Monday, June 26, 2006
Friday, June 02, 2006
Into the belly of the beast: America beware
The BBC's global news channel, BBC World, has launched in the US, aiming toOr, at least, audiences hungry for the BBC's own spin on international news.
capture audiences hungry for international news.
BTW, BBC World promotes itself as a "commercially funded" arm of the BBC, but I wonder whether this is a wholly accurate characterization, for it also claims to "draw on the resources of more than 250 BBC News correspondents and 58 international BBC News bureaux across the globe." Surely most of those correspondents, along with the reports they produce, are paid for by the BBC or the BBC World Service, both of which are funded not commercially but by UK taxpayers. Which suggests that perhaps BBC World is "commercially funded", except of course when it isn't.
Monday, April 24, 2006
The future for journalism...or journalism for the future
Perhaps TAE should start a new feature pointing out stories that the BBC might mis-report in the days ahead.
Friday, April 21, 2006
All you need to know about the Beeb
I suggested it was a bit mean not to invite [him] to the Palace because he'sWho is this luminary whose lack of an invitiation bothers Humphrys so much that he felt compelled to question the Queen herself about it? Was it Alan Greenspan, who turned 80 just over a month ago? Or Jerry Lewis, who celebrated his 80th a couple weeks later? Or perhaps Mel Brooks, who hits the four-score mark in June?
80 as well...
Nope. Humphrys is, in fact, worried about the Queen being "mean" to....aging Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.
Iain Murray summed it up nicely when he said on NRO's The Corner, "All you need to know about the BBC is included in that one remark."
News that may explain some things
Well, the big news, simply put, is that the American Expatriate (the man) is soon to become the American Repatriate. Yes, after nearly 14 years away from the US, and over 7 in this fine country, it looks as though I will finally be returning to the homeland this summer. Towards that end, I have been immensely preoccupied with starting the process of ending my existence here and (re-) starting one there. It is an exciting process, although hugely time consuming, what with trips back to the US, looking for a place to live, selling my house here, etc. Hence the absence of any new posts over the last few weeks.
I am not quite sure what this move portends for the future of this site. It would certainly be possible, in this internet age, to continue to observe the British media from afar. And with the likes of the BBC and The Guardian taking active steps to build their own US-based audiences, it is perhaps more important than ever to keep an eye on their corrupting agenda and influences. For now, however, I remain in the UK, and will continue to keep the site updated as best I can. I only ask those of you (hopefully many, possibly few, perhaps none) who enjoy reading these observations and visit the site often to have patience if there are extended periods without anything new posted. It will not, I assure you, be for lack of effort.
Friday, March 31, 2006
In the meantime, however, some of you may be interested in the exchange I had with Tim Lambert and Kevin Donoghue (page down to comments) on Lambert's site Deltoid.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Paul and me
Thousands of people have died. The true number of Iraqi deaths is not knownIgnore, for the moment, the bizarre use of language which has it that an anti-war organization established for the precise purpose of trumpeting the number of civilian deaths is "admitting" to something which it proclaims in no uncertain terms in its FAQ. At least the IBC figures can be said to be based at least to some extent on hard, verifiable data. The Lancet figure of 100,000, on the other hand, has been well-debunked.
and even the Iraqi Body Count figure -- compiled largely from news reports -- of somewhere in the mid 30,000s is criticised as a possible underestimate and admitted by IBC to be a baseline. The British medical journal The Lancet suggested a figure of about 100,000 back in October 2004.
It was in fact an extrapolation based on an extremely small sample of deaths, a loose and unverifiable method of gathering data, and indeed the headline 100,000 figure is not even an accurate characterization of the study's results. In fact that is simply the approximate mean between an upper limit and a lower limit which bracketed the study's 95% confidence level. Big deal, you might say. If the lower limit was 90,000 and the upper limit was 110,000, then 100,000 is an accurate enough figure to give a meaningful picture, isn't it? Perhaps. But in fact, owing in part to the small sample size as well as other statistical short cuts used because of the difficulties and dangers involved in gathering data, the 95% confidence interval was absurdly wide...8,000 to 194,000. This is so wide as to render the numbers useless. As Fred Kaplan put it in his critique of the study in Slate:
Imagine reading a poll reporting that George W. Bush will win somewhere between 4 percent and 96 percent of the votes in this Tuesday's election. You would say that this is a useless poll and that something must have gone terribly wrong with the sampling.Unless, apparently, you are a reporter for the BBC, in which case you think it essential knowledge for your audience.
Wondering how such discredited data could not only find its way into his article, but be presented with nary a word about its deficiencies and the controversy surrounding it, TAE put some questions to Paul Reynolds on this issue via e-mail, and, to his credit, he was more than willing to respond. Note, however, that I say he "responded", because, as you will see, to characterize most of his responses as "answers" wouldn't really do them justice.
Mr. Reynold's responses are in blue.
Were you aware of the methodology used by the Lancet study and the details of it when you included it in your piece?
Do you think the fact that the study had a 95% confidence interval of 8,000 to 194,000 is irrelevant when trying to judge the usefulness and meaning of the 100,000 figure?
If not, why didn't you include that information for your audience?
