lying in ponds
The absurdity of partisanship
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January 2005 Archive

Monday 31 January 2005

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DOWD-JACOBY ON TORTURE: It's not very common for Maureen Dowd and Jeff Jacoby to write similar columns, but that's what happened yesterday. Both columnists responded to shocking new allegations of mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo. Here's Ms. Dowd:
Who are these women? Who allows this to happen? Why don't the officers who allow it get into trouble? Why do Rummy and Paul Wolfowitz still have their jobs?

The military did not deny the specifics, but said the prisoners were treated "humanely" and in a way consistent "with legal obligations prohibiting torture." However the Bush White House is redefining torture these days, the point is this: Such behavior degrades the women who are doing it, the men they are doing it to, and the country they are doing it for.

And here's Mr. Jacoby:

If this were happening on a Democratic president's watch, the criticism from Republicans and conservatives would be deafening. Why the near-silence now? Who has better reason to be outraged by this scandal than those of us who support the war? More than anyone, it is the war hawks who should be infuriated by it. It shouldn't have taken me this long to say so.


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Sunday 30 January 2005

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Saturday 29 January 2005

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Friday 28 January 2005

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Thursday 27 January 2005

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Wednesday 26 January 2005

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CALIFORNIA: I'm leaving this morning for a quick business trip to California, to discuss modeling of the winds in the Altamont Pass with some colleagues at UC Davis. I went to first and second grade in San Diego, but it's been a long time since I've set foot in the state. I'll have to catch up on columns this weekend.

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Tuesday 25 January 2005

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UNPRETENTIOUS, LEFT-LEANING NICE GUY: Both Donald Luskin and Brendan Nyhan have been extremely nice to me, so I'm not very happy that a post of mine with some mild criticism of Mr. Nyhan has led to a very unfair attack on him by Mr. Luskin on the issue of Paul Krugman and Social Security. Mr. Nyhan responded at length. I mostly agree with Mr. Luskin's dim view of Paul Krugman, but I've interacted with Brendan Nyhan by e-mail and met him once in person, and he's not "pretentious" and not a "twerp".

Each of the three Spinsanity guys freely discloses their liberal political background, but their four years of work clearly demonstrates their willingess to attack icons of the left such as Michael Moore, and even Paul Krugman on occasion. If you look at the current main page of Mr. Nyhan's blog, you'll find plenty of criticism of Republicans and conservatives, but also criticism of Maureen Dowd, Terry McAuliffe, Cynthia McKinney and Bill Clinton. If I evaluated him as a Lying in Ponds pundit, I assume Mr. Nyhan would look like Richard Cohen or Michael Kinsley, left-leaning but independent.

In his post, Mr. Nyhan also discusses his view of Paul Krugman and partisanship, and I will have to disagree with him when I have time for a full explanation.

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Monday 24 January 2005

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FOUR-COLUMN FINALE: William Safire ended his 30-year run on The New York Times editorial page today with a farewell set of four columns. As I said back in November, I have always admired Mr. Safire's independence and style. Unfortunately, he has often been unwilling to issue a correction of make an apology when his many accusations against political figures have not panned out.

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Sunday 23 January 2005

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Saturday 22 January 2005

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Friday 21 January 2005

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THANK YOU, SPINSANITY: My favorite fact-checking website, Spinsanity, hadn't been updated since just after the election, and I was afraid that they might be considering ending it. The announcement finally arrived:
We want to let you, our readers, know that we have decided to stop updating Spinsanity. Since March 2001, we've poured vast amounts of our time into this site, writing more than 400 articles as well as a book. It has been a rewarding but exhausting process, and after much reflection, we have decided not to continue the website. We will make sure our complete archive remains online as a resource for citizens and journalists, and have completed a final update of our topical index that presents an annotated guide to our body of work.

Ben Fritz, Bryan Keefer and Brendan Nyhan did an outstanding job and provided an excellent resource of factual, objective political analysis. It was hard work, and it's certainly understandable that they are ready to pursue other things. Best of luck to each of them . .

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Thursday 20 January 2005

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Wednesday 19 January 2005

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JOB PROSPECT FOR CONASON: Columnist Joe Conason has a new job:
American Prospect Executive Editor Michael Tomasky announced today that the Prospect has hired Joe Conason to serve in a new position as the magazine's Investigative Editor. Conason, the well-known investigative journalist, political columnist, and best-selling author, will oversee the Prospect's new emphasis on investigative reporting. He will assign, edit, and write articles, and he will join the magazine formally on January 24.

I don't know if that means he will stop writing his column or not.

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Tuesday 18 January 2005

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DOUGHNUTS AND BLOGGING: I've signed up to attend the Triangle Bloggers Conference in Chapel Hill next month. I've never been to one, so it will be fun to see famous NC bloggers like Ed Cone.

