BROOKE GLADSTONE: Now, you testified about your negotiations with Amazon regarding the Kindle electronic reader. Could you tell us about that?
JIM MORONEY: Somebody was bringing up the Kindle as the solution we should all be focused on. And I love the Kindle. I read books on it all the time. My problem is that after negotiating and negotiating and negotiating, the very best deal we could get from Amazon was to split revenues for whatever price we decided to charge. We could get 30 percent of that money. They get 70 percent.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Wow.
JIM MORONEY: I could have probably lived with that, but there was another clause in there that they would not give me relief on, and that said that they have the right to relicense my content to any portable device, not just an Amazon-owned device, any portable device. In essence, I was giving them a complete licensing agreement for nothing for all of my content, period.
I'm sort of – that’s - give away my future, you know.
If Amazon came back – I thought maybe they'd call today – and said, do you know what, we'll give up on that little clause about the relicensing of your IP, I would have said, okay, you know what - I'll try this thing at 70/30 and see if it works. But nobody called today, as far as I can tell.
Compare that to Apple, who keeps about 35% to 40% of the price of the 99-cent purchase price for a song sold on iTunes. Of course, Apple's main business model is selling iPods while Amazon's main business model is selling content, but even so I'm surprised Amazon is demanding such a high percentage for what still amounts to an untested market. Maybe they figure (probably correctly) that newspapers are desperate enough to go for it?
I can sympathize with all the reporters who have to wait like the rest of us to see the Apple's new iPhone (due out June 29th), but shouldn't a review that starts with "I haven't come closer than a hundred feet to an iPhone..." just stop right there?
Researchers at Kaiser have concluded that more than half the TV ads kids watch are for candy, snacks or fast food, totaling to about 50 hours of ads for junk food per year. (Via Fairyshaman)
In an interview with NPR's On The Media, New York Times Deputy Foreign Editor Ethan Bronner had this to say about what it would take for the Times to decide that Iraq has finally turned into a civil war (question is 3:10 into the interview):
I don't think I could answer that you know, sort of, we need to see X, Y and Z. I think that broadly speaking if it seemed that the sides of conflict in Iraq had separated themselves into full-blown millitias / armies and war was the full-time occupation in Iraq, that would be a civil war and I imagine that's when we would start calling it that.
At a certain point it will, if in fact it grows to the point where the sides have divided into clearly defined groups fighting one another, I mean the government for example is a mix of Sunni, Shia and Kurd. Is it a player in this "civil war" that other people see? It's not clear to me.
I wonder how the Times reconciles this whole Blue vs. Grey definition of civil war with the fact that wars are increasingly being fought by networks of loosely-affiliated like-minded allies rather than clearly defined armies. If they can accept that the US is at war with a "transnational movement of extremist organizations, networks, and individuals" (to quote a recent Defense Department publication) why insist on clearly-defined armies in the case of a civil war? If anything, civil wars have historically been messier and more complicated than other wars, not simpler.
If the Times is waiting for the situation in Iraq to congeal into a simple pie chart before they decide it's in a state of civil war, I expect they'll be waiting quite a while.
Headline in today's Wall Street Journal: Tumbling Markets May Be Reflection Of Strong Growth
The question shouldn't be "Why was Stephen Colbert so rude?" The question should be, "Why is the press gathering to toast a sitting politician in the first place, socializing with the government officials they're supposed to be covering?" How cna you sit there in your formal wear over boeuf and cabernet and maintain an arms-length distance from the person less than an arms-length away from you? The problem with the White House Correspondent's Dinner on Saturday was not the Master of Ceremonies it was the ceremony itself. Democracy requires a vigilant press. It doesn't much need the Friar's Club.
This week's On The Media has a piece on the new website www.healthnewsreview.org, a non-profit site launched last month that rates health news on criteria such as whether the story discusses cost, efficiency and potential harms of treatments, compares to alternative treatments, reveal sources of their information, etc. Ratings are performed by a review board of doctors and other health experts.
I turned on BBC radio yesterday just in time to hear the newscaster say "and a purebred Guernsey cow. Now on to sports..." I caught the reference, but at the time had no idea what he was talking about...
