Dear Famous Scientists: Please STFU About Areas Outside Your Expertise

Erik Klemetti, on Twitter, had steam coming from his ears on Wednesday:

WHY, OH WHY did Bloomsberg talk to instead of a geologist about the VA earthquake? Come on, people!

That’s probably because some journalists seem to find it impossible to distinguish between various types of scientist. They also want a big, recognizable name in their headline. So when an event happens and a scientist needs to be consulted, they call the first big name scientist who comes to mind, no matter their discipline. To quote Rocko’s Modern Life: “Those guys are idiots.”

And perhaps, just perhaps, if we smack them for stupidity often enough, they’ll develop an ability to distinguish between different types of scientists, and figure out whom to call for a quote when various events occur.

But I have a beef with the big-name scientists *coughKakucough* who blabber about subjects they have little or no relevant expertise in rather than calmly saying, “Damn it, Jimmy, I’m a physicist, not a geologist. Go phone a geologist. Quote me as saying, ‘I have no idea, as I did not study geology.'”

It’s that simple. And someone who does science for a living should know enough to know when they don’t know, and be intelligent enough and tough enough to be comfortable saying, “I don’t know.” Observe Professor Rowena Lohman, who teaches geophysics at Cornell. After delivering kick-ass accurate answers to a variety of questions within her area of expertise, is perfectly comfortable telling a CNN reporter that she is not omniscient:

CNN: Is the East Coast ready for an earthquake?

Lohman: That’s a question for a different kind of scientist or engineer.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is how it’s done. Alas, that does not seem to be how Kaku does it.

I’d love to try an experiment. Next time there’s big physics news, I’d love to interview a microbiologist, say, or a seismologist, and write up a big newspaper article using only them as experts, and then stuff it under the nose of Michio Kaku. “See what happens? See how infuriating it is when experts pop off on subjects they know nothing about?” Perhaps that would help him overcome the compulsion to spout on subjects far outside his realm. Perhaps that would convince him that he doesn’t need to babble any old response to clueless journalists, but hand out the phone numbers of relevant scientists instead. And perhaps after several instances of that, the clueless journalists will become clued.

Alas, I don’t work for a major paper. Anyone who does willing to try said experiment? It would be a kindness to several geologists whose heads are currently feeling a little prone to explosion.

(Shot glass raised to the poor nameless writer at CNN’s opinion section who was smart enough to head for an expert in geophysics and tectonics rather than a string theorist when the earth went wobbly. Kudos to you, unknown wise journalist!) 

Why We Need Science Bloggers

Two exhibits shall suffice, methinks.

Exhibit A: The Strange Case of the Oldest Homo Sapiens That Weren’t

The world went haywire last week with breathless reports that ZOMG ALL UR HOOMIN EVOLUSHUNS HAZ CHANGED!!1!11!!  Back in the bad old days when all I had access to was the MSM, I might have gotten sucked in by the hype.  After years of reading science blogs, though, I just sat back and waited.

And, sure enough, on December 28th, there was Brian Switek on Twitter, on the case:

Scientists claim 400,000 year old Homo sapiens teeth found in Israel cave, older than African H. sapiens http://bit.ly/gblFEl BUT… [1/2]

… paper abstract http://bit.ly/fgZQKz draws closer comparison to Neanderthals and indeterminate types like the Skhul/Qafzeh hominins [2/2]

Then:

Haven’t read full paper – no access – but I have to wonder if the popular presentation is hyped beyond paper’s conclusions #notthe1sttime

Scicurious took care of the “no access” problem.   And, within hours, Brian had taken a gargantuan pin to a very over-inflated balloon:

A handful of fossil teeth found in Israel’s Qesem Cave, described in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology and attributed to 400,000 year old members of our own species in multiple news reports, are said to rewrite the story of human evolution. This discovery doubles the antiquity of Homo sapiens, the articles say, and identify a new point of origin for our species. “Find in Israeli cave may change evolution story” proclaims The Australian, while the Daily Mail asks and answers “Did first humans come out of Middle East and not Africa? Israeli discovery forces scientists to re-examine evolution of modern man.” (The Jerusalem Post, by comparison, went with the tamer “Homo sapiens lived in Eretz Yisrael 400,000 years ago.”) As is often the case, though, the hype surrounding this find far outstrips its actual significance.


