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By Ken Shepherd | March 31, 2011 | 4:23 PM EDT

Filling in for Martin Bashir on his eponymous program on Thursday, MSNBC's Richard Lui treated viewers to an alarmist environmentalist's take on news of trace amounts of radioactive iodine being detected in milk from cows in two West Coast states. It's believed the radiation is linked to the failed Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan.

After noting that the Environmental Protection Agency has said the levels are "far below an amount that would be considered dangerous," Lui introduced Damon Moglen of Friends of the Earth (FOE), asking him "What do you think of what we're hearing right now with milk being affected?"

The FOE climate and energy project director jumped straight in with his talking points:

By Clay Waters | March 31, 2011 | 4:23 PM EDT

Thursday’s front-page story by New York Times investigative reporter Mike McIntire, “Odd Alliance: Business Lobby And Tea Party.” accused a Tea Party group, the Institute for Liberty, of pushing the agenda of Asia Pulp & Paper, an Indonesian corporation fighting U.S. tariffs.

Whatever the merits of this particular complaint, this sort of prominently placed, hostile investigation of a conservative-friendly group is a specialty of McIntire’s. In a front-page article from September 2010 he went after the group Americans for Job Security, one of a flurry of McIntire exposes on the eve of the 2010 Congressional election cycle on groups with Tea Party ties.

His colleague Michael Luo went further, writing stories about “anonymous donors” trying to help Republicans “buy an election” and hinting the IRS and the Federal Election Commission should take a look at some of the Republican-friendly groups. By contrast, similar stories on Democratic groups were sporadic and belated.

McIntire’s latest story was accompanied by a fanciful flow chart showing the alleged close links between the Institute for Liberty, Frontiers of Freedom, and various other free-market lobbying firms and activist groups, headlined, “A Hidden Lobby For Indonesian Paper?” In Times land, there are no coincidences and everything is connected, at least when it comes to conservative activism.

The Tea Party does not have a presence in Indonesia, where the term evokes cups of orange pekoe and sweet cakes rather than angry citizens in “Don’t Tread on Me” T-shirts.

By Kyle Drennen | March 31, 2011 | 3:51 PM EDT

As Syrian President Bashar al-Assad defiantly refused to implement democratic reforms and his security forces fired on protesters on Wednesday, the networks continued to ignore Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's Sunday comments labeling the dictator as a "reformer."

On Wednesday's CBS Evening News fill-in anchor Erica Hill read a news brief on the latest crackdown by the Syrian government: "There's more turmoil in Syria today after a hard-line speech by President Bashar al-Assad. Instead of announcing reforms, as expected, Assad blamed recent protests on a foreign conspiracy....In the port city of Latakia, witnesses say Syrian troops opened fire during an anti-government protest." Despite Clinton having made her gaffe on CBS's Face the Nation, Hill did not mention it.

By Clay Waters | March 31, 2011 | 3:33 PM EDT

A Wednesday post by economics reporter Catherine Rampell on the paper's Economix blog hits hard at the common liberal target of "extreme" and "stark" income inequality in America: “Inequality Is Most Extreme in Wealth, Not Income.”

Rampell’s word choice sent the message (perhaps unconsciously) that income isn’t earned through hard work or talent but is instead passively and undeservedly “received,” distributed by some nameless but powerful entity.

Typically, comments about rising inequality refer to the stark disparities in incomes of the very highest-paid Americans and everyone. We have observed in several posts, for example, that most of the income gains over the last few decades have gone to the very richest Americans. That means the highest-paid Americans have been claiming a larger and larger share of earnings.

Rampell even composed a chart “showing what percentage of all of America’s income (including capital gains) is going to each of several income classes, today versus previous years.”

By Alex Fitzsimmons | March 31, 2011 | 2:59 PM EDT

Kicking off the March 30 edition of "Last Word," MSNBC anchor Lawrence O'Donnell unleashed a torrent of insults aimed at Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.).

"House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is the most stunningly ignorant member in the history of the Congress," bellowed O'Donnell. "That's right. Eric Cantor revealed today in a press conference that he does not know how a bill becomes a law. Seriously. He doesn't."

By Jack Coleman | March 31, 2011 | 2:21 PM EDT

Never heard of liberal radio host Stephanie Miller? You're about to hear a reason why.

Here's an example of Miller sharing with her listeners earlier this week what she considers humorous. Before playing this, you may want to clear any children -- and pets -- out of earshot.

Audio clip after page break

By Mike Bates | March 31, 2011 | 1:04 PM EDT

It was good economic news on CNN's Newsroom this morning. After a brief mention of radiation in Japan, anchor Carol Costello reported:

Brand new numbers out of the Labor Department this morning. It turns out jobless claims plummeted last week. Down 6,000 to 388,000.

I'm not certain what dictionary CNN news readers use, but "plummet" wouldn't seem to be the right verb.  Merriam-Webster's online reference defines plummet as "to fall perpendicularly" or "to drop sharply and abruptly."  A 1.5 percent reduction in jobless claims quite clearly doesn't meet those definitions.

Moreover, the 6,000 drop figure is "seasonally adjusted" with a Labor Department statistical technique designed to accommodate fluctuations in the job market.  DOL's Employment and Training report included the raw data:

The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 354,301 in the week ending March 26, a decrease of 156 from the previous week.

By Kyle Drennen | March 31, 2011 | 12:39 PM EDT

On Thursday's CBS Early Show, correspondent Nancy Cordes portrayed the Tea Party movement as the cause of the budget stalemate in Congress: "With a government shutdown looming, sources say negotiators are homing in on a package of cuts worth $33 billion. That's roughly what Republican leaders proposed last month, before the Tea Party wing demanded that they double their proposal to 61 billion."

