• Major Errors by Major Networks

    For anyone who cares about accurate reporting, the past week was truly disastrous.

    Since democracy depends on transparency and some measure of justified trust in our basic institutions, these journalistic failures are damaging to the country.

    The misreporting comes on top of well-documented sexual harassment and abuse allegations that led to Matt Lauer’s firing and raise questions about how much his bosses knew and covered up over the years. One, Andrew Lack, is still at NBC. The other, Jeff Zucker, runs CNN.

    We also heard Cokie Roberts, long-time reporter for ABC News, say on the air that female reporters knew not to get into elevators alone with some Congressmen and Senators. She didn’t seem to notice that neither she nor anyone else considered that worthy of investigating or reporting.

    As for last week’s errors, Glenn Greenwald cites chapter and verse here:

    The U.S. Media Suffered Its Most Humiliating Debacle in Ages: Now Refuses All Transparency Over What Happened (The Intercept)

    CNN also illustrates how these organizations offered only lame apologies for BIG errors:

    Misreporting the date, which both CNN and ABC did, was not a minor matter. It went to the heart of charges that candidate Trump worked with Russia and Russian-backed organizations to win the election. In fact, the accurate dates were after Trump was elected.

    Some people have attributed the errors to sloppy reporting, others to deliberate efforts (presumably by the leakers) to harm either Trump or the networks that reported.

    There is no doubt the reporting was sloppy, the retractions mealy-mouthed.

    But I have an additional observation, albeit purely speculative. First, note that the leaks came from classified settings, such as the House Intel Committee. Second, we know that the Department of Justice has established a high-priority task force to identify the sources of classified leaks. So, I speculate, could DOJ (working with US intel agencies) given specific people some documents seeded with misinformation to see if that identifiable info was leaked? If it was, then the source would be obvious to DOJ or the CIA.

    That technique is a familiar one. Intelligence agencies sometimes alter each document slightly for each individual recipient. That way, if some portion ends up in the newspaper, it might be possible to identify which recipient leaked it. I wonder if that’s what happened here? The fact that two sources confirmed CNN’s erroneous story makes me wonder if a Congressman or two received a deliberately altered document.

  • The Next Stage in the National Harassment Story? The Executives Who Knew and Did Nothing

    The latest episode, broken by New York Magazine’s The Cut, involves harassment allegations against now-retired NPR personality, John Hockenberry. (Link here)

    What happens next shows the Ghost of Christmas Future.

    There is outrage that Hockenberry’s employer did so little after being told of the initial allegations. She admits knowing of the allegations for months–and NPR contributors are not happy.

    Calls for public radio president Laura Walker to resign after ‘cowardly’ response to sex harassment claims–Fox News

    If, as I expect, the story expands from “who did it” to “who covered it up,” then a lot of executives will be in deep trouble.

    It’s one thing for Hollywood stars and producers to know about Harvey Weinstein and stay silent. That’s morally troubling, but, because they are not his employer, they don’t have an affirmative, legal obligations to act.

    That’s not true for, say, the executives at NBC who employed the immensely-profitable Matt Lauer. They had a responsibility to protect their other employees from his predations and to create a safe workplace. Instead, they allowed the installation of a “lock-the-door” button in his office so he could drop his pants.

    Who is in the line of here? The executives who worked most closely with Lauer over the years. High on that list are NBC’s Andrew Lack and Jeff Zucker, formerly at NBC, now at CNN.

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, November 7

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ Trump in South Korea: What’s on the agenda? 

    Comment: Mostly North Korea but also some trade issues. The goal is to get South Korea’s leftist president to side more closely with the US, less with China.

    A separate ZipDialog post, with more analysis, is here.

    Texas Church Massacre: what we know

    From police reports, three basic facts are emerging:

    • The shooter was angry, uncontrolled, and mentally unstable
    • Several different bureaucracies knew about the problems–the US military, a mental institution from which he escaped, and local officials who knew about violence and cruelty
    • The bureaucracies did not inform each other, so none had a full picture of the lethal danger he posed.
      • Some of this information might have blocked gun purchases

    Comment: As we learned after 9/11, you can’t connect the dots if bureaucracies don’t share information. In the 9/11 case, the failure was the predictable consequence of laws blocking such sharing between the FBI (focused on domestic crime prosecution) and the CIA/NSA (focused on foreign issues, not crime, and prohibited from domestic spying). Terrorists exploited those “stovepipes” by moving across borders.

    In the Texas case, it was simply the military’s failure to enter info in shared databases. In the case of the shooter’s escape from a mental hospital, we don’t know why that information was not entered into shared databases, where it could have blocked gun purchases.

