Tag Archives: journalism

News! Journalists doing their job, critically reporting on rising seas & the bee-pocalypse.

Summary: In their desperate race for survival in a world with too many journalists, they’ve given a warm reception to all kinds of doomsters. Events this week suggest that at least some journalists have realized that they have no competitive advantage at clickbait, but that there will always be a market for good journalism — especially when challenging the conventional wisdom.

Janet Leigh as Marion Crane in "Psycho" (1960).



  1. The bee-pocalypse.
  2. The sea rise over our cities.
  3. For more information.


(1)  The coming bee-pocalypse

The story of the bee-pocalypse shows why we’re so poorly misinformed despite the massive growth of the news media, both professional and amateurs. The story has run for years, but with little debunking in the major news media. That they don’t grapple with major stories, especially such easily debunked ones, shows one reason they’re in decline.

For 8 years we’ve heard about death of honey bees (probably due to pesticides) and the resulting wreck of agriculture, told with varying degrees of hysteria by a wide range of publications. Some examples are “Better Planet: Beepocalypse. Can we save honey bees from Colony Collapse Disorder?“ by Josie Glausiusz in Discover (July 2007),  “Honey bee apocalypse may not be caused by evil corporations after all” by George Dvorsky at io9 (June 2012) and “The New Silent Spring: America is one bad winter away from a food disaster, thanks to dying bees“ by Todd Woody at Quartz (May 2013).

Feeding the hysteria, Bryan Walsh wrote incendiary articles at the once-great Time magazine…

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A post-holiday bulletin: government fear-mongering makes us less prepared!

Summary:  We’ve survived yet another brush with death from terror, although we disregarded the barrage of warnings on cable news to wet our pants on command of the FBI. There are lessons from this, if we wish to learn. Fear-mongering makes us less prepared for the eventual attack.  This is a post-holiday follow-up to Prepare for terror on the 4th of July!  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

“Tell the world. Tell this to everybody, wherever they are. Watch the skies everywhere. Keep looking. Keep watching the skies.”
— Last line in The Thing from Another World (1951)

While waiting for ISIS to attack the San Francisco Bay Area, our household held a festival of 1950’s science fiction films. In them generals often ordered “If you see a UFO, shoot it down!” (without knowing why they came). For breaks we switched from 1950’s government-manufactured fear to cable news — to see 21st century government manufactured fear.

The different is that this time we have learned, through repetition, to ignore these warnings. Yet we have not learned sufficiently to see that we pay for the vast apparatus that creates these warnings. We pay for the endless stream of fake terror cells — recruited, trained, sponsored, and busted by the FBI — for the legions of clerks who write the bogus analysis and press releases — and for the suits who solemnly recite evidence-less warnings to “be vigilant.”

Covering their asses, desensitizing us to real warnings

It’s the principal-agent conflict at work. it’s in the best interest of the government security officials to give countless warnings, so that the eventual real attack (large or small) will be covered. This means that their warnings become disregarded but expensive-to-produce noise. Only adult supervision from the White House and Congress can help, and they show no interest in doing so.

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Choose your facts: learn about the El Niño from journalists or activists

Summary: Today we look at news coverage of the weather, another demonstration of our bad info diet. Friday’s post contrasted reporting about the new El Niño by NOAA with that by activists. Today we contrast reporting by climate alarmist (amateurs’ analysis) with that by the major news media.  (1st of 2 posts today.)

Graphic of El Nino


  1. Activists’ climate porn.
  2. Good journalism.
  3. Sound analysis.
  4. For More Information.
  5. What is an El Niño?

(1)  Activists give us climate porn

Like those on the Right, Leftists often get their information from tribal sources that filter the news, crafting it into stories that stoke the faithful. Such as “Super El Nino Likely as Huge Warm Water Wave Hits West Coast, Extreme Marine Die Off Developing” by George Birchard (geochemist; bio here), Daily Kos.

In early March, the strongest wave of tropical convection ever measured (known as the Madden Julian Oscillation) by modern meteorology moved into the western Pacific … Last year the largest Kelvin wave ever seen in the Pacific ocean developed …

This has little resemblance to the reports from NOAA. He does not mention that records on El Niño only go back to 1950, and satellite records back to 1979 — brief periods as climate cycles go. No mention of the Spring prediction barrier, which make forecasts less reliable at this time. No mention that this cycle differs in many ways from those on record, making predictions less reliable. Nothing comparing the size of cycles during the past 60 years.

Those who prefer straight climate porn turn to Robert Marston Fanney (fantasy writer; bio here) at his blog RobertScribbler (“Scribbling for economic, social, and environmental justice”). Despite having no visible background in climate science, last year he ignited the Left’s hysteria about a monster super El Nino (which didn’t happen).

