There is some debate tonight

A debate in which many media outlets are trying to argue themselves out of doing their job. “No fact-checking!” is the cry; their job is to just report, not actually assess and evaluate what is said. This is not something new. This has been a problem for a good long time.

Anyone remember Jodi Wilgoren? The NY Times reporter who insisted that she didn’t have time to determine what the truth was? She used to write all these articles on creation and evolution that carefully dedicated just as much time to presenting the creationism side as the evolution side, and couldn’t be troubled to check whether what the creationists were saying was factually true. She even came right out and said her job was to explain their views.

Eschaton: Journamalism: Jodi Wilgoren tells us how she sees her job:

I don’t consider myself a creationist. I don’t have any interest in sharing my personal views on how the canyon was carved, mostly because I’ve spent almost no time pondering my personal views — it takes all my energy as a reporter and writer to understand and explain my subjects’ views fairly and thoroughly.

One of the complaints journalists have with bloggers is that they don’t do “original reporting.” But, now we see that “original reporting” has, for some journalists, become nothing more than finding people who have opinions on stuff and telling readers what those opinions are. And, amazingly, according to Wilgoren, she expends no effort in contemplating the credibility of those views. Apparently her editors are happy with this.

Jeebus. As PZ Myers writes:

Who needs facts, ideas, and research? The reporter’s brain is like an empty sponge, free of content, which just soaks up everyone’s opinions indiscriminately and without judgement, and is then wrung out over the pages of the newspaper. Actually thinking and evaluating those opinions in the light of evidence isn’t possible with a sponge for a brain.

When did journalism come to this deplorable state?

When did the NY Times decide that porosity, permeability, and flocculence were important job qualifications?

That was in 2005. You don’t believe me? She was writing a series of articles on evolution and creation that simply pretended that the fools on the other side were fully credible and honest. Here’s an example: Politicized Scholars Put Evolution on the Defensive. Just look at that title alone: evolution is on the defensive, put there by scholars. The entire article reads like a press release from the Discovery Institute, recounting the tale of their long struggle, and has nothing from the side of science other than a quote from Eugenie Scott which praises the DI for “They have packaged their message much more cleverly”. I think Eugenie would have said much more about the content of their package, but that wouldn’t get published in a Wilgoren article.

What happened to her? She got promoted.

Nothing has changed. I don’t expect anything from tonight’s debate other than that, maybe, the world will be made a little worse by the slack assholes of journalism who stand guard to make sure every lie is given the same respect as the truth.

Yes, children, we old people struggled with complex technology too

There was a time when we had to have those new-fangled communications devices explained to us. Here’s a silent film with instructions on those new ‘rotary dial phones’. You may not be familiar with them anymore.

Maybe you’re too modern to want to sit through a slow old silent black and white movie that takes 7 minutes to explain how a dial works. If so, here’s a 10 minute talkie about explaining to grandpa how to use a phone. It’s even more agonizing. Check out the Mid-Atlantic accent used by the woman doing the explaining.

The Democrats are doing it again

I’ve made a few small donations to the Democratic party, and you know what that means: I now receive a flock of email — almost hourly — begging for more donations. And I’ve noticed something ugly about that email. It’s all about fear.

We’ve rightly berated the media for plumping up Trump’s prominence, but the Democrats are doing it, too. Nearly every email is moaning about the polls. The latest is telling me how terrified we should be, because Nate Silver says Trump has a 2 in 5 chance of winning the election. In fact, nearly every email from them is all about the growing power of this ogre who is crushing the opposition and growing in popularity every day, so give us more money.

Just stop it. Of course Trump has a chance; there are a lot of stupid, bigoted people in this country. But I don’t want to hear doom and gloom from his opposition, because it sounds like you’re already giving up. Tell me why the Democratic party is better, what you’ll do if we give you our vote, and how your policies are superior to those of the corrupt orange toad. And most of all, don’t give a good goddamn about the polls. I’m not going to vote for someone because they’re ahead or behind in some poll — that doesn’t influence me in the least, although apparently the Democrats want that to be the major factor in my decision about who I should support, because it’s all they talk about.

Also, I’m more than a little tired of anything to do with Nate Silver, who is the political equivalent of a horse racing tout. Don’t care. Shut up about polls, tell me more about policy.

My hero

Elizabeth Warren is completely on point in grilling the Wells Fargo CEO, John Stumpf, who profited from fraud and still has his job, as do all of his cronies. This is a beautiful examination.

