The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Can Such Things Be?

I think I've used that title before, but it sure fits the news this week. And Ambrose Bierce is still the man.

ITEM! Politicians recognize severity of mortgage market, propose swift action!

It looks as though President Bush and several of the leading presidential candidates are finally getting serious about helping people who are being hit by the collapse of the housing bubble. The proposal to freeze the interest rate on adjustable rate mortgages at their teaser rates is far more serious than anything previously placed on the table. (. . .)

The obvious question that should be asked is whether the plan is helping the people who we want to help. The answer here is mixed. It is helping the people who took out adjustable rate mortgages that have not yet reset; a group that includes speculators and wealthy homeowners. (Of course, many homebuyers are defaulting even before the reset, suggesting that they are having problems even paying the teaser rates.) The freeze does not help people who took out fixed rate mortgages or homeowners whose mortgages have already reset.

ITEM! White House: If it looks, smells, and acts like Iraq, it must be... Iran!

What you need to know about the new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran: George W. Bush was first told in August or September that "fresh intelligence" suggested that Iran had stopped its nuclear weapons program in 2003.

Yes, that was before Bush said that he took "the threat of Iran with a nuclear weapon very seriously," and that the best way to prevent "World War III" would be to prevent the Iranians from obtaining the "knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon."

It was before Condoleezza Rice said Iran is "pursuing nuclear technologies that can lead to nuclear weapons-grade material."

It was before Dick Cheney said that the United States should "reach for any tool that's available" -- including the "possible use of military force" -- to "discourage the Iranians from enriching uranium and producing nuclear weapons."

It was before Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said the United States should "have no illusions about the nature of [the Iranian] regime or its leaders -- about their designs for their nuclear program, their willingness to live up to their rhetoric, their intentions for Iraq, or their ambitions in the Gulf."

It was before Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said of the Iranians: "We are convinced that they are developing nuclear weapons."

ITEM! Time Magazine: "He actually said a foolish consistency is pretty shrewd."

First, Sen. Russ Feingold submitted a letter to Time protesting the false statements in Klein's article. But Time refused to publish it. Sen. Feingold's spokesman said that the letter "was submitted to TIME very shortly after Klein's column ran but the letters department was about as responsive as the column was accurate.". . .

Second, Rep. Rush Holt -- before he published his response in The Huffington Post detailing Klein's false claims -- asked that he be given the opportunity to respond to Klein's false column directly on Time's Swampland, where Klein was in the process of making all sorts of statements compounding his errors. But Time also denied Rep. Holt the opportunity to bring his response to the attention of Time's readers. . .

Third, at least 100 individuals wrote letters to Time's editors protesting Klein's article and responding to its claims. I know this because that's how many people (at least) cc'd me on their letters, forwarded them to me, and/or copied their Letters to the Editor in the Comment section here. Managing Editor Rick Stengel's voice mail and email box overflowed with responses.

Nonetheless, Time -- while publishing 15 separate letters on a whole array of topics in its print edition this week -- did not see fit to publish a single letter about the Klein falsehoods. . .

Finally, Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post and CNN -- who dives head-first into every right-wing blog controversy -- has been completely mute about the Klein/Time scandal, even though it was one of the central focuses of blogs for more than a full week and relates directly to the media criticism issues he is ostensibly assigned to cover. Worse, Kurtz has now been asked about this matter by multiple readers in two consecutive weekly Monday chats he hosts at the Post, but has refused to take a single question about it.

I'm scared. You?