Do you think you have a responsibility as a journalist to weigh the credibility of claims made by others before reporting them, and to present information that bears on that credibility if you decide to promote the claims? Or is your responsibility fulfilled by simply reporting factually that, for example, claim A was made by person X, with no regard for the credibility of either A or X?
It was a reference only. It was not 'promoting claims'. The arguments about the Lancet report are well known.
I take it from your response (ie the arguments were well known) that your answer to my first question is that you were aware of the methodology and details of the study prior to including the reference to the study in your article.
Am I to understand it to also mean that you didn't include the relevant information about the study because you assumed it was already well known by your audience? If so, why would you include even the 100,000 figure, as that must also have been just as well known? If not, then, again, why didn't you include the information?
Finally, will you be answering my last question, or should I assume your on-the-record response is "no comment"?
You can use it all [on TAE], including my suggestion that you fight it out with MediaLens!
(The reference to Media Lens referred to the fact that Media Lens, an apparently left-wing critic of the media, had taken Reynolds to task for a different aspect of the same article. He had previously advised me to engage them in debate.)
I didn't ask if I could use it. I asked a) if my understanding was correct, and b) if I should assume your answer to the questions you haven't answered is an official "no comment". If you'd like, I can repeat the questions that I think I haven't yet gotten a response to.
Yes, I understand the arguments about methodology. There is in fact a long correspondence involving Lancet author Les Roberts on MediaLens. It would be hard not to know the arguments. I simply used the Lancet report as illustrative of the problem over figures. I was not in this piece dealing with the row over its findings which is well known, as I said. This is always a problem with blogs and you are not alone in this. We get it from the left as well. If we do not pause in an article about something else and deal fully with the rows over one particular point, all hell breaks loose and we are accused of ignorance or bias or both! You can quote me on that.
Do you think that, as a journalist, you have a responsibility to weigh the credibility of claims before you present them in your articles? Or does it suffice simply to report factually that person A claimed X, with no thought or reference as to the credibility of either A or X?
If the former, isn't it fair to assume that you have made the judgment that the claim that the war in Iraq has cost 100,000 Iraqi lives is credible? If not, why not?
If you believed that the controversy over the 100,000 figure was so widely known that you needn't offer it as context, why did you feel the need to discuss the problem of counting Iraqi deaths at all, since logically that must be at least as widely known?
In fact Scott, the 100,000 is no longer the upper limit. There are claims that it should be much higher! See Les Roberts http://www.alternet.org/story/31508/
Am I supposed to include his now higher estimates as well? I should do so, according to your rules.
Of course I weigh credibility. I am currently engaged in a hot debate with The Cat's Dream about why I reported on the Iraqi documents at all, the suggestion being that they were unreliable. In the case of the Lancet article, the arguments are well known. You ignore the point I made.
Since you do weigh credibility, and since you passed on the 100,000 Lancet claim without mentioning any caveats, is it fair to assume that you find that figure credible? If not, why not?
Far from ignoring your point about the arguments being well known, I have taken it on board and realized it leads to a further (and so far unanswered) question: Again, if you assumed that your audience already knew about the Lancet controversy, why did you feel the need to inform your audience about the Lancet figures themselves, for surely they must also have known those, too?
I neither found the figure credible nor incredible It was simply a figure. I reported it. . What's the problem?
As for not mentioning the figure at all, that is a bizarre suggestion.
So, what have we learned from this exchange? We've learned that "of course" Mr. Reynolds weighs the credibility of information before passing it on to his readers...except, that is, when he doesn't, as in the case at hand.
We've learned that he thinks there is no problem with reporting a highly disputed claim without either a) establishing in his own mind that the claim is credible or b) making any mention whatsoever that the claim has been greatly disputed.
We've learned that, although he believes the controversy surrounding 100,000 figure was so widely known that noting it for the sake of his audience was unnecessary, he also thinks it would have been "bizarre" to assume that the very same audience was equally aware of, and therefore in no more need of reminding about, the 100,000 figure itself.
Finally, while Paul should be commended for taking the time to engage his critics rather than taking the easy course and simply ignoring them (as many of his colleagues do), I think we've also learned that Michael Howard has nothing on BBC reporters when it comes to avoiding direct answers to direct questions.
Monday, March 27, 2006
BBC trying to catch up
Friday, March 24, 2006
More language infidelity
Wife "thrilled" at Kember release
Released? Why all the kudos to the British special forces, then?
I noted it the other day, but for an organization whose business is communication, the BBC has a strangely difficult time using words properly.
Thursday, March 23, 2006
Good news...and a question
One British and two Canadian peace activists held hostage in Iraq have beenExcellent news.
freed in an operation by multinational forces.
But why is it that, when a good thing happens, "multi-national" forces are responsible, but when bad things happen, "US-led forces" are responsible?
UPDATE: The Guardian says that the rescue operation involved "British, Iraqi and other coalition forces." I wonder which "other" coalition forces they might be referring to.
UPDATE II: Reuters says that "U.S.-led forces freed three Christian peace activists held hostage in Iraq on Thursday..."
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Begum loses; BBC still wrong
Unfortunately, given the degree to which Britain has already relinquished its sovereignty, the last word has not necessarily been heard.
A school which was told it unlawfully excluded a Muslim pupil for wearing a traditional gown has won its appeal at the House of Lords.
The Court of Appeal had said Denbigh High School had denied Shabina Begum the right to manifest her religion in refusing to allow her to wear a jilbab.