I'm a week late on this news, but I see that NPR has finally started releasing Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me as a podcast, so I don't have to stream it anymore like I've been doing the past year. (They've also started podcasting This I Believe and The Unger Report, among others, and of course On The Media has been podcast for ages.)
Ben Goldacre's latest Guardian column Bad Science has a nice look at how journalists fail to correctly interpret scientific studies, in particular looking at a recent flap over the (lack of a) link found between autism and vaccines. His concluding advice to science journalists and presumably the rest of us:
...if you don't get it then you have only two choices: you can either learn to interpret data yourself and come to your own informed conclusions; or you decide who to trust. Choose wisely.
(By way of Mind Hacks.)
WNYC's On The Media has a great interview with Joe and Shirley Wershba, two of the journalists at CBS working with Edward R. Murrow when he took on Senator Joseph McCarthy in 1954. They're talking about the new film about the confrontation, Good Night, and Good Luck [trailer, review].
One quote from Murrow that I love, in response to the fears a lot of people at CBS had about the consequences of taking on McCarthy: "Terror is right here in this room. No one man can terrorize a whole nation unless we are all his accomplices."
From: Ministry of Truth
Subject: Newspeak update
Please be informed that the phrase Global War on Terrorism is obsoleted in favor of the phrase Global Struggle Against Violent Extremists. Changes will be reflected in the upcoming tenth edition of the Newspeak Dictionary.
I know it's been out for a couple months, but I finally watched Star Wars: Revelations, the all-volunteer fan film set in the Star Wars universe. Man, this ain't your father's fan flick!
The Times Online has just released a transcript of an official Cabinet Office brief that presumably was the basis for the discussion later detailed in the Downing Street Memo they released last month. Unlike the previous leak, this transcript is missing the last page and has been anonymized by the Times to protect the source.
Given that the Downing Street Memo story is just now getting traction in the US media (a month after being leaked) it'll be interesting to see how this new story is handled here, especially given how understandably gun-shy the US media is right now about criticizing the administration without being damn sure the sources can be verified. According to an interview USA Today's Mark Memmott gave On The Media (MP3), the main reason they delayed so long in talking about the first leak was that they couldn't verify the memo themselves.
I've always been skeptical when people said violence in TV shows or video games lead to more violent behavior in children. It's always smacked of hysteria and panic, particularly back when Doom was being blamed for Columbine and other school shootings. Cognitive Daily has just posted a three-part series summarizing a report published by the American Psychological Society that has me convinced I was wrong — there really is an effect and a problem here, especially with regard to violence in TV and video games. CD concludes:
Overall, the research on media violence, whether it was experimental or correlational, has shown a significant correlation between media violence and aggressive behavior. Though the correlations are sometimes small, Anderson and his colleagues point out that they are at least as significant as other behaviors considered to be very risky, such as exposure to asbestos and smoking cigarettes.
It’s clear from the research we have discussed in the last few days that media violence is a significant problem. What’s less clear is precisely what to do about it. Aside from the research on parental intervention, little has been done to determine the best way to address the problem. If the goal is to reduce aggression and violence in the greater society, then more resources should be devoted to finding solutions, rather than only adding to the voluminous literature indicating that a problem exists.
There've been a lot of good 4/1 posts today, but I especially like EFF's press release on the Ninth Circuit's new "one-point journalist test" in the Apple "do bloggers count as journalists when it comes to shield laws" case:
"Historically, the relevant question is whether the author had the intent to use the material - sought, gathered or received - to disseminate information to the public and whether such intent existed at the inception of the newsgathering process," wrote Judge Stephen S. Trott in the opinion. "But in an era when anyone with a computer and Internet connection can publish to the world, the key distinguishing factor is whether the author was wearing pants."
The Court looked to the example of blogger/journalist Jeff Gannon, explaining, "When Mr. Gannon was lobbing softball questions to the President on behalf of Talon News, he was acting just like any other member of the White House press corps — and, critically, he was wearing pants. In Mr. Gannon's other Internet publishing endeavors, however, he did not wear pants, and his activities therefore fall outside the boundaries of journalism."