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Monday 17 January 2005

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PAULY "ONE-NOTE": Brendan Nyhan takes issue with the "casual disdain" expressed by ABC's The Note toward Paul Krugman, which referred to him as Pauly "One-Note" Krugman:
Krugman is consistently anti-Bush; therefore his writing is dismissed as partisan hackery even when it's not. What's sad about this is the press has a pitiful level of understanding of Social Security, and they could learn something from Krugman, one of the top economists alive (who has written a nice primer on the issue for the online-only Economists' Voice [196K PDF]). Here's a case in point: numerous reporters can't even understand the percentage of income that would be diverted into private accounts. It's certainly true that Krugman sometimes bangs the drum too hard or fails to find fault with liberals, but there's nothing wrong in principle with being a forceful and consistent advocate for your views.

Of course I'm a huge fan's of Spinsanity's work, and I agree strongly with Mr. Nyhan's larger point that the press should pay more attention to the substance of an issue and less on the politics. But I believe that he falls victim here to a very common misconception of Paul Krugman's work. Because Mr. Krugman is an award-winning economist, had shown some willingness to criticize Democrats in the 1990's, and because he doesn't generate the dripping vitriol of Ann Coulter or the lengthy record of deception of Robert Scheer, his writing is erroneously assumed to be free of "partisan hackery".

The only way to discover that his more recent writing has been precisely anti-Republican rather than anti-Bush, and that he has carefully failed to find fault with all Democrats rather than with liberals, is to carefully analyze the entire record of 450+ New York Times columns, and I'm the only person who's been curious enough, or perhaps weird enough, to do that. As I've described in excruciating detail, each of the alternative theories which have been offered for Mr. Krugman's one-sided punditry fail when tested against the data. He doesn't simply criticize those in power -- he wrote over 100 columns during the Clinton administration with almost no Democratic criticism, omitting any mention of the Marc Rich pardon, for example. He doesn't merely dislike the Bush administration -- his 30-1 ratio of negative to positive Republican references this year does not include more gentle treatment of moderates like John McCain (compare Thomas Oliphant or E.J. Dionne). He doesn't simply write about economic issues -- even columns about elections in France have been used to bash Republicans. His columns break down more perfectly along partisan lines than any other Democratic columnist I've examined, including Robert Scheer, Molly Ivins and Joe Conason -- no small feat. Paul Krugman's five years of NYT columns have been exceptionally partisan; it's just not a close call.

Remember when The Blues Brothers asked the bar owner's wife what kind of music they played there? She said "Oh we have both kinds, Country and Western". Perhaps it's unfair to say that Paul Krugman is "one-note", because he actually plays two notes -- he both criticizes Republicans and praises Democrats.

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Sunday 16 January 2005

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Saturday 15 January 2005

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Friday 14 January 2005

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Thursday 13 January 2005

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INDEPENDENCE: Armstrong Williams is not on the Lying in Ponds roster, but David Corn reports that he said that there might be other pundits accepting money from the Bush administration without disclosure. If Mr. Williams had been on the roster, I would have dropped him, on the grounds that he could no longer even pretend to be independent. Several of our pundits have weighed in -- Clarence Page, Harold Meyerson, Kathleen Parker, Linda Chavez, Michelle Malkin, and George Will. I was particularly interested in something Ms. Parker said:
The deal was that Williams would devote some airtime to promoting the Bush administration's "No Child Left Behind" education-reform program on his syndicated television show and interview Education Department officials from time to time. The rub came when Williams also promoted the program in his syndicated column, which, given its play in the journalism arena, is perceived as an independent voice.

I've argued here that all of our political columnists claim to be independent, that truly independent voices from the left and right are vital, and that the excessive partisanship shown by the gorillas of shrillness at the top of the Lying in Ponds rankings amounts to advertising taking the place of journalism. A columnist could choose to sacrifice independence with or without accepting payment -- the money only helps to make the transformation easier to see.

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Wednesday 12 January 2005

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Tuesday 11 January 2005

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Monday 10 January 2005

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PARTISAN PUNDITRY 2004: If the final partisanship rankings for this year look familiar, it's not your imagination. Demonstrating extreme partisanship this year were Ann Coulter (82), Paul Krugman (77), Robert Scheer (71) and Molly Ivins (67); last year we had Coulter (81), Krugman (76), Scheer (73) and Ivins (73). Linda Chavez, Mona Charen and Cal Thomas were also repeat performers in the Top Ten. Democratic pundits took four of the first five positions, not surprising given their unlimited opportunities for criticism in a Republican-dominated government.

Despite that, Ann Coulter easily won her second consecutive partisanship title, mostly because of her relentlessly one-sided criticism of the Democratic Party. Her ratio of 70 negative references to Democrats for every positive reference (1058 to 15) is unprecedented in the three years of Lying in Ponds statistics. Ms. Coulter was simultaneously the most positive pundit toward George W. Bush and the most negative toward John Kerry. In addition to extreme partisanship, Ms. Coulter stands out because of her array of nasty personal attacks -- she referred to various Democratic presidential candidates as a "pacifist scaredy-cat", "crazier than a March hare", a "two-faced weasel", a "coward", a "cad and a gigolo", a "low-born poseur", a "poodle to rich women", and "boobs". In addition to partisanship and incivility, Ms. Coulter is a master of deceptive and irrational rhetoric.