But in a unanimous ruling, judges at the House of Lords overturned that.
[Miss Begum] would consult her lawyers about a potential appeal to the European courts, she said.There is little reason to hope that such sanity and reason continues to survive in the halls of Brussels.
On another note regarding this story, it is clear that fidelity to language continues to be a problem for the BBC. Despite it’s portrayal to the contrary, Miss Begum was not excluded “for wearing a traditional jilbab”. She was, in fact, excluded for not wearing an approved school uniform…a uniform which in fact did include concessions to Muslim sensitivities.
Virtually every story on the BBC about this affair has portrayed it as an issue in which a school “refused to allow” the jilbab rather than, as was the case, an issue in which a student refused to wear the approved school uniform. In other words, the BBC characterizes the conflict as arising from the actions of the school, rather than from the actions of the girl, a characterization which is belied by the facts of the case. To be fair, the BBC has supplied the details of the case, thus allowing more attentive readers to ultimately draw the correct conlcusions. But still, it's introduction of the issue inevitably seems to place Begum in the role of victim, when in fact reality is quite the opposite.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
BBC wonders if Bush = terrorist
I spoke to John Reed yesterday and he continually referred to the insurgents as terrorists. But there are those who say that George Bush is as bad.Well, yes there are, but that doesn’t mean that it is an opinion with enough merit to be aired on the BBC, much less a subject requiring comment from serious public figures. Unfortunately Benn responded politely, simply expressing his disagreement with the notion. What he should have done was treat both the claim and Campbell with the contempt they deserve.
While the BBC has an obligation to air a range of viewpoints, it has no such obligation to air all viewpoints. It is indicative of just how radical editorial opinion at the BBC is that, in its judgment, the idea that George Bush is the equivalent to terrorists is a respectable opinion worthy of serious discussion amongst serious people.
Monday, March 20, 2006
An angry middle eastern woman
UPDATE: I'm told the woman in the video is an Arab-American psychologist. I confess that I didn't check out her background, and made the apparently erroneous assumption. Apologies.
Iraq intelligence ignored...by the BBC
Pretty big news, eh? Not, apparently, to the BBC, which has shown a complete lack of interest in either the on-giong release of these documents, or their contents. A search of the BBC's online articles returns not a single one about the Office of the Director of National Intelligence releasing the documents. Having embraced the conventional storyline that any such relationship between Saddam and Al Qaeda or Bin Laden existed strictly as a function of Bush administration deception it appears that they are reluctant to disrupt that comfortable point of view, and would prefer to ignore any evidence to the contrary.
The BBC is not alone in its failure to report this story. Neither The Guardian (surprise, surprise) nor The Times has mentioned anything about it. Those of you seeking a more informed picture of Iraq would be better off taking what you would otherwise pay for the "license fee" and subscribe to the likes of The Weekly Standard and Foreign Affairs, places that are doing some real reporting these days.
Thursday, March 16, 2006
First round is under way, and my alma mater just survived a huge scare in double overtime. Phew.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Of two minds on Souter
This result leaves TAE torn. It's a good day for justice in principle, but it sure would have been satisfying to see Souter subject to the same injustices his own bizarre reasoning has inflicted on others.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Anyway, despite the sub-header’s promise that Mackenzie “grills” her, Dowd emerges from the piece still looking pretty, er, uncooked. If Mackenzie asked her a single challenging question, we the audience remain none the wiser. But by far the most risible aspect of the piece is the portrayal of Dowd as a dedicated truth-teller. According to Mackenzie, Dowd is “someone who has plenty to say about truth-telling,” who “hates hypocrisy and liars,” and who “despises” “truthiness” – truthiness being a “good story” that “you want to be true” but which “doesn’t correspond to reality.” This particular aspect of Dowd's personality will come as quite a surprise to anyone familiar with Dowd’s work.
Ever hear of the word “Dowdification”? It is blog-speak for the use of elipses in a quotation, thereby eliminating a word or a phrase, and thus altering its actual meaning. Or, in other words, portraying the quotation as something you want it to say, but which doesn’t correspond to the reality of the quotation....just what Dowd apparently "despises". Now, especially observant readers may have noticed that “Dowdification” appears to be derived from the base word “Dowd”. That isn’t a coincidence. Unfortunately, Mackenzie didn’t see fit to include in her profile of the tell-it-like-it-is MoDo her particularly unique contribution to the blogging lexicon.
Indeed, apparently unknown to Mackenzie, Dowd's primary writing style often rests on studious avoidance of a straight up look at the truth, relying instead on simplifying and mischaracterizing in order to facilitate her snarky and clever one-liners. Regrettably the excellent site Spinsanity is no longer in business, but while it was it did a good job of tracking particularly eqregious examples of Dowd's (as well as others) forays into deceit and mischaracterization. Given that Dowd is guilty of journalistic transgressions ranging from withholding relevant information about polls cited in her writing to falsely portraying events, it seems to me that if Dowd portrays herself as a hater of hypocrisy and liars, she's established herself firmly as a self-loather.
Too bad Susie Mackenzie was too busy praising her to notice.