"But suppose the move is inevitable. Betsy Newmark thinks subscriber fees would 'put a crimp in political blogging.' Perhaps. But then again, perhaps this could all work out in a way that actually improve political blogging. What if the daily news was subscriber-only, but all the news archives were free and open to internet users everywhere? Blogging, it seems, could certainly benefit from slowing things down a bit and doing more commenting on week-old or month-old political stories. And sure, a few big bloggers and institutions would no doubt still buy subscriptions and do 'insta-updates' with off-the-cuff commentary, but the rest of us would have to do a bit more thoughtful analysis/research/reporting and a bit less hyperactive mouse-clicking and 'breaking' updates. That sounds fine to me!"
I rather like this idea, in part because I'm more a "better a day late than a dollar short" than a "shoot from the hip" kind of thinker. An interesting question is what timescale would be most appropriate — I'm thinking the times could gain by a much shorter premium-content model. If today's newspaper really is tomorrow's fishwrap, perhaps the Times would do best by offering the current day's news news via subscription, micropayment or "watch this longer ad" payment and giving the rest away for "free." Bloggers would be more likely to link to articles because they'd know they would still be around in two weeks, people might read a lot more of the history behind a current news event because the old news is more available, and the Times would get both advertising revenue and a great plug for their premium service by adding sidebar forward-links to today's headlines related to the story being read.
While I'm on the subject of skepticism, James Randi has posted an infuriating article about ABC's recent Primetime Live program Is 'John of God' a Healer or a Charlatan? Searching for Hope and Health in a Remote Brazilian Village. Joćo Teixeira, AKA John of God, is a very successful faith-healer — successful in the sense that he makes lots of money and fame by performing standard carney tricks to con desperately ill patients with nothing to lose, not in the sense that he actually heals anybody. As you might guess from the subtitle, ABC's spin is along the lines of "Wow, this is really amazing stuff, and while we can't know for sure we'll bend over backwards to make you believe it's all true."
I'm usually mildly pissed off by junk like this from the press, but something about Randi's commentary really boils my blood this time. Maybe it's the fact that ABC so clearly wanted to interview Randi not to give their audience real insight, not even to provide balance (as if it was appropriate for a so-called "investigative report" to give equal weight between a con artist's lie and facts). They clearly wanted Randi just to provide cover, so they could tell their story and yet still claim to have interviewed a token skeptic (you'll note that Randi doesn't even appear in the print version of the story I link to above.)
Then again, maybe it's Randi's brief description of the personal tragedy con men like this cause that brought it all home:
It must be easier just not to care, but I can't manage that. I must care when I know that John of God will claim more victims, and that I couldn't stop it. Though I earnestly wish it could be different, based on what we know to be the hard facts, David Ames will not recover from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). Lisa Melman will most probably die of breast cancer because she's decided to forego legitimate surgical help. Mathew Ireland's brain tumor will still be there and will probably kill him, too. But Jo?o Teixeira will continue to flourish and be worshiped as a god.
Folks, I was in Mexico City on the plaza outside the shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe when a young peasant father crawled by me along the rough pavement with an obviously dead infant in his arms, swaddled in a tiny white serape. There were twin tracks of blood behind him from his bleeding knees. He was seeking a miracle. Through the adjacent barred window in the basilica I could hear the coin-sorting machines packaging the money that was pouring into the offering boxes inside. I turned away and wept.
In a St. Louis auditorium I stood in the lobby as paramedics treated a heavy elderly woman who lay in a fetal position on the carpet, white-faced and moaning in agony. Moments before she'd been seized in ecstasy in front of faith healer "Reverend" W. V. Grant, leaping up and down in an adrenaline rush that made her temporarily oblivious to the bone spurs on her arthritic spine that were cutting into her muscle tissues and bringing about internal bleeding. The attendants got her onto two stretchers and into an ambulance. I wept.
Outside an arena in Anaheim, California, my camera crew approached a tiny, thin, Asian boy with twisted legs on worn crutches to ask him if he'd been healed by Peter Popoff, the miracle-worker who he'd told us two hours earlier was "gonna ask Jesus to fix my legs." When he turned toward us, we saw his tear-streaked face and anguished eyes. The cameraman lowered his camera. "I can't do this," he said, and we both turned away and wept.
