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Archive for the ‘Taibbi’s Law’ Category

Nuclear soft warm fuzzies from Pakistan

Posted by Charles II on November 14, 2007

(via t/o), The WaPo’s Jody Warrick has an interesting, if complex description of Pakistan’s system of nuclear controls. Here is a précis:

  • Pakistan has ca. 50 nuclear weapons, stored in about 6 bunkers.
  • US officials aren’t sure they know where all the weapons are.
  • The US has contingency plans to seize the weapons to prevent them from falling to Al-Qaeda
  • Pakistani scientists shared nuclear secrets with al-Qaeda prior to 2001, actually traveling to Afghanistan to meet with bin Laden
  • Military officials helped AQ Khan sell materials to Libya, N. Korea, and Iran
  • The military and intelligence services (presumably the Al Qaeda-friendly ISI) are both responsible for protecting the nuclear arsenal
  • US nuclear arsenals are protected from misuse by “integrated electronic packages known as ‘permissive action links,'” which require codes
  • After 9/11, Musharraf agreed to place nuclear weapons in more secure locations and to let the US design “controls, barriers, locks and sensors”
  • Pakistani weapons had been protected from misuse by separating components such as the core from the trigger
  • The loyalty of the Pakistani military is doubtful, since the army is ethnically diverse and because violence against civilians weakens its cohesion
  • In the event of social breakdown, the nuclear arsenal could become the prize every ethnic group wants
  • Financial corruption could lead to the theft of individual components.

That will help me sleep at night, knowing that things are in capable hands.

Posted in Pakistan, Taibbi's Law | 4 Comments »

Can the News Media Distinguish Between ‘News’ and ‘Not News’?

Posted by MEC on February 25, 2007

BREAKING NEWS! Romney family tree has polygamy branch

And this is “news” exactly why?

I suspect that if I had an opportunity to ask somebody at the Associated Press, and they deigned to notice my question, they’d explain that it’s news because it’s about somebody who’s in the news, and because it will catch the audience’s attention.

Sorry, not good enough. Getting a reaction of “Ooh! Shiny thing!” doesn’t make something newsworthy.

This is a corollary to Taibbi’s Law. If it’s not relevant, it’s not news.

Sometimes a politician’s family history is newsworthy. For example, it was real news when the Guardian reported that George W. Bush’s grandfather, Prescott Bush, was a director of Union Banking Corporation until the firm had its assets seized for doing business with Nazi Germany.* Prescott Bush’s dealings with Nazi Germany are relevant because his political influence and the family fortune are the foundation of his son’s and grandson’s political careers; and Prescott himself was, by all accounts, a significant presence in his descendants’ lives; and his son and grandson have never repudiated his involvement with our country’s enemy. This details of the Bush family history is still influencing events today.

Mitt Romney’s relationship to his scandalous ancestor is entirely different. His great-grandfather Miles Park Romney, his last polygamist ancestor, died decades before Mitt was born. He has condemned polygamy and the Mormons’ polygamous past.

This Associated Press story is as relevant to Mitt Romney’s political career as the reports that George W. Bush is descended from William the Conqueror — maybe less so, because Romney’s behavior has less in common with this ancestor’s.

Those reports about Bush’s genealogy were presented as a odd little sidebar to the campaign, amusing but unimportant. The Associated Press report cited above is presented as news — as if this detail of the Romney family’s past should influence our opinion of Mitt Romney as a presidential candidate.

There are lots of reasons to decide not to support Mitt Romney’s candidacy, but what his great-grandfather did long before he was born, that is not a factor in his descendants’ actions and achievements, is not one of them.


(* And that’s another corollary to Taibbi’s Law: Just because the vast majority of the news media ignore something doesn’t mean it isn’t news.)

Posted in beat the press, distractions, media, mediawhores, Mitt Romney, Republicans, Taibbi's Law, The smear industry | Comments Off on Can the News Media Distinguish Between ‘News’ and ‘Not News’?

Taibbi’s Law

Posted by MEC on February 24, 2007

Matt Taibbi’s observation about what is and isn’t news brilliantly summarizes the folly of the so-called “news” media:

My definition of a news story involves something happening. If nothing happens, then you can’t have “news,” because nothing has changed since the day before. Britney Spears was an idiot last Thursday, an idiot on Friday, and an idiot on both Saturday and Sunday. She was, shockingly, also an idiot on Monday.

With only minor variations, this observation applies to so very many situations beyond the misadventures of the unfortunate Ms. Spears.

The most recent example is the so-called “news” media’s excitement over the possibility, or the veiled hints, or maybe just the so-called “news” media’s own wishful thinking that Joe Lieberman will join the Republican Party.

First, this is not news because It’s Not Going To Happen. Anybody who’s been paying the slightest attention will know that Lieberman has every reason not to switch parties. I don’t mean Lieberman’s repeated statements that he won’t join the Republican Party; we know exactly what his word is worth. I mean the overwhelming evidence that Lieberman’s #1 priority is his own prestige and power. He won’t get any reward for switching parties: it won’t switch control of the Senate to the Republicans, so the Republicans can’t offer him anything that will increase his prestige. He’ll just lose prestige by losing his committee chair and his seniority, which depend on his caucusing with the Democrats. Arguably worse from his point of view, he’ll lose his ability to get the Democrats to dance to his tune.

Second, it’s not news because “nothing has changed since the day before”. It doesn’t even have novelty value. “Breaking News: Lieberman Lieberman said something that clueless people interpret as a hint that he’ll switch parties, the sun rose in the east, and the Detroit Lions had a losing season.”

Here’s a clue for the so-called “news” media: Lieberman Lieberman was a dishonest weasel last Thursday, a dishonest weasel on Friday, and a dishonest weasel on both Saturday and Sunday. He was, shockingly, also a dishonest weasel on Monday. The pattern is consistent enough that you can expect him to be a a dishonest weasel into the foreseeable future. When rumors resurface that he’s going to create “news” by switching parties [again], please to remember that this is not news, and give it just as much of your attention that non-news requires, i.e. none.

And by the way, neither is it news when Lieberman issues another assurance that he’s not going to caucus with the Republicans. He’s just doing it for the attention, you should realize. The more you give him attention for making empty threats, the more he’s going to keep yanking your chain and wasting your time.

Wouldn’t you rather be spending your time covering real news stories?

 Oh, wait. Forget I asked.

Posted in anti-truth, beat the press, distractions, Joe Lieberman, Matt Taibbi, mediawhores, Taibbi's Law | 4 Comments »

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