Tag Archives: journalism

Does the unrest in Saudi Arabia mean their government is tottering?

Summary: The Saudi Princes rule one of the nations key to the current geopolitical order. Recent news stories suggest it is tottering, such as the execution of a reformist Shiite cleric. A close look at authoritative sources gives the answer, one that also illuminates other questions about current events.

Saud flag

Saudi execution of Shia cleric sparks outrage in Middle East
The Guardian, 2 January 2016

The Iranian government and religious leaders across the Middle East have condemned Saudi Arabia’s execution of a prominent Shia cleric {Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr} and warned of repercussions that could bring down the country’s royal family.

Nimr had long been regarded as the most vocal Shia leader in the eastern Saudi province of Qatif, willing to publicly criticise the ruling al-Saud family and call for elections. He was, however, careful to avoid calling for violence, analysts say. That did not prevent the interior ministry from accusing him of being behind attacks on police, alongside a group of other suspects it said were working on behalf of Iran, the kingdom’s main regional rival.

… The execution was described as a “grave mistake” by the Supreme Islamic Shia Council in Lebanon and a “flagrant violation of human rights” by Yemen’s Houthi movement. … Iran’s Shia leadership said the execution of Nimr “would cost Saudi Arabia dearly”.

…Nimr was one of 47 people Saudi Arabian executed for terrorism on Friday. The interior ministry said most of those killed were involved in a series of al-Qaida attacks between 2003 and 2006. … The simultaneous execution of 47 people on security grounds was the biggest such event in Saudi Arabia since the 1980 killing of 63 jihadi rebels who seized Mecca’s Grand Mosque in 1979.

The Mehr News Agency reports strong words by Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Jaber Ansari…

The Iranian diplomat lamented that while Takfiri and extremist terrorists have disrupted peace in the region and the whole world, executing an unarmed dissident who just criticized the Saudi regime for religious and political issues depicts a total lack of wisdom and shrewdness among Saudies. Jaber Ansari categorically condemned the move and drew attentions to the fact that Saudis, who support and feed terrorists and extremists Takfiries in other countries, are very authoritarian and repressive in dealing with their home dissidents.

Mehr quotes strong language by Ayatollah Seyyed Ahmad Khatami, a senior member of Iran’s Assembly of Experts:

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What we learned from the freak storm that “melted the North Pole” on December 30

Summary: Let’s compare the news about weather with data and scientists’ analysis. Sad see how ideology plus desperation for readers has brought talented journalists to write clickbait. No wonder their credibility has collapsed. Worse, after 26 years of this exaggerated reporting the public rates climate change near or at the bottom of their policy priorities.

“As to the permanent interest of individuals in the aggregate interests of the community, and in the proverbial maxim, that honesty is the best policy, present temptation is often found to be an overmatch for those considerations.”
— James Madison’s Speech in the Virginia Constitutional Convention, 2 December 1829.

Polar Ice Caps are melting

Contents

  1. Journalists warm up the story
  2. Stories after the storm
  3. Weather Porn
  4. Did the North Pole melt?
  5. Conclusions
  6. Other posts in this series
  7. For More Information

(1)  Journalists warm up the story

It’s time for another round of extreme weather hysteria, this time about the “melting North Pole.” It’s the kind of reporting that has made newspapers and TV news among the least-trusted institutions in America. Let’s start with an example of professionally done journalism to show how far the rot has spread: excerpts from “Freak storm in North Atlantic to lash UK, may push temperatures over 50 degrees above normal at North Pole” by Jason Samenow (editor and meteorologist) at WaPo, 28 December.

“Big Icelandic storms are common in winter, but this one may rank among the strongest and will draw northward an incredible surge of warmth pushing temperatures at the North Pole over 50° above normal.  This is mind-boggling.

… Ahead of the storm, the surge of warm air making a beeline towards the North Pole is astonishing. In the animation {computer model forecast} below, watch the warm temperature departures from normal, portrayed by red shades, explode towards the Pole between Monday and Wednesday.

“It’s as if a bomb went off. And, in fact, it did.”

Samenow demonstrates how weather reporting has become misleading. Forecasts are “mindboggling” and “astonishing”, and their results are described in tabloid-like terms (“a bomb went off”). He makes no comparisons with history to show that this storm looks unusual (see the some actual data below). Predictions create both fear and clicks in modern journalism.

That’s not the oddest aspect of the story. America has thousands of meteorologists and climate scientists, but journalists increasingly turn for lurid copy to climate activists lacking any professional qualifications. Preferencing the analysis of a fiction writer with actual climate scientists is low-grade propaganda, not journalism. But the WaPo does so…

“Environmental blogger Robert Scribbler notes this storm will be linked within a “daisy chain” of two other powerful North Atlantic low pressure systems forming a “truly extreme storm system.” He adds: “The Icelandic coast and near off-shore regions are expected to see heavy precipitation hurled over the island by 90 to 100 mile per hour or stronger winds raging out of 35-40 foot seas. Meanwhile, the UK will find itself in the grips of an extraordinarily strong southerly gale running over the backs of 30 foot swells.”

