT
Thursday, July 19, 2007
The Procedural Maneuver That Dare Not Speak Its Name

Nathan Burchfiel's aversion to the word "filibuster" as it applies to Senate Republicans' blocking of attempts to set a withdrawal date for U.S. troops from Iraq continues in a July 19 article in which he again mentioned the Republicans' "procedural maneuver that would have required a 60-vote majority to end debate," but failed to note that the "procedural maneuver" is better known as a filibuster.

Indeed, when Democratic senators used the same "procedural maneuver" to block votes on Republican judicial nominees they didn't like, CNS was not shy about calling that a filibuster:

  • An Oct. 31, 2005, article described Judicial Watch's "lawsuit against the U.S. Senate over the use of judicial filibusters," further stating: "The Democrats used the threat of a filibuster -- unlimited debate that can only be stopped by a vote of 60 senators -- to convince the Senate's Republican leadership not to call for votes on the challenged nominees."
  • A June 24, 2003, article noted "the Democrats' strategy of filibustering judicial nominees they do not have enough votes to defeat."
  • A Feb. 5, 2003, article pondered whether Democrats "will launch a partisan filibuster against of those [judicial] nominees."
  • A Feb. 19, 2004, article stated that "a majority of voters" in a poll "rejected Senate Democrats' filibuster strategy against President Bush's judicial nominees."

See? CNS does know what "filibuster" means. Why won't it apply the word to Republicans?

Posted by Terry K. at 2:11 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, July 19, 2007 2:15 PM EDT
AIM Ignores Questions About Alger Hiss
Topic: Accuracy in Media

A July 19 Accuracy in Media "AIM Report" by Wes Vernon attacks those who defend accused Soviet spy Alger Hiss. Among the evidence Vernon cites as proof Hiss was a Soviet spy is taken from Herb Romerstein's book on the declassified Soviet cables from World War II, known as the Venona documents:

In a March 30, 1945 message (decrypted in August of 1969) the Washington D.C. Residentua reported to Moscow headquarters on a meeting between "illegal" Resident Akhmerov and an agent for military intelligence called "Ales." In reading the message, "one sees clearly that 'Ales' was Alger Hiss."


Summing it up to AIM, Romerstein puts it this way: "When you read the Venona documents, you sort it out that he [Hiss] was a longtime agent of [Soviet] military intelligence, which is precisely what Chambers said.  And [Hiss] says he received a medal from Vyshinski when he was in Moscow right after the Yalta conference, and that he went on the American plane from Yalta to Moscow. And there [was] only a handful of people on that plane. And none of the others could possibly be Ales, including the man who was Secretary of State [Edward Stettinius]. And so it's just ridiculous that it could be anybody but [Hiss]."

Vernon does not acknowledge that doubt has been raised about whether Ales was Hiss. In particular, a recent American Scholar article by Kai Bird and Svetlana Chervonnaya that posits that Henry Wilder Foote, then-assistant to secretary of state Edward Stettinius, was Ales.

The whole Alger Hiss/Whitaker Chambers thing has been a minor obsession at AIM this week. A July 16 article by Cliff Kincaid features the opening of a library of Chambers' papers. While Kincaid cites Romerstein's book as proof that "decoded Soviet messages identified Hiss as working for Soviet military intelligence," he doesn't mention Ales specifically or that there is doubt about the ID of Hiss as Ales, as forwarded in Romerstein's book.

Posted by Terry K. at 12:15 PM EDT
Strange Definitions Watch, Part 2
Topic: Newsmax

A July 18 NewsMax article by Stuart Stogel is headlined: "Third World Socialists Find Home at Trump World Tower." But the ambassadors Stogel names as living in the building next to the United Nations hail from ... China, India, Romania and -- yes -- Iraq.

Actually, the article itself doesn't make that claim; some lazy headline writer plucked the phrase out Stogel's first paragraph: "Donald Trump represents unbridled capitalism, and his excesses in wealth and flash would make any socialist from a Third World nation flinch." Stogel describes the residents as "officials from an eclectic group of nations."

