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etc. - a little of this, a little of that - by Oliver Del Signore

Archive for the ‘News Media’ Category


Dear Matt Damon, I’m reasonably sure you’ll never see this, but…

Monday, December 12th, 2011

Dear Matt Damon,

I’m reasonably sure you’ll never see this, but after reading the Parade Magazine piece about you yesterday (How Matt Damon Tamed the Celebrity Beast), I just had to write it.

Until I read the story, I confess I did not know your wife’s name or that you two have four beautiful daughters. (Though I’ve never seen a photo of them, I know they are beautiful because all daughters are beautiful, and any man who would suggest otherwise is a cad and unworthy of the attention of anyone’s daughter, ever.) The truth is, I had no idea you were even married.

While I’m sure there may be others in your profession who lead similar lives, I found it refreshing to discover that in this day and age,  there was a performer of your caliber and fame who eschewed the “Hollywood” life in favor of his family. I expect that your children will grow up far more centered in the really important things in life instead of following in the footsteps of someone like Lindsay Lohan, for whom, I would wager, a month or two spent with you and your family would have a far more positive effect than all the jail and probation and rehab and  counseling in the world.

My familiarity with the tabloids you so studiously, or are lucky enough to avoid is limited to laughing at the headlines I see while waiting in the checkout line during those times when I cannot avoid being dragged to the grocery store by my own lovely wife. It’s easy to see why you are happy to be off their radar screens. What a shame folks are offered features like “This one catches that one doing whatever with whomever and her dog” instead of “Superstar still married after six years! ‘I love playing in the park with my girls’ he says.” Perhaps if the latter were the rule instead of the former, the nation would be in a much different place than where we find ourselves at the end of 2011.

I can feel a rant coming on, so I’ll spare you and any others who may read this and get to the point of this missive, which is to thank you for being the kind man any parent would be proud to have their son emulate.

My best to you and your wife and your children.


Oliver Del Signore


Federal judge says only Mainstream Media journalists worthy of protection.

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Federal judge: Montana blogger is not journalist

A federal judge in Oregon has ruled that a Montana woman sued for defamation was not a journalist when she posted online that an Oregon lawyer acted criminally during a bankruptcy case, a decision with implications for bloggers around the country.

Crystal L. Cox, a blogger from Eureka, Mont., was sued for defamation by attorney Kevin Padrick when she posted online that he was a thug and a thief during the handling of bankruptcy proceedings by him and Obsidian Finance Group LLC.

U.S. District Judge Marco Hernandez found last week that as a blogger, Cox was not a journalist and cannot claim the protections afforded to mainstream reporters and news outlets.

Although media experts said Wednesday that the ruling would have little effect on the definition of journalism, it casts a shadow on those who work in nontraditional media since it highlights the lack of case law that could protect them and the fact that current state shield laws for journalists are not covering recent developments in online media.

“My advice to bloggers operating in the state of Oregon is lobby to get your shield law improved so bloggers are covered,” said Lucy Dalglish, executive director of The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “But do not expect the shield law to provide you a defense in a libel case where you want to rely on an anonymous source for that information.”

The Founders understood that a free and open press would best serve America. How is it that Judge Hernandez does not understand it?

The judge ruled that Cox was not protected by Oregon’s shield law from having to produce sources, saying even though Cox defines herself as media, she was not affiliated with any mainstream outlet. He added that the shield law does not apply to civil actions for defamation.

Hernandez said Cox was not a journalist because she offered no professional qualifications as a journalist or legitimate news outlet. She had no journalism education, credentials or affiliation with a recognized news outlet, proof of adhering to journalistic standards such as editing or checking her facts, evidence she produced an independent product or evidence she ever tried to get both sides of the story.

Cox said she considered herself a journalist, producing more than 400 blogs over the past five years, with a proprietary technique to get her postings on the top of search engines where they get the most notice.