Paul Krugman completed another year as a New York Times columnist, making it five full years of punditry without once finding a reason to write a column consisting mostly of substantive criticsm of any Democrat on any topic or substantive praise of any Republican on any topic. Although Mr. Krugman's utterly predictable criticism of Republicans is unsurpassed, his high ranking also depends on a careful protection of Democrats. He expressed a strong preference for Howard Dean and Wesley Clark, but once John Kerry took the lead in the race for the Democratic nomination, Mr. Krugman turned on a dime and was more favorable toward Mr. Kerry than any of our 33 pundits. He has carefully avoided any mention of Democratic scandals, adding disgraced former New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey to a long list of names which must not be mentioned -- Marc Rich, Al Sharpton, Robert Torricelli, etc. Back in March, I wrote a five part series exploring various aspects of Paul Krugman's amazing record of extreme partisanship.

Robert Scheer, Molly Ivins and Joe Conason are each drearily reliable Democratic partisans. Mr. Scheer has a lengthy record of deception, but is less generous with praise for Democrats than the others and wrote a relatively nuanced assessment of Ronald Reagan. Ms. Ivins dresses up her partisan rhetoric with colorful language; she uses "damn" and "hell" more than any other columnist. Mr. Conason was new to Lying in Ponds this year; he stands out for his almost Krugmanian level of reverence for Democrats.

Linda Chavez and Charles Krauthammer were drearily reliable Republican partisans this year, although they were less partisan last year. Ms. Chavez was the second most positive toward George W. Bush, trailing only Ann Coulter. Mr. Krauthammer has been busy building a record of manipulating quotes and questioning the sanity of his political opponents.

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Sunday 9 January 2005

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Saturday 8 January 2005

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Friday 7 January 2005

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NEXT WEEK: I had hoped to post the year-end review this week, but various things got in the way. I promise that the third annual review of partisan punditry will appear next week.

MORE MBA LINKS: I've added links to the complete current list of Media Bloggers Association members to the blogroll. Check 'em out.

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Thursday 6 January 2005

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DECIPHERING THE IVINS FORMULA: My wife and daughter and I enjoyed watching the excellent PBS program Do You Speak American? last night. In a segment on Texas, Robert MacNeil introduced our own Molly Ivins this way:
Though Texans are far from formal, this is the only place in my travels where I have to wear a jacket and tie. I'm here to meet an old friend -- that redoubtable writer, columnist, commentator and scourge of all politicians -- particularly male ones -- Molly Ivins. Because no one talks better about Texas language than Molly.

Of course that made me straighten right up in my plastic $5 Wal-Mart chair, because the analysis of the last two years of Molly Ivins columns leaves absolutely no doubt that she is not a scourge of all politicians, nor of male politicians. She was the fifth most postive columnist toward John Kerry in 2004, and the 3rd most negative toward George W. Bush. I don't see a single negative reference in 2004 to a Democratic woman, but there are positive references to Ann Richards, Hillary Clinton, Teresa Kerry and Dianne Feinstein. There has not been a single positive reference to a Republican woman, but there are negative references to Wendy Gramm, Condoleezza Rice, Elaine Chao, and Phyllis Schafly. As the fourth most partisan pundit in the rankings, Ms. Ivins' writing actually follows a very simple pattern -- Republican politicians are bad and Democratic politicians are good.

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Wednesday 5 January 2005

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Tuesday 4 January 2005

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MEDIA BLOGGERS ASSOCIATION ANNOUNCES TSUNAMI VIDEO HOSTING INITIATIVE: Here's an important effort from the MBA:

The Media Bloggers Association, in partnership with Zubr Communications, launched today the Tsunami Video Hosting Initiative, a public service offered in response to concerns over bandwidth issues facing bloggers doing a tremendous public service by providing video of the tsunami to the world.

The Tsunami Video Hosting Initiative is a "distributed content-broker" system that matches web hosts willing to donate server space and bandwidth with bloggers and other Tsunami video sources looking to defray their cost of hosting Tsunami video. ZubrCom has led the way by donating its services in development of the Content-Broker system as well as server space and transfer capacity.

"When the word went out that bloggers needed help dealing with the high cost of bandwidth from hosting Tsunami video," said Robert Cox of the Media Bloggers Association, "the MBA saw an opportunity to fulfill its mission by supporting citizen's media and hyperlocal news reporting by bloggers. Rather than leave it to bloggers to beg for cost reductions from their ISPs, the MBA is matching willing ISPs with willing bloggers and other video sources."

Web Hosts can donate specified amounts of storage and bandwidth. All donors will receive a mention on the Tsunami Video Hosting Initiative home page.

Check out the Tsunami Video Hosting Initiative home page.

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Monday 3 January 2005

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Sunday 2 January 2005

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Saturday 1 January 2005

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