    Even if the information is available, there is so much of it that local law enforcement may not be able to sort through it and use it effectively.

     Very tight governor’s race in today’s Virginia election:

    UPDATE: Democrat Wins

    The state has been trending Democratic for some years, fueled by population growth in the DC suburbs of Northern Virginia.

    Hillary won the state by 5 points and Trump’s unpopularity in North Virginia is why he didn’t campaign for the Republican, the first Presidential no-show in half a century.

    That’s why the Democrat tried to make it a “national” election while the Republican tried to make it “local.”

    Beyond the usual impact on policy, the winner will influence Virginia’s redistricting after the 2020 Census.

    Harvey Weinstein: Two developments

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, November 3

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    Bowe Bergdahl, Army deserter held by Taliban, avoids prison sentence (Washington Post)

    Comment: This outcome is shocking. US soldiers died looking for this creep. Others were injured. Lots of resources devoted to finding a soldier who voluntarily abandoned his post and planned for weeks to do so.

    Pres. Trump immediately weighed in, via Twitter. My guess is that Trump’s position will be very popular on this issue. He’s implicitly daring the Democrats to come out on the other side, as many of them did (to their cost) on the NFL kneeling.

    More good economic news: Unemployment down to 4.1%, the lowest rate since 2000.

    Less good: Wage growth slow (Wall Street Journal, subscription)

    Best news of all: Strong Productivity Growth. (CNBC)

    Comments: Productivity growth is crucial. It is the underlying source of real wage growth.

    The biggest problem for the economy now is the misfit between the skilled jobs available and the unskilled workers who are unemployed.

    Tax Bill, next phase: We will find new details (none good, otherwise they wouldn’t be hidden), and gored oxen will come out to save themselves

    Example of hidden details:

    House Republicans claim the tax plan they introduced Thursday keeps the top individual rate unchanged at 39.6 percent—the level at which it’s been capped for much of the past quarter-century. But a little-noticed provision effectively creates a new band in which income is taxed at over 45 percent.

    Thanks to a quirky proposed surcharge, Americans who earn more than $1 million in taxable income would trigger an extra 6 percent tax on the next $200,000 they earn—a complicated change that effectively creates a new, unannounced tax bracket of 45.6 percent. –Politico

    Example of gored oxen:  Republican Tax Proposal Gets Failing Grade From Higher-Ed Groups (Chronicle of Higher Education)

    The House tax-reform proposal released today would discourage participation in postsecondary education, make college more expensive for those who do enroll, and undermine the financial stability of public and private two-year and four-year colleges and universities,” said Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education and under secretary of education in the Obama administration, in a written statement.

    In broad terms, the bill would eliminate or consolidate a number of tax deductions meant to offset the costs of higher education for individuals and companies, including the Lifetime Learning Credit, which provides a tax deduction of up to $2,000 for tuition, a credit for student-loan interest, and a $5,250 corporate deduction for education-assistance plans. –Chronicle of Higher Education

    Comment: There is also tremendous pushback on the limitations on deducting state and local taxes, led by Republicans in high-tax states.

    These issues will be fought out over the next month, first in House committee, then on the floor in both chambers, then in reconciliation.

     Spain issues arrest warrant for Catalonia’s leader, who has fled the country (BBC)

    ◆ Mainstream media ignore bombshell, documented revelation that Hillary and DNC rigged primaries

    All three major TV news networks completely skip the story (Fox News)

    NYT: nothing

    Comment: It’s not surprising that most Democratic politicians are silent. But the story is a significant one, and it’s omission by mainstream outlets is bias, pure and simple.

     Pressure builds on AG Jeff Sessions, accused of false or misleading statements to Congress. The issue: what he knew Trump campaign officials’ contacts with Russia 

    The Atlantic magazine calls it: “Jeff Sessions’ Selective Memory

     

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Hat Tip to

    ◆ Robert Pahre for the Chronicle of Higher Education story

     

  • Media Bias: Find the Missing Words in the New York Times Report on NY Terror

    Here is the New York Times front page on the web, November 1, noon

    See if you can find the missing words

    That’s right: they completely omit ISIS, Jihad, “Islamic Extremism.” 

    They simply use the word “terror,” as they do with the shootings in Las Vegas.

    They omit the political/religious motivation.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • UPDATED COMMENTARY on Presidents and Soldiers of Blessed Memory

    As is so often the case, an issue with several important elements has been compressed and distorted, both by politicians and by the media.

    It is increasingly obvious that the most important element of this whole story is

    • how low our public discourse has sunk,
    • how vile are the statements we make about political opponents, and, sadly,
    • how we impute the most foul motives to all our adversaries, turning them from “the loyal opposition” into “enemies and traitors.”