“What could be more mainstream than the Internet and the top of the search engine?” she said

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

Apparently Judge Hernandez doesn’t have a dictionary or Internet connection. At, journalist is first defined as “a person who practices the occupation or profession of journalism.” If you follow the ‘journalism’ link, you’ll discover the fourth definition is “writing that reflects superficial thought and research, a popular slant, and hurried composition, conceived of as exemplifying topical newspaper or popular magazine writing as distinguished from scholarly writing: He calls himself a historian, but his books are mere journalism.”

That would seem to exactly define what happens at many, perhaps most mainstream outlets. But it seems Ms. Cox is being held to a higher standard because she is not paid by some corporation to do her writing. Just look at the laundry list of things Hernandez cites as evidence of her not being a journalist. Most amusing is the one about getting both sides of the story. Apparently, Ms. Cox did not first write her story, then call Padrick’s office after hours or on a weekend so she could add the sentence “A telephone call seeking comment from Padrick was not immediately returned” so she could use that “weasel clause” in her piece the way so many mainstream journalists do today in theirs.

Consider also, that pesky First Amendment to the US Constitution:

Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…

When it was written, “the press” consisted of newspapers. There was, of course, no radio or TV or Internet. Hernandez believes Cox must have some “professional qualifications” to be a journalist, yet even a cursory examination of what was happening when the Constitution was written would reveal that pretty much anyone who owned or had access to a means of reproduction and distribution, most often a printing press, was “the press.” Even old-fashioned mimeograph as well as modern copiers and printers used for leafleting or pamphleting are protected, as are all electronic “news” outlets.

Judge Hernandez would have us believe that parts of the Internet are unlike all other means of reproduction and distribution. Somehow, in his mind, he’s tortured logic and reason to conclude only “approved” news and opinion websites and pages are worthy of protection under Oregon law.

Crystal Cox is not substantially different from the muckrakers (definitionhistory) of the previous two centuries, and her blog is merely a new means of distribution.

Judge Hernandez may be correct that the Oregon law does not apply in civil cases, but he is dead wrong about the rest of it. Crystal Cox and every other blogger on the Internet are journalists in the finest tradition of the word.

Hopefully, Cox will appeal and a higher court will teach Hernandez the error of his opinion.

If this ruling stands, it sets a very dangerous precedent. Every blogger not aligned with and/or paid by some corporation or business will become fair game for lawsuits any time the blogger says or exposes something someone else doesn’t like.

Is this really the direction we want the law to go?

What do you folks think?


Occupy Wall Street changes tactics…with a little help from their friends

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

Apparently getting frustrated with being tossed out of public parks and watching their encampments being razed, the OWS crowd, led by “the giant Service Employees International Union and a California activist organization led by former members of ACORN” are changing tactics. Instead of mindlessly demanding people give them stuff, they are focusing their something-for-nothing energies on banks and foreclosed homes.

Occupy movement moves into neighborhoods
The Occupy movement stages demonstrations at foreclosed homes in nearly two dozen states. In California, protesters help families move back into their seized houses.

The Occupy Wall Street campaign is moving from downtown to the suburbs.

In New York, protesters marched through a Brooklyn neighborhood carrying signs that read: “Foreclose on banks, not people.’’

Chased from their encampments on Wall Street, Los Angeles City Hall and elsewhere, protesters are now taking their push for financial democracy to neighborhoods around the country. On Tuesday, they staged demonstrations at foreclosed homes in nearly two dozen states to draw attention to the effect of the housing collapse on American families.

In California, a coalition of labor, housing and minority-rights activists gathered in South Gate, Riverside, Oakland and San Francisco, helping families move back into their foreclosed homes — and vowing to stay there to defend them against eviction.

“This is the best thing we could do, and it’s going to be huge for us,” said Max Berger, an early member of Occupy Wall Street who helped organize Tuesday’s protests. “Occupying homes is the perfect next step for the Occupy movement because it makes so clear the issues this movement is all about.”