Monday, March 13, 2006
BBC champions Collins dictionary
Further to my email of 28 February, I am now in a position to respond to your email which you sent to our Complaints Website regarding the article entitled: Churches urged to back evolution
I raised your concerns directly with the News Website Team who have asked me to forward the following response to your concerns:
Thank you for your e-mail relating to Paul Rincon's article on intelligent design. According to numerous newspaper accounts and an official transcript of the event, George Bush made the remarks to a group of Texas reporters invited to the White House. The whole point of these conferences is for reporters to question the President about his position on issues that matter to their audiences. Given that, we don't think the argument over whether President Bush made the remarks in response to a question he fielded, or of his own volition, has much bearing on what our correspondent wrote. Those were views he expressed on the record, at a pre-arranged press conference where he knew his remarks would be reported.
We would however concede that to describe President Bush as a 'champion' of ID was misleading. This was not the phrase that our reporter used, but was mistakenly introduced in the subbing process. The sub concerned failed to make the distinction between being a champion of ID and being a champion of the teaching of ID. Incidentally, the word 'champion' is defined in the Collins dictionary as 'someone who defends a person or cause'. This does not necessarily imply the kind of proactive role you talk about, but we agree it could be interpreted as such. We have therefore amended the article, replacing the sentence you refer to with the following:
Intelligent Design has also received backing from US President George W Bush, who has said schools should make students aware of the concept.'
We would be grateful if you would direct any future correspondence about BBC news website output through the normal channels. [This, presumably, refers to the fact that TAE e-mailed Paul Rincon directly.] This will allow us to deal promptly with any points you raise. Paul Rincon did not ignore your comments; he was away on holiday.
With best wishes,
The BBC News Website
I do hope this response addresses your concerns. Thank you again for contacting the BBC.
A new question: What is the "subbing" process? Is that the process by which the opinions of an editor are substituted for the plain facts as reported? If anyone out there knows, please let me know.
Dr. Ansari and Iran's help revisited
How interesting, then, to find The Weekly Standard reporting last week that "Newly released documents provide evidence of Iranian collaboration with the Taliban in October of 2001."
Iran secretly agreed to assist the Taliban in its war against U.S. forces in October 2001, according to the transcript of a high-level Taliban official's tribunal session at Guatanamo Bay, Cuba. The seven-page transcript, as well as thousands of pages of similar documents, was released by the Pentagon on March 3 in response to litigation brought by the Associated Press.If true, this tends to put a damper on Dr. Ansari's theory, broadcast over the BBC, that Iran extended an offer of detente to the US, and was subsequently "rewarded" with the "axis of evil" label. I've e-mailed the good Dr. about this, and will pass on any response I get.
Sunday, March 05, 2006
Friday, March 03, 2006
Notes from a philistine
Given the utter absurdity of the art world, I wonder if anyone stopped to think that the gum might have actually addded value.
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Thank you for your email of 27 February to our Complaints Website.
Firstly, may I offer my sincere apologies on behalf of BBC Information for the response you received from this department in reply to your email regarding the News Website article "Supreme Court to rule on abortion". It is most unfortunate that your concerns about factual inaccuracy were not addressed and I would assure you that the way in which your initial complaint was handled will be raised as a training issue.
I have been in contact with senior editors at our News Website who tell me that your original complaint did lead to this piece being checked and amended. You can view this at the following link:
I do hope that the fact that this article was changed has reassured you in some way that the BBC does take complaints seriously. I note you have also contacted us regarding another article on our website "Churches urged to back evolution" and I have today been in contact with Paul Rincon, who you also emailed, and I understand from Paul that he will be responding to your concerns.
Thank you again for taking the time and trouble to contact us.
Monday, February 27, 2006
BBC cracks the case
US President George W Bush was waving to police when he fell off his bike at the G8 summit in Scotland last July, newly published police papers reveal.This has been under wraps since last July, and has only now been "revealed"? It seems Bush's penchant for secrecy knows no bounds.
You just can't put a price on the service provided by the Beeb.
Saturday, February 25, 2006
Has Webb made a New Year's resolution to be sensible?
In today's FOOC report, Webb focuses on the hollowness of the American left, claiming that Democrats "do not have a message" and "do not know where to go", and that "The American left has faded away." More notably, he points out that, even if they had a message, they've lost their traditional method of getting it out.
Most importantly, the worlds of entertainment and news (which used to pipe a vaguely left-wing message into the nation's homes) have been blown to bits by technological changes which render them powerless.That is quite an acknowledgement, coming from an employee of the BBC, which continues to this day to pipe a vaguely left-wing message into its own nation's homes. (Regrettably, the BBC itself has not yet been rendered quite so powerless, its antiquated and coercive methods of financing working to immunize it from the irritation of having to actually compete for its survival.)
Unfortuantely, Webb still has not purged himself of the need to show his disdain for religion in America. Noting the ubiquity of bumper stickers in the US and the "treasure trove of American free speech" that they represent, Webb can't help himself from informing us of his "favorite": "Don't pray in my school and I won't think in your church." I could have guessed.
Still, that's a nitpick. Have a read of Webb's latest. It's worth it.
Friday, February 24, 2006
Highs and lows at the Beeb
The fact that current abortion policy has been imposed by courts rather than elected representatives, thus removing it from the arena of political compromise, is the single most important cause making abortion the highly contentious and polarizing issue that it currently is. An end to Roe will be the first step in establishing an abortion policy which will help prevent the festering of political grievances that judicial-fiat rulings tend to engender.