NewsMax's headline writers have a strange definition of what "third world socialists" are. And if Iraq is a seething den of "third world socialists," why is the U.S. helping them?

Posted by Terry K. at 11:20 AM EDT
Gore Derangement Syndrome Watch
Topic: NewsBusters

Noel Sheppard's case of Gore Derangement Syndrome is starting to spread through the rest of NewsBusters.

A July 18 NewsBusters post by Pam Meister repeats a claim that the Chilean sea bass served at the wedding of Al Gore's daughter is a threatened species, calling it "yet another addition to the annals of the 'do as I say crowd.'" In fact, Chilean sea bass can be harvested sustainably to the extent that those eco-freaks at Whole Foods Market sell it.

Beating up Al Gore over fish served at a wedding? These folks are desperate.

(h/t Digby

Posted by Terry K. at 12:26 AM EDT
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Name That Procedure! CNS Won't

In a July 18 article on Republican efforts to block efforts in the Senate to set a date for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, Nathan Burchfiel wrote that "Republicans used a procedural maneuver available to the minority party to requare a 60-vote majority to move the bill forward."

Um, dude, it's called a "filibuster." Why use a dozen words when one will do? Brevity is a virtue in journalism, remember?

Interestingly, the word "filibuster" appears nowhere in Burchfiel's article (nor in a companion piece in which he similarly references the mysterious provision that "allow[s] the minority party to require a 60-vote majority on controversial issues"). This comports with other members of the media who refuse to use the term to describe the Republicans' actions, even though it accurately describes what they're doing.

Posted by Terry K. at 3:01 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, July 18, 2007 7:12 PM EDT
Strange Definitions Watch
Topic: NewsBusters

A July 17 NewsBusters post (and TimesWatch item) by Clay Waters asserted that an New York Times article on Hamas is a "whitewash" done by a reporter with a history of "pro-Palestinian reporting."

But Waters' excerpts from the Times article includes the following descriptions of Hamas:

  • "classified as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union," though Waters insisted that this somehow meant that the reporter "failed to designate Hamas as a terrorist group."
  • "fighting infidels, with a holy sanction to kill."
  • Having an "effective strategy of military confrontation and terrorism." Waters added: "And notice which trait of Hamas was emphasized last."

Waters appears to have a strange definition of "whitewash."

UPDATE: Waters completes the contradiction of himself in the TimesWatch version, conceding that the article "made clear the thuggery of Hamas." Still, he insisted that it "doesn't shine the focus brightly on the terrorism that is Hamas' reason for existence."

Posted by Terry K. at 12:29 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, July 18, 2007 12:59 PM EDT
CNS Selectively Questions Death Penalty Studies

A July 18 article by Kevin Mooney examined the possibility of New Jersey repealing the death penalty "in the face of academic studies challenging the view that the death penalty is not an effective deterrent to murder." Mooney cited a number of studies that claim a state-enforced death penalty prevents murders, as well a study that claims the opposite, but he bolstered the claims of the former studies and denigrated the claims of the latter.

Mooney specifically cited two studies by Emory University researchers, as well as a study by University of Colorado researchers, claiming that the death penalty has a deterrent effect. He featured the first Emory study at length, which claimed "that there are an average of 18 fewer murders for every execution," quoting one of the study's researchers. Mooney also featured Michael Rushford of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, which favors the death penalty, calling these studies noteworthy because they come from economists "who have no political axe to grind."

Mooney also stated that "death penalty opponents cited another study, released last year in the Stanford Law Review, that directly challenging the findings in the Emory study and similar reports." But rather than bolstering the academic credentials of its researchers, Mooney quotes one of the authors of the Emory study calling it "a serious but flawed critique" and that "his team is preparing a rejoinder to the Stanford Law Review study."

Such selective reporting suggests that the Emory studies have never been seriously questioned on an academic level, which is false. As Casey Stubbs at the Huffington Post details:

John Donohue, Yale Law School professor and Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, and Justin Wolfers, Wharton School of Business professor and Research Affiliate at the NBER, analyzed the same data used in the Emory and Denver studies, as well as other studies by the same researchers and many other nationwide reports. They found that if anything, executions increase homicides, concluding: "The view that the death penalty deters is still the product of belief, not evidence ... On balance, the evidence suggests that the death penalty may increase the murder rate."