The foreclosure rallies hinted at what may be a fundamental shift in the composition of the Occupy movement. Rather than the grass-roots gatherings of the initial protests, Tuesday’s demonstrations were carefully choreographed by activist groups hoping to lay claim to the Occupy name to draw attention to their causes.

The amorphous nature of the Occupy movement, with its lack of specific objectives, has left the image up for grabs, experts said.

“There’s a brand, but nobody really has the patent on the brand,” said William Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Occupy Our Homes events were spearheaded by the giant Service Employees International Union and a California activist organization led by former members of ACORN, a controversial advocacy group for low-income and minority neighborhoods.

The campaign aims to pressure lenders to offer loan modifications with substantial reductions in principle to scores of U.S. homeowners, and in some cases even reinstate mortgages that had previously been canceled.

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

You have to give the unions and ACORN-with-a-new-name leaders credit. They saw an opportunity and jumped on it, much as the Republican Party tried to do, with limited success, with the Tea Party Movement.

I predict the left will be far more successful with their recruiting and organizing efforts. In fact, it would not surprise me to learn one day soon that OWS, which has become a brand of sorts, with the help of their new “leaders,” has organized formally, or even incorporated.


Wiley Miller has been playing with the OWS idea this week in his Non Sequitur strip. When I saw today’s strip, my first thought was “OWS” and my second was “When OWS Incorporates.”

What do you think?


Here is the link to Monday’s strip, if you’re interested in how he got here.


While I do feel badly for the millions who have lost their homes, in many if not most cases, they did so by making very bad financial decisions. They either bought more home than they could afford or kept pulling cash out of their homes through refinancing with the hope that the real estate bubble would inflate indefinitely.

When Martha and I bought our first home, we bought a small fixer-upper for much less than we could afford so that if either one of us lost our job, we’d have no trouble meeting all our obligations, mortgage included. We repeated that with our second, much larger home. It took us two years to fix up that one, a little at a time.

I know I’m not alone in stressing financial caution when it come to buying a home. I’d guess many of you reading this will have done the same. Which is why I see no reason why someone else’s bad financial decisions should obligate me or you or their mortgage lender, bank or otherwise, to take a loss or do anything else but hope they learned a lesson and will be more careful, more conservative with their money in the future.

OWS clearly thinks otherwise.

What do you think?

Am I a mortgage grinch?

Should “society” bail out people who make bad decisions? After all, we’ve all bailed out big corporations that made bad decisions.

Of course, I don’t think we should have done that, either. Nothing is too big to fail. Failure is the other side of success and when you try to have the latter without the former, you eventually end up with an economy on the verge of total collapse. And that’s not just theory.

That’s today’s America.


Here is what true community self-reliance looks like

Monday, November 28th, 2011

For months now, the OWS crowd has filled the pages and screens of mainstream media nationwide with people crying about how unfair life is and demanding someone do something for them. Reporters have been falling all over themselves to tell the various stories of woe coming from the encampments.

Compare that to the coverage of  a community’s astounding self-reliant response to a local disaster just twelve days before the ‘official’ start of the OWS bleat-a-thon.

The story is a little long, but well worth the read.

One small Texas town’s remarkable volunteer wildfire relief effort

Texas resident Paula Bowman watched Hurricane Katrina pummel New Orleans in 2005 and wondered why the city’s residents did not take action for themselves.

“I remember telling [my husband] as we were watching the whole phenomenon on the news, ‘I just couldn’t sit there and wait for somebody.’ The federal government cannot be everywhere at every moment. You have to help yourself and do what you have to do,” Bowman told The Daily Caller.

So when her phone rang at 7:30 a.m. on Labor Day and a friend told her that local officials were evacuating people to a nearby high school, she got her chance to act. A wildfire had kicked up just outside of Magnolia, a small town of 1,326 about 45 miles northwest of Houston.

The evacuees needed pet carriers for the animals they had brought with them, so Bowman created a Facebook group to organize donations. Within three hours, she had 300 pet carriers on her hands.

