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NYT to readers: Do facts matter?

Daily newspapers subscribe to the notion of objective reporting, and newspaper editors are always eager to defend this foggy notion. Which makes it all the more curious that New York Times Public Editor Arthur Brisbane recently asked readers whether “news reporters should challenge ‘facts’ that are asserted by newsmakers they write about.”

WTF! Brisbane, whether he knew it or not, was calling attention to the facade that the mainstream media constructed long ago to guard against the charge that their main function is to defend the status quo. In doing so, he chose a good example to illustrate what’s wrong with the mainstream mindset:

…On the campaign trail, Mitt Romney often says President Obama has made speeches “apologizing for America,” a phrase to which Paul Krugman objected in a December 23 column arguing that politics has advanced to the “post-truth” stage.

As an Op-Ed columnist, Mr. Krugman clearly has the freedom to call out what he thinks is a lie. My question for readers is: should news reporters do the same..?

Note that Brisbane quickly jumps back behind the facade, ignoring the question of whether Romney’s accusation against Obama is based on fact. He says reporters have been trained to not ask this question, even if evidence exists that could answer it. However, it’s OK for a columnist to ask and even answer the question, because columnists merely state opinions. As if opinions and facts necessarily dwell in different realms.

More here.

Heading for the light

Traveling Wilburys:


Who’s killing the Iranian nuclear scientists? Probably the U.S. Kinder, gentler foreign policy! Thank you, Department of Pre-Crime!


A massive cruise ship hit rocks off the coast of Italy and ran aground:

Emergency teams in Italy are racing to rescue those missing after a cruise ship ran aground off the country’s west coast with about 4,000 people on board.

Coast guard vessels are combing the waters around the Costa Concordia, which is lying on its side. Divers are searching its submerged decks.

There were scenes of panic as it began listing on Friday. Most people reached land by lifeboats but some swam ashore.

Three people are confirmed dead. About 70 are said to be unaccounted for.

However, local official Giuseppe Linardi told reporters that some of those listed as missing may still be housed in private homes on the small island of Giglio – where those rescued reached land.

A large gash can be seen in the hull of the luxury liner as it lies on its side, about 200m from Giglio.

Italian, German, French and British nationals were among the 3,200 passengers on board. There were also 1,000 crew.

Some passengers were rescued by lifeboat, helicopters plucked to safety some who were trapped on the ship, and others jumped from the ship into the cold sea.

Some of the survivors are suffering from shock. About 40 people are being treated in hospital.

World without love

Peter and Gordon:

Lessons from the WPA

Yes, the government can and did create jobs. There’s a lot to read, but I wanted to highlight this part:

Roosevelt was not a progressive. He ran on a balanced budget platform, and initially attempted to fulfill his campaign promise of reducing the federal budget by slashing military spending from $752 million in 1932 to $531 million in 1934, including a 40% reduction in spending for veteran’s benefits which eliminated the pensions of half-a-million veterans and widows and reduced the benefits for those remaining on the rolls. As well, federal spending on research and education was slashed and salaries of federal employees were reduced. Such programs were reversed after 1935. And one might recall that Roosevelt attempted to return to a balanced budget program in 1937, just as the economy appeared to be slowly recovering. The result was a renewed depression that began in the fall of that year and ran through 1938.

Thus, the Roosevelt Administration was forced into progressive activism because of massive—and organized—popular discontent based mainly in working class and small farmer organizations. The union movement was rejuvenated through the formation of the CIO, farmers organized to prevent the forced sales of their properties (and this often included the threat of armed action), rent strikes were rampant, etc. Chicago, New York, other cities saw massive demonstrations. “Riots” shook the Kentucky coal fields. One must remember that the communist party was large (as these parties go), active, and popular. The specter of revolution was in the air and some politicians responded. Hamilton Fish Jr. instructed his fellow Congressmen, “(i)f we don’t give (security) under the existing system, the people will change the system. Make no mistake about that.”

Too big to fail

So this is what happens when you spend billions of dollars propping up sick, zombie banks. Eventually the rotting husk falls over of its own dead weight. H/t Ron:

Bank of America Corp. has told regulators that it is willing to retreat from some parts of the country if its financial problems deepen, according to people familiar with the situation.

Executives at the Charlotte, N.C., financial giant put the potential move on a list of emergency scenarios submitted to the Federal Reserve last year, these people said. While people close to Bank of America insist that no retreat is imminent, even the possibility of selling branches and losing customers it spent huge sums to lure underscores the depth of its problems.

Among the 7,400 U.S. banks and savings institutions, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co. are the only coast-to-coast giants. For the past 20 years, Bank of America and predecessor NationsBank Corp. relentlessly acquired other financial institutions in a form of manifest destiny that shook the U.S. banking industry. The 1998 takeover of BankAmerica Corp., of San Francisco, and 2004 purchase of FleetBoston Financial Corp., Boston, left the combined bank with sizable muscle in nearly every large metropolitan area in the country.

Over the course of its long expansion, Bank of America, currently the country’s second-largest bank by assets, pushed its way into every nook and cranny of the financial system. But in doing so the bank left itself more exposed than any major bank to the severe economic downturn of 2008-2009, the weak recovery since and a litany of mortgage-related lawsuits.

Bank of America stumbled at a time when the entire U.S. banking industry was going through its worst crisis since the 1930s, prompting a federal bailout of many of the nation’s largest financial institutions. Still, some of Bank of America’s worst wounds, particularly its 2008 purchase of Countrywide Financial Corp., were self-inflicted.

Heart attack

A month later? That’s when the bill arrives:

Jan. 3 (Bloomberg) — Heart attack patients in the U.S. get out of the hospital sooner than those in other countries and more often are readmitted within a month, researchers said, suggesting they may need better care after being sent home.

The research, which analyzed data from 15 other countries including Canada, France and Germany, found a 68 percent higher risk of readmission among U.S. heart attack patients. Americans left the hospital in three days, on average, the shortest time of any country, the study, published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Republican parasite berates college student

Just to be clear, it’s only living off the government when you do it, not when our Electeds do it. Are we clear now?

To avoid a government shutdown at the end of 2011, Republicans succeeded in their campaign to cut the federal Pell Grant program by effectively kicking up to 100,000 low-income students off the rolls.

Last week, Arkansas constituent Kelly Eubanks, a college student who has two jobs and two children, confronted her Congressman, Rep. Steve Womack (R), at a town hall meeting over his attack on the program she now relies on. But instead of any explanation, Womack lashed out at Eubanks, telling her to pay her own way by “joining the military” like he did. After refusing to answer her question, he finally just asked her to “be quiet and listen.” Blue Arkansas reports:

According to Kelly and a handful of other witnesses, Womack happily retorted that it wasn’t the federal government’s job to pay for education (he’s doing this in a college town mind you) and then quickly added that he paid for his education by joining the military, apparently suggesting that the mom of two do the same and totally oblivious I guess to the fact that it was, in fact, the federal government that paid for his education then. Well Womack tried to skirt the rest of Ms. Eubanks question and she proceeded to try and get him to address the discrepancy she pointed out. Well at this point, according to Kelly and several other people that were in the room, Womack blew a gasket.He skirted the rest of my question and I called him out on it.. he ended up getting pissed off.. and screaming at me.. “are you going to be quiet and listen”, [Eubanks said.]According to Kelly, some of his aides came up and tried to get the mike from her, but she held her ground and kept her cool, insisting her congressman answer her question.

Oh my goodness. They do get testy when they’re held accountable!

What is life

George Harrison:

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