Then, for good measure, Carl Zimmer piled on.  I’m sure plenty of others leaped into the fray, but those were the first two I read, and suffice to prove my point.  We bloody well need science bloggers.  Why?  Because science journalists, the supposed professionals, are so fucking busy misreading, misleading, and giving science repeated black eyes by taking carefully-hedged papers filled with cautions and bet-hedging and warnings against jumping to conclusions and hyping them out of all proportion.  Carl called it “journalistic vaporware,” which rings true.  It’s disgusting is what it is.

And it used to be a person had three choices: accept, discount, or pay out the nose to access the original scientific papers and then try to wrangle sense from things not written in layman’s language.


Now we have science bloggers, who know science, love science, speak its lingo, and have the access and the tools to investigate and report back to the rest of us.  Because of them, I’ve learned not to believe the hype, and to refrain from hyperventilating until one of them weighs in.

Which brings me to Exhibit B:  The “Placebo Effect” Effect



Twitter absolutely blew up with links to various and sundry about some paper claiming the placebo effect worked even when people knew they were taking a placebo.  I can’t report on how some of the sources Bora linked were reporting it, because I was busy getting me arse kicked by other links (I’ve been busy, damn it).  But I saw other babble floating around that seemed to take it at face value.  Meh.  It was either a solid study or it wasn’t, I wasn’t too fussed about it, and knew that if it either had merit or sucked leper donkey dick, it would eventually land on one of the medical sites that are part of my regular reading schedule.


I love it when I’m right:

Dr. Gorski eviscerates both study and breathless hype.  Yes, the study showed some interesting things.  No, it didn’t prove that placebo works sans deception.  Rather a fatal flaw:

No, the reason I say this is because, all their claims otherwise notwithstanding, this study doesn’t really tell us anything new about placebo effects. The reason is that, even though they did tell their subjects that the sugar pills they were being given were inert, the investigators also used suggestion to convince their subjects that these pills could nonetheless induce powerful “mind-body” effects. In other words, the investigators did the very thing they claimed they weren’t doing; they deceived their subjects to induce placebo effects by exaggerating the strength of the evidence for placebo effects and using rather woo-ish terminology (“self-healing,” for instance). Here’s how the investigators describe what they told their patients:

Patients who gave informed consent and fulfilled the inclusion and exclusion criteria were randomized into two groups: 1) placebo pill twice daily or 2) no-treatment. Before randomization and during the screening, the placebo pills were truthfully described as inert or inactive pills, like sugar pills, without any medication in it. Additionally, patients were told that “placebo pills, something like sugar pills, have been shown in rigorous clinical testing to produce significant mind-body self-healing processes.” The patient-provider relationship and contact time was similar in both groups. Study visits occurred at baseline (Day 1), midpoint (Day 11) and completion (Day 21). Assessment questionnaires were completed by patients with the assistance of a blinded assessor at study visits.

This is a description of the script that practitioners were to use when discussing these pills with subjects recruited to the study:

Patients were randomly assigned either to open-label placebo treatment or to the no-treatment control. Prior to randomization, patients from both groups met either a physician (AJL) or nurse-practitioner (EF) and were asked whether they had heard of the “placebo effect.” Assignment was determined by practitioner availability. The provider clearly explained that the placebo pill was an inactive (i.e., “inert”) substance like a sugar pill that contained no medication and then explained in an approximately fifteen minute a priori script the following “four discussion points:” 1) the placebo effect is powerful, 2) the body can automatically respond to taking placebo pills like Pavlov’s dogs who salivated when they heard a bell, 3) a positive attitude helps but is not necessary, and 4) taking the pills faithfully is critical. Patients were told that half would be assigned to an open-label placebo group and the other half to a no-treatment control group. Our rationale had a positive framing with the aim of optimizing placebo response.

How is this any different from what is known about placebo responses? I, for one, couldn’t find anything different. It’s right there in the Methods section: The authors might well have told subjects that they were receiving a sugar pill, but they also told them that this sugar pill would do wonderful things through the power of “mind-body” effects, as though it was entirely scientifically clear-cut that it would.