For the next 10 days, she and more than a dozen other community residents — most of whom had never met each other — organized a remarkable volunteer relief effort for a fire that consumed 19,000 acres, 76 homes and 24 structures. Almost entirely without federal aid, Magnolia residents pulled together to provide 24-hour support to the volunteer firefighters and relief to evacuees.

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

I’d like to think that kind of community response could happen anywhere in the nation, at any time, but recent history belies that hope. People sometimes surprise you, but I can’t imagine anything like what happened in Magnolia happening anywhere here in The People’s Republic, where the official position of Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley is “…we really try and discourage people from self help.

How do you think your community would react in an emergency?


Skewing the news to support an agenda

Monday, October 31st, 2011

I’ve previously written about how news outlets insert code words into articles to get across their message while appearing to report the whole story. But a more insidious method of misreporting to support an agenda is to report only part of a story, the part that supports what you want people to believe.

Take the following short  item from today’s Boston Globe, reproduced in its entirety as it appeared in the “Daily Briefing” section. After reading what the Globe wants you to know, take a minute to follow the link and read the whole story.

Skeptic finds global warming is indeed real

WASHINGTON—A prominent physicist and skeptic of global warming spent two years trying to find out if mainstream climate scientists were wrong. In the end, he determined they were right: Temperatures really are rising rapidly.

The study of the world’s surface temperatures by Richard Muller was partially bankrolled by a foundation connected to global warming deniers. He pursued long-held skeptic theories in analyzing the data. He was spurred to action because of “Climategate,” a British scandal involving hacked emails of scientists.

Yet he found that the land is 1.6 degrees warmer than in the 1950s. Those numbers from Muller, who works at the University of California, Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, match those by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA.

The results will be presented today to a conference in Santa Fe, N.M., expected to include many prominent skeptics as well as mainstream scientists.

Muller’s finding of a warming world is no different from what mainstream climate scientists have been saying for decades.

One-quarter of the $600,000 to do the research came from the Charles Koch Foundation, whose founder is a major funder of skeptic groups and the tea party. The Koch brothers, Charles and David, run a large privately held company involved in oil and other industries, producing sizable greenhouse gas emissions.

“The skeptics raised valid points and everybody should have been a skeptic two years ago,” Muller said. “And now we have confidence that the temperature rise that had previously been reported had been done without bias.”

First, “Daily Briefing” implies you are being given a short, factual summary of all the relevant facts. It seems to me they missed about half of the facts.

The newspaper will argue they had limited space and needed to shorten the story to fit, but that spin is mighty wobbly. They found space to report the scientifically irrelevant “facts” that some of the funding for the study came from “a foundation connected to global warming deniers” and to identify that source as a Koch Brothers foundation yet they couldn’t manage to find space for the very relevant Muller did not address in his research the cause of global warming or Nor did his study look at ocean warming, future warming and how much of a threat to mankind climate change might be.

They also left out exactly what Muller and his team were studying — Muller’s research team carefully examined two chief criticisms by skeptics. One is that weather stations are unreliable; the other is that cities, which create heat islands, were skewing the temperature analysis.

Click graphic to enlarge.

All Muller did was examine two mostly unimportant points of contention. Nothing in his study addressed the real issue, the cause, as he pointed out, as the AP reporter understood was important for an unbiased account to include, but that the Globe left out.

I, and most other “skeptics” have never claimed the Earth was not warming. The Earth is always warming and cooling. All most of us contend is that there is no irrefutable evidence that mankind alone has been causing the recent warming trend and that imagining that even seven-billion humans can impact the Earth’s climate and reverse the planet’s natural warming-cooling process is hubris of the highest order.

Back in the 1970s, the alarmist crowd was warning about global cooling and a coming ice age. Now we’re all going to burn up in a few decades.

Like all alarmist schemes, I think the best way to get to the truth is to follow the money, money that leads to head alarmist Al Gore and lots of others who have profited and stand to profit more by convincing everyone to hop on the bandwagon.