… Scribbler says such an anomaly “reeks of a human-forced warming of the Earth’s climate”, although some climate scientists aren’t convinced global warming is meaningfully impacting these types of storms.”

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The long slow crash of journalism. How will it affect us?

Summary: The news business will radically change during the next generation, and few seem to see the core problems of overcapacity (both too many companies and too many journalists) and the coming wave of automation. This post takes a brief look at both.

“Reading the morning newspaper is the realist’s morning prayer. One orients one’s attitude toward the world either by God or by what the world is.
— Hegel (1770 – 1831).

E-News

The news business is fine!

Ezra Klein, deacon of established opinion, asks “Is the media becoming a wire service?” They wish that were so. Wire services are still a business. Journalism today repeats one of the common stories of our day: a rich industry faces new competition, but prefers to listen to the band play while its ship sinks.

The obvious fact is that there are too many journalists and news corporations given their market (i.e., advertisers and paid subscribers). For most of its history their business consisted of protected markets — by industry and geographic area — each shielded from serious outside competition.  Technology has vaporized those walls.

Today few care (except the old folks) what the local paper says except about local news (which they will not pay for, and whose ever-fewer local advertisers can support only in a bare bones fashion). Reporters at local news agencies can occasionally break stories, getting their 15 minutes of fame. But that’s not a living.

Meanwhile stockbrokers read the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times, liberals read The Guardian, conservatives read Breitbart and watch the pretty journalists on Fox, professionals read the New York Times, nerds read the splendid analytical work of Der Spiegel when it shows up on their Facebook page, and everybody reads hot stories when broken by the British tabloids (they break an amazingly high fraction of hot American stories).

These giants and the other news giants seem likely to grow, absorbing the audiences of the thousands of other news providers.

The consolidation process works slowly. The Boston Globe had its first issue in 1872 and became one of the nation’s top ten papers. In 1993 the New York Times bought its parent corp. for $1.1 billion (with the Globe its major asset). In 2013 John W. Henry bought it as a hobby and status symbol.  The Washington Post was the core holding of the Graham family, one of the social lions of Washington DC. In 2013 Jeff Bezos bought it for $250 million (i.e., small change to him), probably to boost his status and political influence.

Most news companies will not find angel investors, only new owners that accept growth or austerity. For most the eventual choices are consolidation or slow death.

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Alaska’s climate scientists tell us the rest of the news, what Obama forgot to mention

Summary: Obama journeys to Alaska and says things. Our journalist-stenographers reprint this as news. They do not consult local experts, and so miss an important part of the story. This post gives you the rest of the news.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

Alaska temperatures 1949-2014

From the Alaska Climate Research Center. Click to enlarge.

The great oddity of the climate change campaign is the disinterest of journalists in reporting it well. Stories about our certain doom often omit vital context (e.g., burning off the world’s fossil fuels means the 21st century relies on coal for energy, like the 19thC), forget to mention the IPCC when it disagrees with alarmists (e.g., about the danger of a methane apocalypse), and ignore the host of research facilities studying relevant aspects of our changing world.

We see that last factor at work in journalists’ reporting about Obama’s climate campaign tour of Alaska. Google News shows no stories in the mainstream news mentioning the findings of the Alaska Climate Research Center. I have posted their work in response to previous panicky stories about Alaska melting in 2009, in 2013, and again here.

Here is their Temperature Changes in Alaska page (updated annually; red emphasis added). It’s quite clear.

“This page features the trends in mean annual and seasonal temperatures for Alaska’s first-order observing stations since 1949, the time period for which the most reliable meteorological data are available. The temperature change varies from one climatic zone to another as well as for different seasons. If a linear trend is taken through mean annual temperatures, the average change over the last 6 decades is 3.0°F.

“… Considering just a linear trend can mask some important variability characteristics in the time series. The figure at right shows clearly that this trend is non-linear: a linear trend might have been expected from the fairly steady observed increase of CO2 during this time period. The figure shows the temperature departure from the long-term mean (1949-2009) for all stations. It can be seen that there are large variations from year to year and the 5-year moving average demonstrates large increase in 1976.

“The period 1949 to 1975 was substantially colder than the period from 1977 to 2009, however since 1977 little additional warming has occurred in Alaska with the exception of Barrow and a few other locations. The stepwise shift appearing in the temperature data in 1976 corresponds to a phase shift of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation from a negative phase to a positive phase. Synoptic conditions with the positive phase tend to consist of increased southerly flow and warm air advection into Alaska during the winter, resulting in positive temperature anomalies.”

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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).

 

Contents

  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

Contents

  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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