He tries again this year with “Summer El Nino on The Way; Long Range Models Are Still Freaking Out“. Although better than his bizarre columns last year about El Nino, it’s still vivid and misleading. Here’s an example…

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The day after Hersh: rebuttals & more evidence about the bin Laden hit

Summary: On Sunday the London Review of Books published Hersh’s article trashing Obama’s story about the raid to kill bin Laden. The next day told us much about America, with the reflexive denials by government officials, their support by the government’s fanboys, and the rapid arrival of more evidence supporting Hersh’s analysis.  {1st of 2 posts today.} Obama officially announces bin Laden's death


  1. The lesson we refuse to learn.
  2. The government’s fanboys speak!
  3. Supporting evidence.
  4. Other posts in this series.
  5. For More Information.

(1)  The lesson we refuse to learn

Seymour Hersh’s “The Killing of Osama bin Laden” and Americans’ response to it illustrates what I wrote about in both of yesterday’s posts. By now a large body of evidence refutes key elements of the government’s story about the bin Laden hit, the books about it, and the film Zero Dark Thirty. It’s the most useful news story of 2015, an opportunity for us to learn so that we do not swallow the next lie. On the other hand, this is just another on the long list of lies about key events — a defining characteristic of the post-WWII era. By now the every American should know that The first rule of American war is not to believe what we’re told. It’s a lesson we seem unable to learn.

(2)  Immediate denials from the government & its fanboys

As always, reports of government lies are met by denials by government officials. Like Pavlov’s dogs, the government fanboys (geopolitical experts, journalists, Wall Street gurus) immediately bark in support. Max Fisher at Vox ( (who was in turn brutally taken down by journalist Corey Pein. “Given the current climate in the US, it’s hard to imagine worthwhile investigative reporting on intelligence and foreign policy that doesn’t make some use of such {anonymous} sources.”). Peter Bergen at CNN. Max Boot at Commentary (he’s not always wrong). Quartz asks questions with obvious answers (questions that Hersh answered).  Most of this is dressed-up incredulity, neither analysis nor fact-checking. This resembles the waves of mockery that greeted the revelations by Snowden about NSA surveilance. Three years later we see that Snowden was largely correct. Of course there have been few (no?) admissions of error by his critics. Much depends on how many Americans have learned skepticism from the events since 9/11. Our reaction to Hersh’s story will provide an answer.

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Politics in modern America: A users’ guide for journalists and reformers

Summary:  The posts this week mark a conclusion to years of analysis on the FM website, as I struggle to understand what’s happening to America. The last piece of the puzzle came with my absurdly slow realization that Fox News is the model news provider for our New America. This is the fourth and last in a series briefly describing where we are, and what I personally am attempting to do about it. These posts rarely speak in the first person, but this is the exception.

American Power



  1. A look at America’s classes
  2. The mass market for information
  3. Another path
  4. For More Information


(1)  A look at America’s classes

Many American do not know the strength of the class system in America during the Gilded Age, before its disruption by WWII and the creation afterwards of a large middle class. For an entertaining introduction, I recommend watching Stella Dallas, with Barbara Stanwyck in the title role (1937). It describes the powerful role of class in our past, and perhaps in our future.

Time has disproved most of Marx’s economics, but it has validated much of his sociology. George Orwell gives us an updated model of a class structure that fits our America. There is the bourgeois, the top few percent who own most of America (the 1% own over a third; the top 3% over half). There is the inner party, the highly-paid senior leadership of our political and corporate institutions. There is the outer party of managers and professionals. There are the proles, America’s workers and its underclass.

The bourgeois and inner party are the insiders. They have a common interest with their peers in preserving the political and social systems that have given them so much, so most are conservative in the literal meaning of the term. They desire tinkering with the details, shifting America to the Left or Right — but not radical change. They have leisure time, autonomy, and agency (the ability to influence events), which gives them a perspective on the world radically different than that of the lower classes.

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Good news: the warming pause finally appears in the news as journalists learn about science.

Summary:  Telling the public about climate change is among the most difficult challenges for journalists, ever. Complex, rapidly changing, no consensus among scientists beyond a few basics about mechanisms and history, and highly politicized. Here we look at two examples, good and not-so-good. These show progress, and also how the Left’s dogmatic adherence to its narrative has forced them to abandon science (a commonplace in history for both Left and Right).

Community Climate System Model

Community Climate System Model

(1)  Good journalism

Sample #1: “Scientists now know why global warming has slowed down and it’s not good news for us“, Jeffery DelViscio, Quartz, 27 February 2015.