What do you folks think about the way the Globe presented this story?

What do you think about the results of Muller’s study?

Do you think mankind is really responsible for the current warming trend?

And do you think turning our thermostats down to 50 and running out to buy a Prius or a Volt will really make any meaningful difference?


Does drinking soda really cause kids to be more violent?

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Does drinking soda really cause kids to be more violent?

Soda-drinking teens found more violent

Teenagers who drink soda are more likely to carry a weapon and act violently, according to new research.

Sara J. Solnick of the University of Vermont and David Hemenway of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston analyzed data collected from 1,878 14- to 18-year-olds in grades nine through 12 in 22 public schools in 2008.

Those who drank five or more cans of non-diet soft drinks every week were significantly more likely to have also consumed alcohol and smoked cigarettes at least once in the previous month, the researchers found.

Moreover, even after taking other factors into consideration such as age, gender and alcohol consumption, the researchers found that heavy use of carbonated non-diet soft drinks was significantly associated with carrying a gun or knife and violence towards peers, family and partners.

About 23 percent of those who drank one or no cans of soda a week carried a gun or knife, and 15 percent had perpetrated violence toward a partner. In comparison, among those who consumed 14 or more cans a week, 43 percent carried a gun or knife and 27 percent had been violent toward a partner, the researchers found. Similarly, violence towards peers rose from 35 percent to 58 percent while violence towards siblings rose from 25.4 percent to 43 percent.

That was the entirety of what the Boston Globe printed of a story first reported by the Washington Post.

The clear implication, and what the Globe, with it’s nanny-state-loving agenda wants folks to believe, is that drinking a lot of sugary soda causes kids to be violent, carry weapons, drink alcohol, smoke tobacco, etc. But an association between two things, even a statistically strong one, does not prove or even imply cause and effect.

For example, an equally valid, perhaps more valid conclusion would be that kids predisposed to risky behavior are more likely to carry weapons, consume alcohol and drugs , smoke, behave violently, and drink a lot of soda.

The researchers made this clear as Globe readers would have learned if the newspaper had not chosen to leave out the final two paragraphs of the Post article. (I bolded text for emphasis)

“There was a significant and strong association between soft drinks and violence. There may be a direct cause-and-effect relationship, perhaps due to the sugar or caffeine content of soft drinks, or there may be other factors, unaccounted for in our analyses, that cause both high soft drink consumption and aggression,” the researchers wrote in the journal Injury Prevention in a paper titled: “The ‘Twinkie Defense’: the relationship between carbonated non-diet soft drinks and violence perpetration among Boston high school students.”

The Twinkie Defense refers to Dan White, who was tried for the 1979 assassinations of San Francisco city district Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone. White’s lawyers argued he had “diminished capacity” in part because he was depressed and had recently changed from a health-conscience diet to eating junk food such as Twinkies.

The agenda-driven intellectual dishonesty exhibited by the Globe is all too common today in all media. It’s one of, if not the primary reason newspapers and other traditional media have become ever-more irrelevant as their downhill slide toward oblivion continues apace.

Anecdotal though this may be, when I was young, I and most of my friends and relatives consumed lots of sugary drinks. To my knowledge, the only violence any of us ever engaged in were massive snowball fights in winter. Of course, back then, we didn’t sit on our butts all day playing video games. We were outside burning off all those sugar calories and more. And maybe that made all the difference. Maybe we just kept ourselves too busy having fun to think about gangs and guns and hurting other people.

What’s your take on all this?

Did you drink lots of soda as a kid? Did it drive you to packing heat and hurting your boyfriend or girlfriend?

And isn’t is sad that so many people will read the item in the Globe, and probably other newspapers, websites, and blogs, and never realize how they are being misled.


Truth in Toons

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

Enjoy. Comments welcome!







More of The Other 99%

Friday, October 14th, 2011

As promised yesterday, here are seven more folks the media doesn’t like to feature or support.