I've had my share of tears and sleepless nights, wondering what I might do to keep people from chasing this chimera. I had another chance in New York City on January 25th, 2005, and I tried.
Rather than expose a fraud, ABC wanted to share his limelight. How many more poor, desperate people will go to Brazil because a "reputable news organization" made it sound like a good idea? How many more head of cattle will Joćo Teixeira be able to buy from what he fleeces off the world's most unfortunate? How many more rating points will ABC gain from their complicity in his con game?
ABC has blood on its hands — if they were a responsible news organization they would try to undo the damage they've done.
Yow. Sinclair Broadcasting Group's stock just tumbled by 7.81% today over concerns about lost advertising revenue due to the Stolen Honor flap. To put it into perspective, SPGI's stock price is now the lowest it's been in a decade except for a couple weeks in April of 2001. As Lessig points out, that's a good $60 million they've lost in market cap over this.
The blogsphere is awash with the news that Sinclair Broadcasting Group is telling its 62 TV stations to broadcast an anti-Kerry documentary, released by the newly-merged and renamed Swift Vets and POWs for Truth. Sinclair will show pre-empt regular night programming, including prime-time, and show the program commercial free.
Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo reports that former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt has expressed his "objection and concern" in the matter. Adam Thierer over at The Technology Liberation Front is taking the free-speech line, asking:
Where are the defenders of free speech and the First Amendment? This Sinclair episode should be about the easiest First Amendment case study in the world. Sinclair should be free to air whatever they want, whenever they want, however they want, regardless of what their intentions may be.
He ends with something of a platitude: Free speech for all. No exceptions.
If Sinclair was a website, movie producer, newspaper or even a cable channel I could accept his whole Free speech for all argument. But Sinclair is an over-the-air broadcaster, and thus has been granted a license for exclusive use of a public resource, namely a slice of spectrum, in exchange for providing a public interest, convenience or necessity.
Thierer can argue that it is not appropriate for a government to make such a bargain, and I'm sympathetic to that viewpoint myself. But since Sinclair has long benefited from this agreement and the resulting high barriers to entry for new competition, it's hard to see the sense in his call for universal free speech — unless by "no exceptions" he means I can now set up my own unlicensed TV-broadcast tower without the FCC coming to shut me down. I find it hard to feel sorry for the lap-dog and all her restrictions, while the rest of us farm animals sit out in the rain.
The Living Room Candidate site is a great browse. The best part it's not just a repository — they also provide commentary, how the vote played out, and the ability to browse through different types of ads, like Backfire (using the candidates own words against him later) and the ever-popular Fear.
I saw Fahrenheit 9/11 last Sunday, and to my surprise I wasn't all that impressed. It was still good, but I didn't like it nearly as much as I liked Roger & Me or Bowling for Columbine.
To some extent I think it's that I had already heard most of this story already. I've been following the play-by-play through the various Congressional hearings, 9/11 commissions, and tell-all books so the only big surprises was in seeing all the video Moore dug up. But the big problem was that the movie lacked the solid focus that Roger and Columbine had.
Roger & Me tells the "simple" story of a city's economic decline and the distant decision-makers who cause it. Columbine wanders around more, but every turn still asks the same question: why are our children dying? Perhaps it's because the story kept shifting as he was making the film, but Fahrenheit 9/11 feels more like a montage. It starts with the story of an incompetent president used to getting whatever he wants from his Daddy's connections, turning to the deep connections between the Bushes and the House of Saud (and for that matter, the Bin Ladens), shifting again to talk about how the rich reap the spoils of wars fought with the blood of the poor, and ending with an Orwellian moral that the only way the haves can keep the have-nots from demanding equality and justice is to keep them frightened by war eternal. These are all solid themes and the movie follows them all reasonably well (though sometimes it got a little too sophomoric for my taste) but when the lights came up I didn't feel like he'd tied them together.
I'll probably see it again before it leaves the theaters and see if I feel the same way the second time. Anyone else feel the same way after seeing it?