    ♦♦♦♦♦

    Here are a few more thoughts on these somber issues, which are now, unfortunately, the subject of mudslinging.

    • It is right and fitting that presidents phone or write the loved ones who gave their lives for our country and for their comrades in arms. How Presidents undertake this terrible responsibility should be their choice.
    • It was wrong and unbecoming of Pres. Trump to criticize his predecessors about their ways of honoring our fallen soldiers.
      • ALL his predecessors were decent, honorable men who took these losses seriously. That should be acknowledged, not turned into a partisan football.
        • We can differ with people politically without concluding that they are, by definition, knuckle-dragging, immoral fools.
        • American politics is being corrupted by our collective inability to differ politically without slinging mud personally.
      • It is beneath the Office of the President to criticize President Obama on this issue. It should be publicly shamed.
      • Trump’s false and undignified criticism was sufficiently upsetting to Pres. George W. Bush, who has been the most dignified of recent ex-Presidents, that he spoke out publicly, at least indirectly criticizing Trump.
        • UPDATE: Steve Bannon’s criticism of GWB on these issues is noxious. Not surprising, but still noxious.

    • It is wrong and unbecoming for others, such as the Congresswoman from Florida, to do the same thing, turning a private moment of grief into her public moment in the spotlight.
      • Her bad behavior was made worse because she took a benign statement by the President and twisted into something malicious.
      • Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, known for her hats and not what’s under them, has now personally attacked Gen. Kelly, a Gold Star father.
      • She’s loathsome.
      • UPDATE: General Kelly incorrectly characterized Rep. Wilson’s speech in Florida at the building dedication. It was not all about her, as he said. She shared the credit for the building. (I am sure he misremembered, rather than lied.)
      • UPDATE: Sarah Sanders statement that Gen. Kelly cannot be criticized is clearly wrong and misunderstands the roll of free speech in our political discourse. That would be true even if Kelly were still an active-duty military officer. Sanders has properly walked back most of her statement, but, like most political figures, she can’t quite say the plain truth: “I was wrong.”
    • The loss of service members in Niger, which gave rise to this controversy, was a tragic military error, compounded by a lot of uncertainty about the events in their immediate aftermath. It is unclear why the military was slow to reveal publicly what happened.
      • The Democrats have implied that it is Pres. Trump’s “Benghazi” (that is, a high-level political coverup). It’s not unless there is a full-scale coverup and months of lying and misrepresentation, as there was after Benghazi.
    • CNN has run the story 24/7. That’s media malpractice. That, unfortunately, is also CNN’s motto.
      • CNN is like a dog with a bone: they bite it and hang on, long after all the meat is gone.
      • The problem is not that CNN’s panels are false. It is the channel’s bizarre news judgment that the story merits round-the-clock coverage for days, driven, I am sure, by their (correct) conclusion that the story harms Trump.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • Presidents and Soldiers of Blessed Memory: A Comment UPDATED

    As is so often the case, an issue with several important elements has been compressed and distorted, both by politicians and by the media.

    Here are a few thoughts on these somber issues, which are now, unfortunately, the subject of mudslinging.

    • It is right and fitting that presidents phone or write the loved ones who gave their lives for our country and for their comrades in arms. How Presidents undertake this terrible responsibility should be their choice.
    • It was wrong and unbecoming of Pres. Trump to criticize his predecessors about their ways of honoring our fallen soldiers.
      • ALL his predecessors were decent, honorable men who took these losses seriously. That should be acknowledged, not turned into a partisan football.
        • UPDATE: We can differ with people politically without concluding that they are, by definition, knuckle-dragging, immoral fools.
        • American politics is being corrupted by our collective inability to differ politically without slinging mud personally.
      • It is beneath the Office of the President to criticize President Obama on this issue. It should be publicly shamed.
      • Trump’s false and undignified criticism was sufficiently upsetting to Pres. George W. Bush, who has been the most dignified of recent ex-Presidents, that he spoke out publicly, at least indirectly criticizing Trump.
        • UPDATE: Steve Bannon’s criticism of GWB on these issues is noxious. Not surprising, but still noxious.