That, my darlings, is deception.  That’s telling folks the sugar pill is magic.  And we all know that when you hand people a pill and tell them it’s magic, a subset will believe, and heal themselves.  The only real difference was that in this study, the bottles of sugar pills actually said “PLACEBO” on them.

POP goes another overinflated response to a study that didn’t merit the hype.  Thing is, without science bloggers, us regular joes wouldn’t know any better.  And without science bloggers, us regular joes would be pissed next week or next month or next year when future studies are breathlessly hyped as saying these studies were completely fucking wrong.  Science bloggers bring us back down to earth.  They help us understand what the science was really saying, analyze the studies for flaws that might cast doubt on sensational conclusions, and show us how good science (and good science reporting!) is actually done.


That, my darlings, is why we so desperately need science bloggers.  And to all of you science bloggers in the audience: thank you, thank you, a million times, thank you.

Science and Media, or Why Laypeople Get the Wrong Impression

I’ve wanted to be many things in my life – astronomer, vet, private detective, rock star, figure skater.  There was once a brief flirtation with the idea of a journalism degree before I got distracted by other shiny things.  I didn’t go for the degree because I decided to focus my energies on my book instead (please don’t ask me how that’s going), but I learned a few things along the way.  Things like verify your sources, get your facts straight, don’t believe the first thing you hear.

Since I didn’t actually attend classes, I can’t tell you what’s being taught these days.  But it apparently has no relation to the books on journalism I read, because it’s become evident that the bulk of modern “journalism” consists of rumormongering, inane babble, stenography, and getting everything possible wrong.  Where’s H.L. Mencken when you need him?

Of course, things have never been all that spiffy when it comes to reporters attempting to report on science.  Certainly, there are science journalists who get it right – Carl Zimmer, anyone?  But here’s what I remember from the science pages of any number of newspapers and magazines:

ZOMG scientists have discovered chocolate causes cancer!  No, wait, it cures cancer!  No, wait, it just makes you fat!  No, wait, it-

I actually gave up on science for a while because it seemed like scientists couldn’t make up their minds.  All of those breathless reports, the controversies and the contradictory studies, the certainty about one thing followed by the certainty about exactly the opposite, drove me crazy.  I was like, totally, y’know, get back to me when you actually know something, m’kay?

Well, as it turns out, that ignorance arose only partly because I was an idiot with a piss-poor high school science education.  A lot of it had to do with the way science gets reported.  Journalists, it turns out, know jack fucking shit about how science works.  If they did know, the public would have a good grounding in what preliminary results are, would understand the difference between press releases and peer reviewed papers, and know precisely why a promising line of research doesn’t always lead to the conclusion we thought it would.  We’d understand that evidence isn’t always black-or-white, cut-and-dried, nor easy to interpret.  We’d appreciate the difference between settled science and cutting-edge frontier stuff. 

It’s gotten so bad that Tom Swanson at Swans on Tea came up with a disclaimer for scientists to read, slowly and with careful pronunciation and emphasis, to any journalist they’re unfortunate enough to speak with:

Please understand that the following result is preliminary and should not be taken as the final word. For anyone unfamiliar with the field, an effort must be made on the reader’s part to see where this fits in with the prevailing models of the day. There is a chance that it could be wrong or have only limited applicability to broader problems being investigated by other research teams. Further investigation may confirm our findings, or show that our results were anomalous or contained errors.

Alas, I’m not sure that would help, considering that even slow and careful explanation with plenty of emphasis seems to get lost somewhere in the labyrinth of the journalistic brain:

A few years back, there was a guy working for a small paper in Newport who had, in several stories, really misunderstood coast range geology. I offered to take him on a day trip up Marys Peak, where you can see the best possible transect of the rock sequence, from sea-floor basalts through a couple of sedimentary units, and a gabbroic sill. He got the geo more or less right, but described me as a professor in geology, even though he knew perfectly well I worked for science education, and I had taken pains to explain the difference between a professor and an instructor.

Sigh.

Poor Lockwood.  I’m not sure how he resisted the temptation to apply a rock hammer to said reporter’s head in an attempt to beat some sense into him.