I hadn't been following the film since Disney tried to bar Mirimax from distributing it. (Depending on who you believe, that was either because they were worried Jeb Bush would rescind special tax advantages for Disney World or just because Disney was chicken about being associated with controversy.) While I wasn't looking it seems Mirimax's co-chairmen Harvey and Bob Weinstein purchased all worldwide rights from Disney, and the film will be distributed by Lions Gate Films (a Canadian company) along with IFC Films and the Weinstein brothers' own ad-hoc Fellowship Adventure Group.
The trailer looks pretty darned good — film opens nation-wide Friday, June 25th.
Nice article on echo chambers by Dave Weinberger over at Salon. A few key quotes:
Conversations iterate differences within agreement... The fact that conversations start from a base agreement is not a weakness of conversations. In fact, it's a requirement.
No, if you want to see a real echo chamber, open up your daily newspaper or turn on your TV. There you'll find a narrow, self-reinforcing set of views. The fact that these media explicitly present themselves as a forum for objective truth, open to all ideas, makes them far more pernicious than some site designed to let people examine the 8,000 ways Hillary is a bitch or to let fans rage about how much better Spike was on "Buffy" than he'll ever be on "Angel."
We are at a dangerous time in the Internet's history. There are forces that want to turn it into a place where ideas, images and thoughts can be as carefully screened as callers to a radio talk show. The "echo chamber" meme is not only ill-formed, but it also plays into the hands of those who are ready to misconstrue the Net in order to control it. We'd all be better off if we stopped repeating it and let its sound fade.
As most of you have no doubt heard, the MoveOn.org Voter Fund sponsored contest for anti-Bush political ads called Bush In 30 Seconds. The winner was a very nice piece, IMO, called Child's Play, and MoveOn tried to purchase time to play it during the Superbowl halftime tomorrow. CBS refused, claiming they have a policy against airing advocacy ads. (Though apparently some advocacy ads, like the one that will liken the tobacco industry to a company that sells ice cream mixed with shards of glass, is OK.) MoveOn is running the ad on other stations, and is calling on viewers to switch channels to CNN at 8:10pm and 8:35pm EST to watch it — I have to wonder which sponsor CBS plans to saddle with the $1.6 million slots that get caught in these one-minute-boycott periods.
Of all the editorials and discussion on the subject, the bit that interests me most is this segment of Senator Richard Durbin's (D-Il) speech on the Senate floor a few days ago:
Now let's connect all the dots because there is something more direct and topical behind this CBS decision, from my point of view. These are the same executives at CBS who successfully lobbied this Congress to change the FCC rules on TV station ownership to their corporate advantage. The provision that was sneaked into the Omnibus appropriation bill that passed last week and has been signed by the President. It establishes a new ceiling of 39 percent as the maximum percentage of American TV viewers in a market that may be reached by TV stations owned by any one company. Remember that number, 39 percent.
Before the FCC adopted rules in June to raise the cap to 45 percent, the cap was limited to 35 percent. Upset at what the FCC had done, a strong majority in the House and Senate agreed to roll back the FCC rule and take it back down to 35 percent. Why is this important? The White House and the Republicans in this conference on this Omnibus appropriation bill, with no Democrats present, came up with a figure of 39 percent as the new cap--39 percent. What is so magic about 39 percent? Allow me to explain. This wasn't chosen at random; it wasn't a good-faith compromise. No, it just so happens that Viacom, which owns CBS, currently owns stations reaching 38.8 percent of American households, and Rupert Murdoch's news corporation, the owners of that "fair and balanced" Fox Network, owns stations reaching 37.8 percent.
Interesting. Interesting that the White House and Republican leaders in Congress pushed a provision in a spending bill in the dark of night, without Democrats present, that benefited two corporations when it came to their ownership of television stations--Fox, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican Party, and now Viacom, CBS. Both entities currently violate the old FCC limitation. They needed this new language. They would have been forced to sell off stations if their Republican friends in Congress and the White House had not come through for them.