Donohue and Wolfers analyzed data from the 2006 study by the Emory researchers using non-death penalty states as a control group, a basic statistical tool used to study causation not used in the Emory study. When they compared death penalty states with non-death penalty states, they found no evidence of any effect of executions on murder rates, either up or down. Donohue and Wolfers also analyzed the data from the 2003 Emory study that concluded that each execution prevented 18 murders and found that the reduction or increase in murders was actually more dependent on other factors used in the study than whether or not the states had the death penalty. For example, when Donohue and Wolfers slightly redefined just one of the factors included by the Emory researchers, they found that each execution caused 18 murders.

Donohue and Wolfers also recomputed data from the Denver study of select states to account for overall crime trends, a factor not included in the Denver study, and reached inconclusive results. For two states included in the Denver study that had abolished the death penalty, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, Donohue and Wolfers found that the homicides rates actually fell after capital punishment was ended.

There's a lot more death penalty research going on than Mooney suggests -- and, also, more questioning of the "deterrent effect" than he wants his readers to know.

Posted by Terry K. at 9:33 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, July 18, 2007 12:03 PM EDT
Farah's Disingenuous Puffery
Topic: WorldNetDaily

Mix a little shameless self-promotion with some misleading information, and what do you get? Joseph Farah's July 17 WorldNetDaily column.

Farah starts off by declaring that a Business Week column speculating on when the first major newspaper will stop publishing a print product and go completely digital is a "timely plug" for his own book, "Stop the Presses!" -- which is actually about using conservative media like WND to attack the "liberal" media (though he uses a couple pages in his book to rehash his bogus argument that WND isn't conservative). Farah then details financial losses by newspapers in San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Boston, adding: "By the way, what do each of these candidates for demise have in common? They all face competition from much-smaller, but feisty alternative dailies with a more 'conservative' view."

Farah might have added: "and owned by secretive conservative billionaires with lots of money they can afford to lose in establishing said paper." That is the case with the competition in San Francisco (Philip Anschutz) and Pittsburgh (Richard Mellon Scaife, though his Pittsburgh operation was apparently losing money to the extent that it was downsized and layoffs were made). The competition in Boston also has a history of losses.

Conspicuous by its absence on Farah's list is the Washington Times, which has been supported by Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church to the tune of billions of dollars. (Last time we checked, though, WND was singing the Times' tune.) Farah never explains why only the "liberal" papers (he never uses the word, but that's what he means), and not the equally money-losing conservative papers, are "candidates for demise."

Responding to the Business Week columnist's claim that those newspapers have "unassailable market positions, excellent editorial and massive traffic," Farah wrote, "To put this in perspective for those readers already inclined to the digital, all three of these major papers with 'massive' online presence are considerably smaller than the DrudgeReport. One of them, the Post-Gazette, is massively dwarfed online by WND."

To put it in even more perspective, Farah is comparing apples and oranges as far as website traffic is concerned. Regional newspapers (and their websites) cater to different audiences than nationally oriented websites like Drudge and WND. While the Post-Gazette's website may indeed be "massively dwarfed online by WND" in raw numbers, it's virtually certain that the Post-Gazette's website massively dwarfs WND's readership in the Pittsburgh area. Why? Because WND offers next to no news targeted to Pittsburgh, while local news is the Post-Gazette's job. Similarly, the Globe almost assuredly has more readers in Buston than WND does. Farah is being disingenous by omitting these caveats.

Nowhere in his column does Farah offer actual numbers regarding WND's website traffic or its financial situation, which would give his readers some raw data to examine. 

And it wouldn't be a Farah column without a dollop of puffery on his part: "I do believe I alone hold one distinction in this history of the New Media. I think I can safely claim that I am the first daily newspaper editor in chief to launch an independent daily news source on the Internet. I did it 10 years ago – and you are reading it right now."

We'll be giving Farah's book the once-over in the near future. For now, suffice it to say that Farah is as disingenuous in his book as he is in this column.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:16 AM EDT

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