Now, mind you, I do understand simple human error (I’d better, considering I changed Silver Fox’s gender on her yesterday - mea culpa, Silver!).  Reporters dealing with an unfamiliar subject, under deadline pressure, can fuck up.  But is it too much to ask for a few minutes’ proof-reading?  Especially when this is their career rather than a hobby?  And can the reporters whose regular beat is science, even if they’re just doing it for the local rag, please oh please learn at least a little about how science actually works?

The public depends on them getting it right.  I’m not sure reporters realize just how much damage they do by fucking up very nearly everything in science reporting, but it’s high time they did.  I just wish the judicious application of a rock hammer to precise parts of the brainpan could get it through their skulls.

Walter Cronkite was So Right

Walter Cronkite was one of the last of a dying breed – a teevee journalist who was a journalist in truth rather than just name:

Americans of all ages and the journalist community are remembering the life and career of Walter Cronkite, famously revered as “the most trusted man in America.”

Salon’s Glenn Greenwald notes that the media is largely glossing over Cronkite’s “most celebrated and significant moment” — “when he stood up and announced that Americans shouldn’t trust the statements being made about the war by the U.S. Government and military, and that the specific claims they were making were almost certainly false.”

Of course they’re glossing it over. They hate admitting their abject failings. And you probably won’t see too many of them highlighting his all-too-true assessment of their pathetic state:

The Nation’s John Nichols reports that as the war in Iraq went horribly awry, he asked Cronkite whether a network anchorman would speak out in the same way that he had. “I think it could happen, yes. I don’t think it’s likely to happen,” he said with an audible sigh. “I think the three networks are still hewing pretty much to that theory. They don’t even do analysis anymore, which I think is a shame. They don’t even do background. They just seem to do headlines, and the less important it seems the more likely they are to get on the air.”

David Gregory, he could’ve been looking at you:

I can only echo what Vernie Gay said about the new Meet The Press:

But he also seems more intent on covering the waterfront than digging for news, or in pushing the talking heads off their talking points. Recent interviews with Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) felt like a waterfront that went on for miles – an endless vista of chatter and spin.

BOTTOM LINE “Meet the Press” is now the de facto safe show on Sunday morning – “safe,” that is, for those being interviewed.

And here we have good ol’ David assuring Mark Sanford that MTP would be very safe indeed:

When the stories about South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford’s love of hiking and the ensuing revelations about line crossing and soul mates were first revealed, I think it’s safe to say that most people never saw it coming. But what hasn’t been a surprise is the resulting confirmation of how many in the media are willing to sell their journalistic souls for political access.

And leading that list has to be David Gregory, who went out of his way to continue the proud tradition of Meet the Press kissing the ass of shamed elected officials.

From his emails to Sanford’s office, where he begs for an interview:

Left you a message. Wanted you to hear directly from me that I want to have the Gov on Sunday on Meet The Press. I think it’s exactly the right forum to answer the questions about his trip as well as giving him a platform to discuss the economy/stimulus and the future of the party. You know he will get a fair shake from me and coming on MTP puts all of this to rest.

… So coming on Meet The Press allows you to frame the conversation how you really want to…and then move on. You can see (sic) you have done your interview and then move on. Consider it.

In the middle of the breaking scandal, Gregory not only offered to let Sanford guide the story, he was willing to give him a platform to change the subject. And then Gregory would “move on.”

Just like everybody else. David Gregory had plenty of company in his Buy My Show Bazaar:

CNN’s John King told Sawyer he had always appreciated Sanford’s “kindness, candor, and hospitality,” and added, in a transparent attempt to bond, “I’m all for anonymous escapes myself.” George Stephanopoulos offered his show, ABC’s This Week, as a “civil forum to address this week’s events.” And producers for CBS’s Face the Nation, ABC’s Good Morning America, several Fox shows, and many others gave Sanford’s office the hard sell too.

And that’s not all!

• Ann Edelberg, a producer at MSNBC, wrote to Sanford press secretary Joel Sawyer to say: “Of course the Gov has an open invite to a friendly place here at MJ, if he would like to speak out.” MJ refers to Morning Joe, the MSNBC show hosted by former GOP congressman Joe Scarborough, and also frequently featuring hardcore right-winger Pat Buchanan.

Politico‘s Jonathan Martin, after making a few inquiries to Sawyer, wrote sycophantically: “Jakie causing you guys problem?” That’s a reference to state Sen. Jake Knotts, who had first raised questions about the governor’s whereabouts.