But the battle would take place in state legislatures, and that, to an increasing number of pro-choicers, may be no bad thing.
It would force them to argue their case with voters at the state level, so the thinking goes, and stop them relying on unelected courts to impose their views. Abortion rights would finally have a firm, democratic foundation.
Murphy should be commended for presenting a reasonable and balanced profile of the abortion issue as it currently stands in the US, and for avoiding the more typical BBC meme of using the issue as a hook on which to hang yet another story about the rise of the dreaded religious right.
Less commendable was the BBC's response to TAE today on another abortion article. Earlier this week the BBC ran an article on the Supreme Court's decision to hear an appeal of a lower court's ruling that the federal law banning partial-birth abortions is unconstitutional. The opening line of that article claimed that "The US Supreme Court says it will rule on whether to uphold the first federal ban on an abortion procedure since terminations were made legal in 1973." This implies that there was a federal ban on abortions prior to 1973, which is simply untrue. Prior to 1973, abortion policy was decided by state legislatures, and hence whether or not abortion was legal varied from state to state. In many states abortion was already legal even before Roe, a point which, if understood, tends to put the lie to the alarmist claims of the pro-abortion lobby regarding the possible end of Roe.
TAE pointed this out to the BBC via its on-line complaints procedure, and today the BBC responded with the following:
Have you got that? It is apparently the considered judgment of Ms O'Doherty that the status of abortion in the US prior to 1973, and the nature of the court ruling that has been the subject of intense analysis and debate for 23 years (update: ahh, I mean 33!) since then, is in fact a "breaking" story about which facts are "scarce" and/or "conflicting". Either that, or Louise is nothing more than a computer program pumping out automated responses to e-mails that no one ever reads or pays any attention to. Either way, it rather shows the BBC's claims to "research" the issue, "listen to your concerns", and "learn from all complaints" to be the farce that they apparently are.
I understand you feel that the opening paragraph in a BBC News article about
abortion in the USA is factually incorrect.
I can assure you that factual accuracy is the essence of news reporting and the BBC aspires to the very highest standards of journalism but in many cases, particularly with breaking news stories, facts can be scarce or conflicting.
Nevertheless I do realise the frustration this supposed error must have caused. Therefore please be assured that your complaint has been registered and placed on an audience log which is made available to all members of the BBC and a copy of your e-mail forwarded for the attention of the BBC News team.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact the BBC with your complaint.
Speaking of schadenfreude
For those lucky few who may be unfamiliar with him, Livingstone, who at one time got himself ejected from the Labour party, has been known to blurt out such thoughtful and intelligent gems as "I look forward to [the Bush administration] being overthrown as much as I looked forward to Saddam Hussein being overthrown," and "Every year the international financial system kills more people than World War Two." He is, in other words, the Pat Robertson of the British loony left, although, unlike the imaginations of the BBC with regard to Robertson, Livingstone's political power is in fact substantial. So when the news of the (perhaps literal) bully's comeuppance was released, it was difficult to suppress a wide smile.
As much as it pains me to take his side, this case against Livingstone is utterly ridiculous. So he was rude to a journalist...big deal. Are journalists, who BTW are not without their own particularly effective form of defense, really so fragile? Is Livingstone's idiotic, if all too predictable, allusions to Nazi's really out-of-bounds simply because the target of his bile happens to be Jewish? Frankly, if a majority of Londoner's really do want to be represented by such an inane and foolish buffoon as Livingstone - and apparently they do, as he has been re-elected despite his well publicized absurdity - they ought not be deprived of the privilege by an unelected, three-member panel on hurt feelings.
Still, if it is the case that someone must fall victim to modern-day sensitivity worship, it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. It won't, in any case, spoil my weekend.
Thursday, February 23, 2006
Matt Frei's schadenfreude...or something
From this week’s dose of Matt Frei’s pithy observations on America, dedicated largely to the Olympics:
Whether it is the [US's] relatively low medal count - I stress relative as the US has so far won 17 medals to the UK's 1 - or the dismal ratings of NBC's Olympics programmes, these winter games are laced with schadenfreude.Uh, relative to what, exactly? Certainly not the rest of the field. As of yesterday morning when Frei’s column came out, the US was behind exactly 1 of the 84 competing nations in its medal count. How about historically? Nope. At 17 medals and counting with 3 days still to go, the US had already garnered more medals than any other Olympic games bar one (2002). So what exactly is Frei talking about? Is there a special word for getting pleasure from the imagined misfortunes of others?
The problem is that NBC had touted the US Olympic team as the best ever and stars like Bodie Miller, the Colorado answer to Franz Klammer have, to be frank, been a bit of a disappointment.Perhaps one can excuse Frei’s phonetic misspelling of Bode Miller’s name, but for goodness sake, why snidely implicate innocent Coloradoans in his failures? Especially since the brash but medal-less Miller is actually from, er, New Hampshire. Good fact-checking, Beeb.
So now America's hopes are pinned on a gold medal in that most glamorous and sofa gripping sports: curling.America’s hopes? Oh my. One wonders if Matt has ever heard of projection.