The Other 99%

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

I found these on a local talk-show host’s blog.

They are the other 99%, the folks the media doesn’t like to talk about.

Are you one, too?






Seven more tomorrow.



It’s all in how you say it

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Congratulations to this week’s Comment Contest winner – Mechelle.


Media bias is well-known to everyone except those in the media.

Sometimes, the bias is overt, as when an outlet shamelessly cheers on a particular political candidate. Sometimes it takes the form of omission, deliberately ignoring, withholding, or downplaying information that might cast their candidate or cause in a bad (true) light, as happened in the last presidential campaign. More often, I think, it takes the form of a choice of word or phrase that shapes the story a particular way in the minds of some readers or provides a aeemingly innocuous code word. Take two stories from today’s left-tilting Boston Globe.

Optimism, candor boost Cain in polls

Herman Cain

 WASHINGTON – He’s more than Mr. Congeniality, popular for his straight-shooting sense of humor and powerful gospel-singing voice. Herman Cain, a pizza magnate, conservative talk-radio host, and the only serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination without prior political chops, has in recent weeks proved to be a candidate who some analysts say should be taken seriously.

Read the rest of the article here.

Did you see any bias or code words in that opening paragraph? If not, look again.

While the reporter, Tracy Jan, could have chosen to refer to Cain’s powerful speaking voice or just powerful voice, instead she chose to highlight his “powerful gospel-singing voice.” And it’s right up front where folks who just scan the first few paragraphs will be sure to see it.

That may not mean much where you live, but here in The People’s Republic, it implies Cain is one of “those people” — bible-thumping Christians. Now, he may or may not be, but of what relevance is that either way unless he’s come out and said he wants to run the country as a theocracy? Did he run his business empire that way? Wouldn’t knowing that, rather than what kind of singing voice he  has, be much more relevant information for voters to use in assessing his candidacy?


The second item features a phrase I see and hear used all the time by reporters and news readers.The item is short, so I’m reproducing it in its entirely

Amazon, Conn. in showdown over tax

HARTFORD – Connecticut officials are not giving up on requiring Internet sellers to collect state sales taxes, despite signs from that it won’t abide by the state’s new Internet tax law.

Amazon wrote to the state to say it is not obliged to follow the law because it lacks a physical presence in Connecticut. The state will press Amazon for taxes it says should have collected at least during the month when Amazon was affiliated with Connecticut websites. Amazon has cut those ties.

The state could expect up to $9.4 million a year in additional revenue if remote sellers, including Amazon, comply with the law, according to a legislative estimate. Connecticut plans to evaluate other connections Amazon has with people in the state and start building a case that may be decided in court.

At least six states have enacted laws similar to Connecticut’s, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. It estimates all states combined are losing $23 billion each year.

Did you catch the spin in the last paragraph?

The combined states are not “losing” $23 billion each year. To lose something, you had to first have it. None of the states ever had tax revenue from Internet sales.

What they are trying to do is grab more of their citizens’ money by forcing companies that have no physical presence in their state to begin acting as tax collectors for them.

I know most will think the turn of phrase is not a big deal, but to me it is, because it endeavors to place in the reader’s thoughts that Amazon is fighting to withhold from the state money the state is owed, just as if a Hartford department store decided to stop collecting sales taxes from its customers when, in reality, it is fighting to keep government weenies away from a technology that has transformed the world.

If states are really worried about businesses within their borders losing customers to the Internet, if they really want to level the playing field, they should slash the bureaucracy and spending and eliminate their state sales tax.

I hope these two examples will, if you do not already do so, cause you to begin reading and listening  more carefully, to start looking for the many subtle ways in which stories are slanted, and help to make you a better consumer of information and more resistant to propaganda from any direction.

So…what do you think? Am I seeing bad where none exists?

Do you have any other examples of how a simple word or phrase can send a message or change the slant of a story?

And what, if anything, can we do about it?






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