    • It is wrong and unbecoming for others, such as the Congresswoman from Florida, to do the same thing, turning a private moment of grief into her public moment in the spotlight.
      • Her bad behavior was made worse because she took a benign statement by the President and twisted into something malicious.
      • Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, known for her hats and not what’s under them, has now personally attacked Gen. Kelly, a Gold Star father.
      • She’s loathsome.
      • UPDATE: General Kelly incorrectly characterized Rep. Wilson’s speech in Florida at the building dedication. It was not all about her, as he said. She shared the credit for the building. (I am sure he misremembered, rather than lied.)
      • UPDATE: Sarah Sanders statement that Gen. Kelly cannot be criticized is clearly wrong and misunderstands the roll of free speech in our political discourse. That would be true even if Kelly were still an active-duty military officer. Sanders has properly walked back most of her statement, but, like most political figures, she can’t quite say the plain truth: “I was wrong.”
    • The loss of service members in Niger, which gave rise to this controversy, was a tragic military error, compounded by a lot of uncertainty about the events in their immediate aftermath. It is unclear why the military was slow to reveal publicly what happened.
      • The Democrats have implied that it is Pres. Trump’s “Benghazi” (that is, a high-level political coverup). It’s not unless there is a full-scale coverup and months of lying and misrepresentation, as there was after Benghazi.
    • CNN has run the story 24/7. That’s media malpractice. That, unfortunately, is also CNN’s motto.
      • CNN is like a dog with a bone: they bite it and hang on, long after all the meat is gone.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, October 19

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ US consulting firm with ties to the Clintons lobbied on behalf of Russia’s nuclear giant (Circa)

    A Russian nuclear executive, whose company was the target of an FBI investigation and who admitted to corrupt payments to influence the awarding of contracts with the Russian state-owned nuclear energy corporation, paid millions of dollars in consulting fees to an American firm in 2009 and 2010 to lobby the U.S. regulatory agencies and assist the Russian’s who were then attempting to acquire twenty percent of American uranium, according to court documents, a former FBI informant and extensive interviews with law enforcement sources.

    Roughly $3 million in payments from 2010 to 2011 were made to APCO Worldwide Inc., which is described on their website as the second largest lobbying firm in the United States. The firm also provided in kind pro-bono services to Bill Clinton’s foundation, the Clinton Global Initiative, services they begin 2007, according to APCO officials who spoke with Circa

    and press releases from the company. It was during the same time that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was part of the Obama administration board that would eventually approve the sale of the U.S. uranium to Russia. –Sara A. Carter at Circa

    ◆ Great News about the US Economy: Lowest jobless claims since 1973 (Bloomberg)

    Comment: One-month data contains random effects, but the trend is great.

    Head of NBC News dined with Harvey Weinstein, then spiked the well-sourced exposé from Ronan Farrow. Pressure to resign–but he’s still on the job. (Fox News)

    NBC says they are not investigating.

    NBC News is coming under increasing criticism for its failure to investigate why its embattled president, Noah Oppenheim, spiked a bombshell story that would have been the first to expose Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein as a sexual predator.

    An NBC spokesperson says the network is not investigating the matter, despite new revelations that Oppenheim sat at small table with Weinstein at an exclusive New York gala in April, when Oppenheim reportedly already knew that his reporter, celebrity scion Ronan Farrow, had obtained damning audio recordings in which Weinstein admitted groping the breasts of an Italian model. –Fox News (link here)

     Screenwriter close to Weinstein highlights Hollywood’s code of omertà: “Everybody f**king knew” (Mashable)

    Scott Rosenberg worked with Weinstein and company for almost a decade:

    “Everybody fucking knew,” he wrote (not once, not twice, but three times) in a lyrical, near novella-length Facebook response to those shrinking away from responsibility in enabling Weinstein’s behavior.

    Hollywood’s general unwillingness to face the music of personal accountability for the rot in their own industry added insult to injury in the onslaught of allegations. Because those (seemingly) well-meaning yet spineless responses only ensure one thing: that this will keep happening. –Mashable

    Comment: Mr. Rosenberg’s choice of words is certainly apt.

    I just hope this little unpleasantness doesn’t keep Hollywood from preaching to the rest of us.

    ◆ John Kelly speaks eloquently about his son’s combat death, says he was “stunned” by a Congresswoman’s criticism of Pres. Trump’s condolence call

    NYT gives it a straightforward headline: Kelly Speaks About Son’s Death and Criticizes Congresswoman Wilson

    CNN gives it an ugly spin: John Kelly’s stirring but incomplete attempt to clean up for Donald Trump

    Comment: CNN’s spin, presented as hard news, is shameful.

    ◆ FUSION GPS:  Founders of the firm behind Trump-Russia dossier take the Fifth (Business Insider)

    Won’t talk to House Intel Committee. Refuse to say who paid for the smear job.

    Comment: The now-discredited dossier is important because then-director of the FBI, James Comey, used it as the basis for an investigation of the Trump campaign.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Hat Tip to

    ◆ Tom Elia for the Mashable “everybody knew” story.