Frei also manages to get in a sly plug for his employer, or at least its financing methods, by pointing out that US Olympic coverage is "annoyingly interrupted by a commercial break every few minutes". Yeah, well, at least that annoying American coverage isn’t being paid for out of the pockets of those British ex-pats who find it so annoying. Which is more than can be said about TAE and Frei’s own very annoying coverage of the US.
BTW, I particularly enjoyed one of the comments posted to the BBC in response to Frei's latest entry. From one Leonard Johns:
I am a Brit currently here on a biannual stay and have never been able toWelcome to the club, Leonard. Welcome to the club.
find this country as you tend to report it.
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
The making of a champion
This is not the first time someone at the BBC has characterized Bush as a “champion” to the ID cause. But on what is such a claim based? As far as I am aware, Bush’s public comments on the issue are limited to a response he gave to a reporter’s direct request for his “personal views” on the matter of teaching intelligent design in schools. His response, in the great tradition of politicians seeking to avoid taking a firm position on a controversial subject, was that 1) the decision of what to teach should ultimately be left to local school districts and 2) people ought to be exposed to different ideas so that they "can understand what the debate is about." He then cut the reporter off from pressing the issue by saying “Very interesting question, Hutch,” and moved on.
Is the BBC really suggesting that this politically calculated non-answer is indicative of an intelligent design “champion”? Or is the BBC aware of Bush publicly advocating on behalf of ID elsewhere? TAE put those questions to Mr. Rincon via an e-mail early today, but unfortunately, as of 9pm, he has yet to respond. If Mr. Rincon steps to the plate to defend his reporting, be assured I will certainly pass it on.
Monday, February 20, 2006
A simple plan
What a stroke of genius! Just perform this "trick" of convincing the tribes not to support our enemies, and everything will be fine. Why didn't anyone else think of this?
[CIA missile attacks] will not, Cappelli argues, "sway this warrior people if it feels it can uphold its honour and dignity by supporting Islamic extremists. The trick is proving to them that there are better ways to secure these things."
Cappelli is entirely right. If the trick can be performed, Afghanistan will be a safer, better, more prosperous country.
And how to perform this trick? Well, simply "reason" with them, naturally.
The trouble is that, of course, the irksome American public "favors the use of force rather than reason," a fact which Simpson seemingly thinks is evidenced by the reluctance of US newspapers to publish Capelli's "eminently sensible" article, Capelli being "one of the most thoughtful American commentators on Afghanistan."
So there you have it. Disavow the use of force and just convince Afghani tribes, by reasoning with them, not to support terrorists. Easy as pie. What has Bush been thinking? Simpson for president, anyone?
BTW, I don't know the first thing about Vanni Capelli, but it is probably worth keeping in mind the types of people that Simpson has used his column to promote in the past.
BBC: Torture at Gitmo is a fact
"What action should the British government take to bring about an end to the use of torture at Guantanamo Bay?"The question, of course, persumes as an established fact that torture is indeed occurring, and wonders only what should be done to stop it.
Now, the first thing to note is that, although the question came from an audience member, it was not an unscripted question. The BBC knew beforehand what the question was, and chose the questioner and his question with the specific purpose of introducing the topic. And once the question was posed, neither the host, David Dimbleby, nor any of the four panel members, expressed any objection to the premise upon which it was based or doubt that the premise was indeed true.
Unfortunately, although its producers, presenters, and selected guests all apparently accept as beyond question the fact that torture is being employed at Guantanamo, I have yet to see any articles on the BBC website detailing either a) the BBC's official definition of torture or b) the proof of that it has occurred at Camp X-ray.
(Hat tip: reader Jonathon)
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Satire beyond the BBC's ability to fathom
The BBC offers up its (un-bylined) take on the media reaction to Dick Cheney’s recent escapades in Texas. To show just how universal is the dismay over White House secrecy and the delay in filling in the press corps on the shooting, the BBC notes that:
Even for the conservative Wall Street Journal, enough was enough.Bad news for the White House indeed. Except for one thing: A quick read of the WSJ editorial makes it pretty clear, to anyone of moderate intelligence that is, that the satirical broadside was aimed not at the White House’s efforts to play down the story, but rather the media’s efforts to play it up.
"Don't these Bush people understand that the cover-up is worse than the crime?" Wednesday's edition asks, before launching a satirical broadside at the White House efforts to play down the story.
The WSJ editorial provides a “coverup timeline” along with “crucial questions that deserve to be asked.” Among those questions:
Saturday 6:30 pm - White House Chief of Staff Andy Card informs President Bush that there's been a hunting accident involving the Vice President's party. Did Mr. Bush ask follow-up questions? Was he intellectually curious?And just in case there was any doubt among the especially daft, after noting a particularly absurd question from a member of the WH press corps (“and we’re not making this one up” it warns), the WSJ ended its editorial by proclaiming:
7 pm - Karl Rove tells Mr. Bush that it is Mr. Cheney who did the shooting. Why was this detail withheld for a full 30 minutes from the President? Who else did Mr. Rove talk to about this in the interim? Was Valerie Plame ever mentioned?
Sunday 1:30 pm - The Texas paper [Corpus Christi] posts the story on its Web site, after calling the Veep's office for confirmation. Everyone involved confirms more or less everything, or so the official line goes. Their agreement is very suspicious.