• A woman named Jessica Gibadlo — this seems like her — wrote in an email to Sawyer that MSNBC anchor Contessa Brewer was suggesting Sanford could come on her network to spin the story favorably. Wrote Gibadlo:

As you know I’m close to Contessa who has been in my ear on this. She said that the tone in the news room is that Mark could spin this fav
orably if he talks it up as the outdoors man in the woods etc. For all we know he’s contemplating the last year of his term and thinking through his priorities before he goes on his family vacation.

As you know, she’s close to Contessa.

• A barely literate Fox News producer and Sanford fan wrote: “Where is he…we LOVE to governor he is okay right?” Hey, who doesn’t love to governor?

• The Wall Street Journal‘s Brendan Miniter — who we already told you had dissed his own paper’s reporting on the saga in an effort to suck up to the governor’s office — doubled down on that effort, writing to Sawyer that that he “wanted verification that the WSJ story was BS.” Now there’s some team spirit!

• Stewart Moore, the anchor for local South Carolina news station WIS-TV, showed great news judgment, writing:

Off the record, I think this whole thing is ridiculous. Sounds like slow news day stuff.

On the record; for the sake of good journalism, is there any way we can get the governor on for a phoner @ 6:30am? I think that will end the crazy situation we both find ourselves, more so you, in.

Thanks dude.

But wait! There’s more!

The State has written up a few more of the emails, and look what they found:

ABC News White House reporter Jake Tapper e-mailed Sawyer twice on June 23, both to note coverage of competitor NBC.

With a subject line of “NBC spot was slimy,” Tapper e-mailed Sawyer a “Today” show transcript of Sanford coverage, calling it “insulting.” Later, Tapper forwarded Sawyer a Twitter post [this one — TPMmuckraker] by “Meet The Press” host David Gregory.

Jeff Schneider, a vice president at ABC News, said Tapper was “carrying some water for producers who knew he had a relationship with the governor’s office.”

Oh, just carrying some water for producers, you say? Well, never mind then.

[snip]

One prominent conservative blogger also offered his help. Erick Erickson of Red State emailed to say:

If he wants something more personal for the blog to push back, I’m happy to help.

That turned out well, of course.

And all of that’s disgusting enough, but rather pales in comparison to Chuck Todd’s little Q & A with Glenn Greenwald:

Audio from Salon Radio, where the full transcript is also available.


Glenn Greenwald: So what do you think happens – I think what has destroyed our reputation is announcing to the world that we tolerate torture, and telling the world we don’t –

Chuck Todd: We have elections, we also had an election where this was an issue. A new president, who came in there, and has said, we’re not going to torture, we’re going to do this, and we’re going to do this–

GG: What do you think should happen when presidents–

CT: Is that not enough? Isn’t that enough?


GG: When, generally, if I go out and rob a bank tomorrow, what happens to me is not that I lose an election. What happens is to me is that I go to prison. So, what do you think should happen when presidents get caught committing crimes in office? What do you think ought to happen?

CT: You see, this is where, this is not – you cannot sit here and say this is as legally black and white as a bank robbery because this was an ideological, legal –

GG: A hundred people died in detention. A hundred people. The United States Government admits that there are homicides that took place during interrogations. Waterboarding and these other techniques are things that the United States has always prosecuted as torture.

Until John Yoo wrote that memo, where was the lack of clarity about whether or not these things were illegal? Where did that lack of clarity or debate exist? They found some right-wing ideologues in the Justice Department to say that this was okay, that’s what you’re endorsing. As long the president can do that, he’s above the law. And I don’t see how you can say that you’re doing anything other than endorsing a system of lawlessness where the president is free to break the law?

CT: Well, look, I don’t believe I’m endorsing a system of lawlessness; I’m trying to put in the reality that as much that there is a legal black and white here, there is a political reality that clouds this, and you know it does too.

Hilzoy, in one of her last posts, absolutely destroyed him (well, the bits Glenn left intact, anyway), and then pointed out something absolutely terrifying:

We should expect more of our journalists. They need to get the facts right. They need to figure out the legal issues at stake in a case like this, not just listen to flacks from both sides, throw up their hands, and say “it’s not black and white!” If he did a better job, he wouldn’t have to worry so much about politicizing the justice system, and he might take pride in the fact that he helped shed light on complicated issues, when he might have just gotten lazy.