They accurately report two studies. They quote scientists — not activists. They often put things in context. Most important, they break the Left’s narrative of denying the pause, which for several years been one of the hot topics in climate science.

Roberts told Quartz that this all suggests our current warming pause is unique, but, despite the low probability, it is also “very possible” that the pause could continue a few more years. And that wouldn’t be inconsistent with what we know about the effects of the heat-trapping ocean oscillations at work in the Science study.

… >Some even say that 2014, the hottest year on record, already marked the end of the hiatus. But Roberts of the Met Office advised caution before calling it officially off. “I would argue that we need a run of several unusually warm years to be able to definitively identify the end,” he said.

All of the researchers who spoke to Quartz about the two studies agreed that the warming pause was just that. “Eventually we expect temperatures to ‘catch up,’ but it may take longer than five years for that to happen,” Roberts told Quartz.

The article’s overall frame is, however, incorrect. Individual scientists have theories about the cause(s) of the pause. But there is as yet no consensus on this. See for yourself by reading abstracts of (and links to) 37 articles describing of the major 12 theories about causes of the pause, many by leaders in this field.

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See how the news shapes our beliefs about the North Korea hack

Summary:  Hot stories like North Korea’s (alleged) attack on Sony show how the government officials and journalists shape our opinions. Open source information and analysis can provide alternative perspectives, helping us better understand our world. But this, by itself, provides only better entertainment unless we act upon it. We can learn to do better by learning from these events, a necessity for those seeking to reform America from the plutocracy it’s becoming. This is the 4th post in this series about the Sony hack; see links to the others at the end.

The Information Age offers much to mankind, and I would like to think that we will rise to the challenges it presents. But it is vital to remember that information — in the sense of raw data — is not knowledge, that knowledge is not wisdom, and that wisdom is not foresight. But information is the first essential step to all of these.

— Sir Arthur C. Clarke interviewed by Nalaka Gunawardene, once posted at OneWorld, 5 December 2003



  1. Why the government wins these debates
  2. Journalists struggle to understand the hack
  3. Sources of useful information
  4. Reminders about the big picture
  5. For More Information
  6. Better networks are the first step to reform

(1)  Why the government wins these debates


“I have seen too many situations where government officials claimed a high degree of confidence as to the source, intent, and scope of an attack, and it turned out they were wrong on every aspect of it. That is, they were often wrong, but never in doubt.”

— A former Justice Department official involved with critical infrastructure protection, quoted in the NAS study “Technology, Policy, Law, and Ethics Regarding U.S. Acquisition and Use of Cyberattack Capabilities” (2009)

Open source provides an alternative to government pronouncements, but it’s useless information since we have no mechanisms to use it.

US experts tend to treat US government official’s words — even when anonymous — as gospel. National security and geopolitical experts are especially obedient (as economists are to the Fed, for similar reasons). That’s important, since experts provide the analysis which the news media features to explain events. As we see in other issues (e.g., climate change from 1989 until after 2010), journalists acts as gatekeepers to the mass mind. They filter what we learn to maintain the narrative. No matter how qualified the expert, journalists will mute voices dissenting from the narrative — unless powerful political interests intervene (as the GOP has, highlighting the views of skeptical scientists in the climate wars).

The government wins because they overwhelm the news flow, and confusion about complex matters forces people to trust somebody. And a majority reliably will decide to do nothing, and let the government handle it. Our only recourse is to find people whom we can trust for reliable information and analysis, no matter how unpalatable.

(2)  Journalists struggle to understand the hack


Here are some of the most interesting bits from the flood of propaganda, noise, and information about the Sony hack.

Here’s a fascinating dissection of an early New York Times story about the hack, by the pseudonymous “Jericho”: “Anatomy of a NYT Piece on the Sony Hack and Attribution“, 19 December 2014. It shows the skill journalists use to create the shiny narratives that package information for us.

Was North Korea behind the Sony hack? Not all experts agree.“, Christian Science Monitor, 22 December 2014 —  “Some cyber specialists aren’t convinced that North Korea was the culprit. One critic calls the the FBI’s evidence ‘weak’ and ‘at best, speculation.’ Others back the FBI claims.” Pro-FBI article pretending to be skeptical.

An excellent and balanced follow-up by Kim Zetter to her first article: “Experts Are Still Divided on Whether North Korea Is Behind Sony Attack“, Wired, 23 December 2014

The New York Times shifts the debate to the government’s side: “When Does a Cyberattack Warrant a Military Response?“, 23 December 2014. US foreign policy has become largely a question of who we attack next, and how.

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