We hope the 78-year-old Mr. Whittington recovers promptly after his heart attack yesterday. As for the Beltway press corps, it has once again earned the esteem in which it is held by the American public.For the dolts at the BBC: The use of the word “esteem” in this context would be, um, ironic.
(And here I thought that it was supposed to be Americans who couldn’t appreciate the heralded British sense of irony.)
UPDATE: As some of you may have noticed, the BBC has done a little bit of editing, and the reference to the WSJ editorial now bears a much closer relationship to what it actually said. I'm not sure whether someone at the Beeb saw TAE's comments, or if an editor with a more heightened sense of sarcasm than the original editor noticed it on his own. Of course the reference to the WSJ has been moved from the top of the article to the bottom, given that it no longer reinforces the story line the BBC is pushing. But give the Beeb some small amount of credit for at least mentioning the contrary take of the WSJ rather than wiping it out of the article completely. Still, I'd say the BBC is, net, in the red on this one.
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Read the comments
The BBC's curious sensitivities
A fair point, it seems to me. But I do wonder what exactly Wyatt found praiseworthy in the BBC's treatment of the Danish cartoon affair, given that it is fraught with precisely the same kind of double standard. Although the BBC did, apparently, show "fleeting" glimpses of the cartoons in question on television (which is at least more than can be said of most other media outlets in both the US and the UK), according to Peter Horlocks, editor of BBC's TV news:
In its history of Islam we read: “One night in 610 he (Muhammad) was meditating in a cave on the mountain when he was visited by the angel Jibreel who ordered him to “recite” . . . words which he came to understand were the words of God.” This is written as fact, no “it is said” or “Muhammad reported”. Whenever Muhammad’s name is mentioned the BBC adds “Peace be upon him”, as if the corporation itself were Muslim.
How different, and how much more accurate, when we turn to Christianity. Here, Jesus’ birth “is believed by Christians to be the fulfilment of prophesies in the Jewish Old Testament”; Jesus “claimed that he spoke with the authority of God”; accounts of his resurrection appearances were “put about by his believers”.
We've taken the view that still images that focus and linger on the offending cartoons would be excessively offensive so we haven't used those in our television news pieces.
"We've used moving pictures of the newspapers where they've appeared to show people the context in which they've appeared and to give them some flavour of the type of imagery but without focusing closely on them."
Explaining why the BBC's website is not showing images of the cartoons, BBC interactive's editor Steve Herrmann said:
In addition, images on a web page can have an immediate impact on readers who will not necessarily have absorbed any of the context around them...When we cover any sensitive issue we have to balance our duty to report the story faithfully with our responsibility not to unnecessarily shock or offend our audience.
One can only wonder why, then, an image of a painting that caused much offense among Christians in the US has lingered on the BBC's website for over 6 years without Herrmann or Wyatt being fussed about it.
Readers may recall that, back in 1999, an art exhibition in NYC controversially included a painting by Chris Ofili, purportedly of the Virgin Mary and adorned with cut-outs from pornographic magazines and elephant dung. Rudy Giuliani, then mayor of New York, took offense (along many other Christians) and threatened to withdraw public money which funded the gallery showing the painting. The BBC website covered the story with several articles, including one which contained a picture of the offending painting. That article remains available on the BBC's website to this very day.
Is it too cynical to wonder whether the degree of concern the BBC shows over offending a particular culture's sensitivities is directly proportional to that culture's tendency towards violence?
(BTW, for those interested in seeing the cartoons, they can be found here.)
Monday, February 13, 2006
Extra! Extra! Read all about it!
The first photograph of President George Bush with the disgraced WashingtonApparently the photo "has been compared [by who? - ed] to the Monica Lewinsky 'ropeline' shots, which showed President Clinton greeting the White House intern." Now that certainly would be interesting, seeing Bush giving a big bearhug to a star-struck and adoring Jack Abramoff. Alas, it turns out that Abramoff "appears as a small, blurry, bearded figure in the background" of a photo of Bush meeting the chief of an American Indian tribe. Not everything, I suppose, that scandal mongers would have hoped for, but you have to take what you can get. And, perhaps most incriminating fo all, "Karl Rove, the chief White House political adviser, is also in the photograph." Really makes you think, huh?
lobbyist Jack Abramoff was published yesterday after the White House refused for
weeks to release images of them together.
The Times especially was chock full of good stuff. Minette Marin takes on the Muslim demand for respect, and blames, at least in part, the West itself.
It is a failure for which we in the West — we in this country — bear a great deal of responsibility. Until very recently, the doctrine of multiculturalism reigned supreme here. For at least 15 years public services and the liberal media have been riddled with the idea that all cultures are equally deserving of respect, and that the values of the host culture are not supreme, but on the contrary, rather racist and oppressive (so possibly not equally deserving of respect)...Quite why large sections of the host culture here were taken in by the confused claims of multiculturalism remains a mystery to me. But the consequence is that many Muslims (among others) have come to believe that we agree that their religion and culture are entitled to unquestioning respect.In another article, which oddly doesn't appear to be on-line, Amir Taheri points out that:
Today, the visible Islam, the loudest Islam, is a political movementHow wonderful.
masquerading as a religion...Not long ago when I asked an imam in a London
mosque why it was that God hardly featured in his sermons, he thought I
had lost the plot. "What matters today is the suffering of our brethren
under occupation," he snapped..."We have no religious grievances in this
country," said Azam Tamini, a pro-Hamas British Muslim scholar. "Here we
can practise our religion with more freedom than in any Musilim-ruled
country. It is therefore natural that we should focus on political rather
than religious issues."