Cordes went on to note how "sniping between party leaders is escalating," which was followed by a clip of House Speaker John Boehner calling on Democrats to "have real negotiations" instead of "rooting for a government shutdown." She then remarked: "Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid snapped back that it was Speaker Boehner who had been holding up negotiations, not him." In a sound bite, Reid said of Boehner: "I'm glad he's returned to the conversation. It's obvious that he has a difficult situation on his hands." Cordes added: "The situation he's talking about is the group of Tea Party freshmen Republicans who are insisting that Boehner hold firm on large cuts."    

By Tom Blumer | March 31, 2011 | 12:20 PM EDT

UPDATE, April 1: Joshua Shapiro, who is "quoted" in the AP article covered in this post, has emailed me and informed me of the following -- 

  • Christopher Rugaber did not speak with him, but instead used text from "a written note that I (Shapiro) produced after the jobless claims report was released."
  • Shapiro is unhappy at my making it appear that he is fooled by establishment press reports. Although I framed my assertions in "if" and "might" to make it clear that I really didn't know, I regret implying that possibility, though of course I had no idea that Rugaber didn't even speak to him.

By using the word "said" without contextualizing it, Rugaber gave readers every reason to believe he spoke with Shapiro. Per Shapiro, he didn't. Rugaber used information that Shapiro framed in a much longer-term context to make current news appear better than it really is. Rugaber's AP report is even more risible than indicated in the post which follows.

This morning, the Associated Press's Christopher Rugaber, in his 9:14 a.m. coverage (saved here at my web host in case it's revised, as well as for fair use and discussion purposes) of today's weekly unemployment claims release by the Department of Labor, found an economist whose reaction was to get all pumped up about the job market:

"The downtrend ... is undeniable," Joshua Shapiro, chief economist at MFR Financial Inc., said. "We believe that this improvement will continue in the weeks and months ahead."

While one of course hopes for improvement in the coming weeks and months, the existence of an "undeniable" downward trend is questionable, as seen below:

By Kurt Schlichter | March 31, 2011 | 12:19 PM EDT

Oscar-winning screenwriter Mark Boal must be thrilled about this whole Libya thing, since he seems to be making a cottage industry out of articles, books and movies about American soldiers and how they are a bunch of incorrigible psychos whose desire to murder everyone they see is constrained only by their limited intellect.  Who knows what doors the latest “kinetic military action” might open for him in Tinseltown.

By Scott Whitlock | March 31, 2011 | 11:38 AM EDT

Good Morning America’s Jon Karl on Thursday used a new study by the liberal Environmental Working Group [EWG] to deride the calls of spending cuts by certain Tea Party Republicans as "hypocritical."

Karl didn’t raise any concerns about hyping the claims of the EWG, an organization that, as Michelle Malkin pointed out in 2002, has railed against hair spray, playgrounds and the conservative journalist John Stossel. Instead, Karl chided these House GOP members for receiving federal money for farm subsidies.

Co-anchor George Stephanopoulos excitedly introduced “[Karl] joins us now with a discovery that may cause some discomfort for some of those members of Congress and their supporters in the Tea Party.”

By Ken Shepherd | March 31, 2011 | 11:27 AM EDT

A best-selling book recounting a four-year-old child's claims to have briefly visited Heaven while under anesthesia for an appendectomy has "On Faith" contributor Susan Jacoby on a tear.

"There really is such a thing as American exceptionalism: we are more gullible than the public in the rest of the developed world," Jacoby groused in a March 30 "The Spirited Atheist" post, part of the "On Faith" website jointly operated by the Washington Post and Newsweek:


By Noel Sheppard | March 31, 2011 | 11:03 AM EDT

Following its controversial decision to ban Andrew Breitbart from publishing articles at its front page, the Huffington Post has found itself in quite a pickle now that one of its regular contributors, comedian Bill Maher, made disgustingly vulgar references to former Alaska governor Sarah Palin.

As NewsBusters previously reported, Breitbart made some comments about President Obama's former green czar Van Jones that precipitated the following hypocritical statement from HuffPo spokesman Mario Ruiz last Thursday (readers are warned of vulgar content in full article):

By Noel Sheppard | March 31, 2011 | 9:54 AM EDT

It was revealed Wednesday evening that the Obama administration sent clandestine CIA operatives to Libya weeks ago to assist rebels in their civil war against Moammar Gaddafi.

Not only did MSNBC's Ed Schultz express his support for this action as well as arming these rebels, he also got into a heated argument with a Nation magazine reporter that compared this operation to the "disastrous dirty wars of the 1980s" bringing up images of Ollie North and the Iran-Contra scandal (video follows with transcript and commentary):

By Lachlan Markay | March 31, 2011 | 9:44 AM EDT

NewsBusters and others have, on many occasions, pointed out the apparent conflict of interest in NBC-Universal and its various media affiliates (both news and entertainment) pushing for policies that would benefit General Electric, who until recently was the majority stakeholder in NBC-U, and still retains a large portion of ownership over the company.

Recent events seem to vindicate that concern. Since the New York Times reported last week that GE paid no taxes in the United States, no "straight news" reporter on NBC has yet mentioned the controversy. NBC's silence suggests, to some, that its news-gathering operation is, to some extent, subordinated to the interests of its parent company.

And though many on the left are disposed to label that slant a bias to the right (since many liberals simple assume that corporations are, by their nature, conservative in their politics), many of GE's ventures not only align with liberal policy objectives, but often use the power of the state, enhanced by liberal economic policies, to promote their own economic agenda.