Of course, it’s not just Chuck Todd, who is, alas, one of the better TV journalists out there. He’s just the one who cited the incompetence of his profession as a reason to abandon the rule of law.

That’s absolutely fucking appalling.

I could go on – after all, we have teevee “journalists” fucking up the facts on health care reform, and the supposedly “liberal” MSNBC giving a platform to a lying white supremacist fucktard like Pat Buchanan, among a thousand other examples of their endless idiocy – but we’d be here for the next century. I just want to close this Smack-o-Matic marathon with what BarbinMD said:

In the hours following the death of Walter Cronkite, the accolades began pouring in; “legendary,” “iconic,” “set the standard,” a “voice of certainty in an uncertain world,” reminders that he was once known as “the most trusted man in America,” and perhaps the most telling, a lament that “we’ll never see his like again.”

And with that in mind, perhaps members of the media could pause and consider why a journalist who instilled trust in his viewers by simply reporting the news is “someone whose like we will never see again.” And maybe they’ll even take a moment to think about what it says about them.

If they were worth anything, they would. But we all know they’re too shallow for such deep thoughts.

I just hope they go to bed tonight knowing that Walter Cronkite was ashamed of them.

Can You Spot the Stupidity?

Remember, magazine articles are supposedly vetted by knowledgeable editors. Yet a magazine with a 100+ year history of science writing manages to fuck up so egregiously that the error practically leaps from the page. Even creationists should be able to figure this one out:

I’ve bitched and complained about the sorry state of popular science writing for years. Here’s another textbook example from, of all places, National Geographic in an article about a rather amazing 90 million year old dinosaur boneyard:

Judging from the animals present at the site and their ages, as determined by carbon dating, the herd was probably made up of one- to seven-year-olds, said David Varricchio, a Montana State University paleontologist.

Of course, there’s more than one bit of dumbfuckery in there, but it’s sort of like puppies: you notice the one that’s jumping up and down barking first. The ones it’s using as a trampoline come to your attention a bit later.

I need to apply as an editor. Apparently, you don’t even need a high school education.

For those of you who had a temporary brain seizure along the lines of what NatGeo’s editors must have suffered and can’t spot the stupid, you can pop over to Ed Brayton’s blog for the punchline. I’ll give you a hint. It’s got something to do with carbon.

I imagine David Varricchio’s either supremely pissed or very amused about now. I wish I had the transcripts of this interview. They probably look something like this:

Artist’s impression of Tasha Eichenseher’s listening skills.

With science writers like Tasha Eichenseher, who needs creationists?

(Be sure to visit that last link, too. Especially if you need to explain to an apologist why quoting the Bible to an atheist is about as effective as lecturing your dog.)

“You Will Like Him When He’s Angry” – Jon Stewart Annihilates Jim Cramer

Steve Benen’s absolutely right. You will like Jon Stewart when he’s angry:

In 2004, Jon Stewart appeared on CNN’s “Crossfire,” and explained that the show was “hurting America.” He wasn’t kidding. The brutal appearance exposed the show as something of a farce; CNN’s executives ended up agreeing with Stewart; and three months later, CNN announced that “Crossfire” was finished.

With that history in mind, CNBC should feel awfully nervous right now.

After a week of back and forth, Stewart had Jim Cramer on “The Daily Show” last night and not only destroyed the “Mad Money” host, but more importantly, exposed CNBC as an embarrassment. By the time the brutal interview was over, one thing was clear: the network has no clothes.

I’m surprised they’re left with any skin.

Jon Stewart’s treated as something as a lightweight because he does a fake news program on a comedy channel. It’s a mistake. He’s one of the sharpest satirists out there. He’s more of a journalist than the vast majority who lay claim to that title on “serious” programs. And, in the finest tradition of the old Irish bards, his satire brings the mighty crashing down. Kings used to tremble in fear when a bard got annoyed with them. Kings who didn’t respect their power lost their thrones. It’s a historical lesson some folks should revisit, because Jon Stewart is proving that sort of bard.