Rod Liddle mentions the BBC's wistful look back at the halcyon days of the radical left with the show Lefties, and makes the sad but true observation that:
The consensus is that the left was trounced, good and proper, in the middle of the 1980s. Certainly the economic arguments were won pretty convincingly by the right...But as the mere existence of the BBC’s series might suggest, the consensus is flawed. For if the right won the economic argument and the cold war, the left won everything else. The followers of Lady Plowden and Shirley Williams still control our education system; children are ill-disciplined and the educational emphasis is on interpretation rather than learning facts.
Popular culture, too. Find me a right-wing Hollywood film, if you can. Or a right-wing play in the West End. Or a pop star who wishes to give less money to Africa and thinks the war against Iraq was just fine and dandy. Or a right-of-centre novelist up for the Booker prize.
Or, indeed, a programme on the BBC that presents a right-wing point of view without irony or downright condemnation. One suspects that over there in Wood Lane they were all, like me, lefties themselves. And maybe still are.
And, speaking of lefties, Martin Kettle at The Guardian warns his capitalist- and US-hating "brothers and sisters" not to find themselves - yet again - on the wrong side of history.
Will they listen?
After 1956 it was no longer intellectually honest or true (if it had ever been) to use the cold-war syllogism that my enemy's enemy is my friend. Those who saw history as a long war between good (the left, socialism, the future, the Soviet Union) and evil (the right, capitalism, the old order, the United States) were no longer entitled to swallow their doubts. It was no longer sweet and noble to kill for the cause. A few, of course, still said it was. Even to this day one occasionally encounters the old lie that the Hungarian rising was a counter-revolution.
But the cold-war syllogism lives on today in a new guise. Too many haters of capitalism and the United States still cram everything into the frame of untruth and self-deception that says my enemy's enemy is still my friend because, even if he blows up my family on the tube, murders my colleagues on the bus or threatens to behead me for publishing a drawing, he is still at war with Bush, Blair and Berlusconi. It is 50 years this month since that simplistic view of the world lost whatever moral purchase it may once have had. It is time such thinking was, to choose a sadly appropriate word, purged. Too long, my brothers and my sisters, too long.
Saturday, February 11, 2006
Social mobility myths
Those who recommend social mobility tend to focus on upward movements. John was born into a bottom-income quartile family, but now he is in the top quartile. Good for John. Alas, every upward social movement requires an equal quantity of downward movement. Just as a tennis player cannot climb the world rankings without others falling, so John’s ascent in the social rankings guarantees that others descend. And their losses must be exactly equal to John’s gain. When everyone is taken into account, it is simply impossible for social mobility to deliver a net benefit.
He also points out that:
In modern economies, the intelligent and well-educated tend to have higher incomes. Intelligence and educational performance are largely inherited, through both nature and nurture. People tend to marry within their own social class. If these tendencies are very strong, then we should expect almost no social mobility in a meritocracy. Those with the attributes that get them to the top (merit, let’s call it) will produce children with merit, who will also get to the top and produce children with merit . . . and so on for generation after generation.Indeed, this was largely the point made by Charles Murray and Richard Hernstein in their book The Bell Curve, although much of it was lost in the accusations of racism when the book came out.
Anyway, have a look at Whyte's article.
Friday, February 10, 2006
Lots of comments
"America is often portrayed as an ignorant, unsophisticated sort of place, full of bible bashers and ruled to a dangerous extent by trashy television, superstition and religious bigotry, a place lacking in respect for evidence based knowledge. I know that is how it is portrayed because I have done my bit to paint that picture..." I dont see why you put this at the top of yr website. It seems that if Justin Webb admits to it then he must have his reasons. The fact is is that we can plainly see for ourselves that America has all of the above. Your East and West Coasts may be different but you lot are so busy buying big ol cars and being rampant consumers with little or no care about polluting the environment and the plight of your fellow men in Africa that you have allowed the greedy corrupt republican party to totally rule your country. You lot allowed Kennedy and MLK to be shot, you allowed lynchings, you had apartheid up until the 60s and still have not redressed the balance. Your foriegn policy has been absolutely scandalous for decades and your media is totally corrupted by its reliance on big business for advertising. You have pulled the wool over your own peoples eyes for so long that they hardly know what goes on in the world. Your ridiculous patriotism and self regard and greed has meant that you are blind to the fact that we live on the same planet and share the same air and are all brothers and sisters. You have done nothing to prevent the mass proliferation of arms amongst your own communities and around the world. You preach violence and consumption. You have got a crazy streak of religious fundamentalism yourselves as evedenced by 'creationalism' and 'natural design' and your military is crap and too gung ho. Your main exports like Macdonalds and Coke are actually polluting the Worlds health too so get a grip. Look inwards before you critise the rest of the World. All of what Justin Webb says is patently obvious to the rest of the World and the fact that there are parts of your country that are different is a moot point. You allow that big mid section of your country to vote in the corrupt republicans time and time again.
Indeed. How dare we allow democracy to work its nefarious ways.
There were, however, some more thoughtful comments. Have a read through.