So the White House and the congressional Republicans give CBS a significant corporate favor and CBS rewards them by killing an ad critical of the Bush White House during the Super Bowl. Doesn't that sound like a perfect subject for a "60 Minutes" investigation? Oh, I forget. "60 Minutes" is a CBS program. I don't think we are going to hear about this on "60 Minutes." I don't think Mike Wallace and Lesley Stahl are going to be taking an undercover camera into the boardrooms of CBS to find out what is going on there.
There's been some discussion over at PRESSthink about the idea of individual bloggers adopting a single journalist to follow for the presidential campaign. There are a lot of links and discussion off that site, the post that brought it to my attention was Dave Winer's post that we should track candidates by issue, not the journalists. I agree with Dave, but I don't think we need to make that choice.
The nice thing about blogs is that we don't have to choose between adopting candidates, journalists or issues (zone defense vs. man-to-man, as it were). Bloggers should adopt any combination of candidate, journalist, or issue to watch, and then send those posts to the appropriate aggregator(s).
The nice thing about reading aggregators is we won't be stuck with one blogger's inherently-biased view about a particular subject, nor will we only have mini-experts on the issue at hand. For example, the Krugman aggregator will have posts by the various bloggers who adopt Krugman, but also the occasional post by bloggers who adopt Bush (when they reference a Krugman article) or the middle-class tax cut (when they talk about that topic). And best of all from my perspective, if people start reading aggregators instead of individual blogs they might occasionally stumble across a post with which they disagree, and that sounds like a fine thing to happen.
Update: fixed my link to Dave's post.
Last Friday, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote a rather snide piece on Howard Dean, drawing on his own previous career as a psychiatrist to diagnose what he calls "Bush Derangement Syndrome: the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency -- nay -- the very existence of George W. Bush." With obligatory sideswipe at Barbra Streisand, he paints Dean as a previously sane and intelligent man struck by this new disease, and uses two quotes from recent interviews to back up his tongue-in-cheek diagnosis.
Now I have no problem with snide columnists, though sometimes I wish there weren't quite so many of them. However, I do have problems with columnists who deliberate edit quotes to make readers think something was said that wasn't. Here's one of Krauthammer's quotes — play along at home and see if you can spot where he tries to pull the wool over your eyes:
That's what has researchers so alarmed about Dean. He had none of the usual risk factors: Dean has never opined for a living and has no detectable sense of humor. Even worse is the fact that he is now exhibiting symptoms of a related illness, Murdoch Derangement Syndrome (MDS), in which otherwise normal people believe that their minds are being controlled by a single, very clever Australian.
Chris Matthews: "Would you break up Fox?"
Howard Dean: "On ideological grounds, absolutely yes, but . . . I don't want to answer whether I would break up Fox or not. . . . What I'm going to do is appoint people to the FCC that believe democracy depends on getting information from all portions of the political spectrum, not just one."
Some clinicians consider this delusion — that Americans can get their news from only one part of the political spectrum — the gravest of all. They report that no matter how many times sufferers in padded cells are presented with flash cards with the symbols ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, PBS, Time, Newsweek, New York Times, Washington Post, L.A. Times — they remain unresponsive, some in a terrifying near-catatonic torpor.
If you answered that the trick is with "those suspicious ellipses which broke up Krauthammer's pleasing text" then you've been reading the same Daily Howler articles I have. As the Howler points out, the official transcript for the Hardball interview gives a whole different context than you get from Krauthammer (missing text in bold):
MATTHEWS: ...Ted Kennedy was part of that deregulation, the deregulation of radio. There are so many things that have been deregulated. Is that wrong trend and would you reverse it?
DEAN: I would reverse in some areas.
First of all, 11 companies in this country control 90 percent of what ordinary people are able to read and watch on their television. That's wrong. We need to have a wide variety of opinions in every community. We don't have that because of Michael Powell and what George Bush has tried to do to the FCC.
MATTHEWS: Would you break up Fox?
MATTHEWS: I'm serious.
DEAN: I'm keeping a...
MATTHEWS: Would you break it up? Rupert Murdoch has "The Weekly Standard." It has got a lot of other interests. It has got "The New York Post." Would you break it up?
DEAN: On ideological grounds, absolutely yes, but...