If you haven’t already done so, take fifteen minutes to watch the demolition in its entirety.

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The Daily Show With Jon StewartM – Th 11p / 10c

Jim Cramer Pt. 1

The Seattle P.I. Will Live On

This is excellent news:

On March 18, Seattle almost certainly will lose an institution nearly as old as the city itself. The illuminated globe atop the Seattle Post-Intelligencer building will go dark. But perhaps all is not lost. If the Hearst folks decide against funding an internet edition of the P-I, a group of seasoned reporters and columnists will form a subscriber-supported cooperative to provide local news and opinion online:

We are a group of P-I journalists. Our goal is to allow P-I reporters to continue serving Seattle as watchdogs and informing the public on such key issues as city politics, helping people navigate the current economic crisis, the environment, and education. Additionally, we intend to continue the work of recognizable writers as Robert Jamieson, Mike Lewis, Art Thiel, and many others.

[snip]

Should the Seattle Post-Intelligencer close, we intend to begin a news website to fill the void left in our community. We hope that the Hearst Corporation will start a online-only P-I that performs the important role the newspaper has played in this community, but we stand ready to continue our work for the public interest.

Right now, they’re trying to get a feel for how much support they can expect. They can count me in. I’d strongly encourage any other Seattle-area readers to pledge their support – the Seattle P.I. does outstanding work, and we need an experienced alternative to the Times.

Show them some love, even if it’s just a note of encouragement.

Walking the Walk: Palin Opens Mouth, Inserts Foot

Sarah Palin’s talent for fucking herself over every time she opens her mouth is truly mind-boggling:

“Here’s the difference between John McCain and our ticket and Barack Obama and Joe Biden,” she said. “We don’t just talk the talk, we walk the walk. And that’s why in not just that first speech, but in every speech I give, I talk about being an advocate and a friend in the White House for our families who have members who have these special needs.” [emphasis added]


When asked by “gotcha” journalist Shelby Sheehan of KRNV just how she and McCain planned to walk the walk they were talking about, Palin tripped over her own feet:

Alaska Governor and Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin says autism is an issue “near and dear” to her heart and she can’t wait to get to work helping more than 5,000 Nevada families affected by it. However, when pressed, she was unable to provide details on a plan to do that.

[snip]

“There are a lot of wasteful expenditures in the federal (government),” Palin said. “Let’s get rid of those and put them into strengthening NIH (National Institutes of Health) and these other areas where we can help our kids with autism.”

Palin did not name any specific expenditure she wanted to cut in favor of funding for autism research or services, nor did she name what specific programs she’d like to fund in order to help those families.

Sarah Palin walking the walk: epic fucking fail.

Shelby Sheehan perpetrating journalism upon her: priceless.

(Tip o’ the shot glass to Kula2316 at Daily Kos, who also found the best quote o’ the day: “Widespread antagonism toward Obama in mid August gave way in September to overwhelming horror over McCain picking Palin as his vice presidential nominee.” I’m sure I have no idea why undecided voters in Florida would feel that way. Heh.)

Lara Logan, I Tip My Smack-o-Matic 3000 to You

If you watch only one video today, make it this one:

Some select quotes:

“I did a piece with Navy Seals once. It took me six months of begging, screaming, breaking down walls, crawling on my knees to get that embed. And when I came back with that story, I was told, ‘these guys, you know, one guy in uniform looks like any other guy in a uniform.’ and I’m on high-value target raids, taking down some of the most wanted Taliban fighters and al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan, and I’m told, ‘well, you know, one Arabic name sounds – unless it’s Osama bin Laden, who cares about, you know, Mullah bin Shag or whatever…'”

“You know, I was asked once, ‘Do you feel responsible for the American public having a – a bad view, a negative view of the war in Iraq?’ And I looked at the reporter and I said, ‘Tell me the last time you saw the body of a dead American soldier. What does that look like? Who in America knows what that looks like? Because I know what that looks like, and I feel responsible for the fact that no one else does.'”

We’ll discuss this later, after our blood pressures have gone down to safe levels. For now, let me just say that Lara Logan is the absolute epitome of what it means to be a journalist.

Sadly enough, so is Jon Stewart. And he’d be the first to admit that he’s just a comedy show host.