Unfortunately, whoever uploaded this video claims she DESTROYS him. No, she doesn’t. He has gone home to his mansion, will continue to rake in the cash from his corrupt bank, and will probably get together with his obscenely wealthy pals at the country club to cuss out ‘Pocahantas’, because that’s the way the system works.

If there were justice, he wouldn’t be destroyed. He’d be going to jail, his money would be seized, and Wells Fargo would be broken up.

A good list of bad news sites

I agree with Ed Brayton: these so-called news sites truly suck.

Occupy Democrats
Bipartisan Report
Winning Democrats
PoliticusUSA
Blue Nation Review
IfYouOnlyNews
USUncut
The Freethought Project
Addicting Info
LiberalAmerica
Newslo
Politicalo (almost anything that ends on lo; these sites specialize in taking accurate statements from politicians and then adding false quotes to them that are much worse than what they actually said)
DailyNewsBin
theintellectualist
Being Liberal
American Newsx
The Other 98%

There are others. I notice that he forgot to include the Fox network (anything owned by Rupert Murdoch, actually), Breitbart, and World Net Daily.

Every once in a while, they do say something interesting or newsworthy, but they’re so bad otherwise that you still need to check with other, more reliable news sites to verify…so maybe you should be linking to those, anyway.

Were you anxiously awaiting Dr Oz’s assessment of Trump’s health?

I wasn’t. Don’t really care. Knew it was going to be a couple of frauds slapping each others’ backs. Didn’t watch it, and am not going to. Fortunately, Orac suffered for us, and delivers a surprising review: it was exactly as I expected, but in addition, it was boring.

But yeah, it was nothing but a Trump commercial.

Basically, Dr. Oz is every bit as much of a carnival barker as Donald Trump is, and in this instance he helped Trump not only brag about his own health but to insinuate that Clinton is not healthy enough to be President while also allowing Ivanka Trump to air what was basically a campaign commercial for Trump’s childcare proposal. The two were clearly made for each other. It was placebo transparency, making a mockery of transparency norms.

“geyser of mendacious vomit”

Remember “journalism”? I have this vague recollection from the distant past that it was an occupation with standards and a noble calling, but I may have been confusing reality with Spencer Tracy and Kate Hepburn movies. Unfortunately, right now television newscasting (and the New York Times) is doing it’s best to flush what reputation it had down the sewer, and is doing so at the worst possible time.

At least we’ve still got Samantha Bee and a few print journalists doing their best to do what journalists are supposed to do.

I bet there’s a book somewhere that discusses the corrupting influence of television “news” and the crappy 24 hour “news” shows on good journalism.

Twenty questions, twenty answers

Sciencedebate.org sent all the presidential candidates a list of 20 questions about science policy, and most of them have sent in their answers. Gary Johnson didn’t bother. Jill Stein did, but I admit, I didn’t bother reading her answers; I have no intention of voting for her, so I don’t really care, although she did seem to take the questions seriously and had some lengthy answers. I skimmed Trump’s answers (it was easy; they’re short) mainly as a point of comparison with Clinton’s.

Hillary Clinton gives substantial answers to every questions. Sometimes they aren’t very specific, but even there she hints at positive attitudes. For instance, the question on scientific integrity isn’t very good — of course every candidate supports scientific integrity, or at least says so! — and Clinton doesn’t hit on any specific points, but does say she supports “public access to research results and other scientific information”, which is a good thing. But on the question of immigration, she immediately proposes specific bills to assist qualified people in the tech sector. On climate change, she’s going to set ambitious goals.

Generally, my impression was that she (and her staff) made a serious stab at explaining her policy, with enough details that it’s clear she really has plans. This is what I want from a serious candidate.

Trump, on the other hand, had nothing. He’d too frequently wave his hands (his tiny, tiny hands) at “market solutions” providing the answer to everything. He dismissed serious issues: his reply to the question about climate change begins, There is still much that needs to be investigated in the field of “climate change.” Yes, he actually put it in scare quotes. Fuck him.

OK, I decided I wasn’t being fair to Stein, who put almost as much effort into her answers as Clinton did — I can definitely say she’d be a better candidate than Trump. So I looked at some of her longer answers. She lost me with her strategy for protecting biodiversity: Label GMOs, and put a moratorium on new GMOs and pesticides until they are proven safe.. Nope. Sorry. Does she even realize that GMOs are a fantastic tool for reducing reliance on pesticides?