MATTHEWS: No, seriously. As a public policy, would you bring industrial policy to bear and break up these conglomerations of power?
DEAN: I don't want to answer whether I would break up Fox or not,
MATTHEWS: Well, how about large media enterprises?
DEAN: Let me-yes, let me get...
DEAN: The answer to that is yes.
I would say that there is too much penetration by single corporations in media markets all over this country. We need locally-owned radio stations. There are only two or three radio stations left in the state of Vermont where you can get local news anymore. The rest of it is read and ripped from the AP.
MATTHEWS: So what are you going to do about it? You're going to be president of the United States, what are you going to do?
DEAN: What I'm going to do is appoint people to the FCC that believe democracy depends on getting information from all portions of the political spectrum, not just one.
When you see the whole context it's clear that "no detectable sense of humor" Dean was joking when he said he would break up Fox — obvious when you leave in the audience laughter and Matthews' comments of "no, seriously." More importantly, Dean wasn't answering the question "would you break up Fox" but the more general question "would you break up large media companies," a question that conveniently fell between Krauthammer's ellipses. What Krauthammer paints as a liberal conspiracy-theory answer is actually a plainly-stated position on the media consolidation limits currently being debated in Congress. Krauthammer could have honestly argued with Dean's position, as did Chris Matthews, but instead he chose to pretend Dean was answering a different question and then make fun of him.
Krauthammer leads the column with his other quote:
Diane Rehm: "Why do you think he [Bush] is suppressing that [Sept. 11] report?"
Howard Dean: "I don't know. There are many theories about it. The most interesting theory that I've heard so far -- which is nothing more than a theory, it can't be proved -- is that he was warned ahead of time by the Saudis. Now who knows what the real situation is?"
— "The Diane Rehm Show," NPR, Dec. 1
He then builds from the quote to his core accusation:
...When he avers, however, that "the most interesting" theory as to why the president is "suppressing" the Sept. 11 report is that Bush knew about Sept. 11 in advance, it's time to check on thorazine supplies. When Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) first broached this idea before the 2002 primary election, it was considered so nutty it helped make her former representative McKinney. Today the Democratic presidential front-runner professes agnosticism as to whether the president of the United States was tipped off about 9/11 by the Saudis, and it goes unnoticed. The virus is spreading.
Unlike Hardball, The Diane Rehm Show doesn't have an online transcript, but it does have a streaming audio link. The quote in question is between 42:00 and 43:30 (or just listen to the whole interview, it's interesting). Again, here's the full context:
Diane Rehm: "Why do you think he [Bush] is suppressing that [Sept. 11] report?"
Howard Dean: "I don't know. There are many theories about it. The most interesting theory that I've heard so far — which is nothing more than a theory, it can't be proved — is that he was warned ahead of time by the Saudis. Now who knows what the real situation is, but the trouble is by suppressing that kind of information you lead to those kinds of theories, whether they have any truth to them or not. And eventually they get repeated as fact. So I think the president is taking a great risk by suppressing the key information that needs to go to the Kean Commission."
Now it may be that three years in California's liberal environment has addled my brain, but to me it looks like Dean isn't defending the Saudi tip-off theory at all, but is rather saying that even outlandish theories like this one are getting bandied about because Bush hasn't been forthcoming with the evidence of what really did happen.
One might wonder why a Pulitzer prize-winning columnist would use these at best negligent and at worst deliberately deceitful quotes, but donning my own psychologist's lab coat I think I have the answer. If you carefully re-reading Krauthammer's column, it's clear that he has he has subconsciously embedded the true cause of these journalistic lapses:
It has been 25 years since I... was considered so nutty... the very sight of... Thanksgiving turkey... caused dozens of cases of apoplexy. What is worrying... is... the... neurologically hazardous punditry... of... Murdoch... in which otherwise normal people... can get their news from only one part of the political spectrum.
Clearly this column was the product of a disturbed mind, with the psychotic episode triggered by a combination of holiday feasting and too much Fox News.
Actually, scratch my last quote and comment — it was childish and cruel of me to distort Krauthammer's words that way. If I were a professional columnist and not just a blogger, I hope I would be ashamed of myself.