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A Peace To End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East
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CJR Gal Tries to Gotcha My "Media Activist"-Bashing Column: Gal Beckerman, posing as a reasonable person, looks at my personal media diet-fueled mockery of anti-"media monopoly" fantasists, and comments:

It's the big-city newspapers and TV networks that break most national and international news, setting the news agenda for everyone still, despite the proliferation of all this other "media." Putting them into the same category as blogs, or even talk radio, just confuses the picture.

But that is exactly what those favoring deregulation are doing. Take Matt Welch's column in The Los Angeles Times today. He scoffs at what he calls "anti-media activists" and their "sky-is-falling brief against big media consolidation." To disprove them he starts listing all the media he consumes on any given day. He starts with his own paper and the New York Post -- the only ones that actually, consistently break news -- and then goes on to name dozens of blogs, talk radio programs, and cable shows (including The Colbert Report).

Welch comes to the conclusion that all the loonies screaming about media consolidation are ignoring the richness of the media universe. But he makes the mistake of confusing quantity with quality. How much of this "media" actually makes news, uncovers stories, investigates, and still has a commitment (waning though it may be) to the public good? Very few, and the ones that do are the same ones that the FCC regulates. So it does make sense to worry and scrutinize any changes in ownership rules. They do matter if they limit the amount of real news we get.

As far as I can reckon, that's five howlers in three short paragraphs!

1) It's the big-city newspapers and TV networks that ... [are] setting the news agenda for everyone still.

How does the L.A. Times "set the agenda" of the more than 90% of L.A. County residents who don't buy the L.A. Times? Quick answer: It doesn't. Nor does it set mine. There is a whole alternative media universe out there (several, in fact), where agenda-setting can be accomplished by a lone geek in a Hollywood one-bedroom, if need be.

2) He starts with his own paper and the New York Post -- the only ones that actually, consistently break news -- and then goes on to name dozens of blogs, talk radio programs, and cable shows

CNN doesn't consistently break news? KPCC -- the public radio station with its 130 awards for journalistic excellence -- is a mere "talk radio program"? The hippies over at KPFK have a pretty interesting news-breaking record; the Los Feliz Ledger and L.A. Downtown News are, um, newspapers (and they come out "consistently"!), and KFWB's slogan is "All news, all the time."

3) [H]e makes the mistake of confusing quantity with quality. How much of this "media" actually makes news, uncovers stories, investigates, and still has a commitment (waning though it may be) to the public good? Very few, and the ones that do are the same ones that the FCC regulates.

The FCC does not regulate newspapers. It merely prevents -- in theory -- owners of newspapers from buying broadcast stations, which it does regulate. And every one of the media titles mentioned above does exactly what Beckerman claims that "very few" scare-quoted "media" entities do.

4) So it does make sense to worry and scrutinize any changes in ownership rules.

No, it doesn't.

5) They do matter if they limit the amount of real news we get.

The amount of real news we get is increasing exponentially, in spite of (and not because of) the FCC and it's unjustifiable ownership restrictions. Also, how in God's name does having the Tribune Co. own the L.A. Times and KTLA "limit" the amount of real net news? Seriously, how? Spell it out. Because I've lived with both companies my whole life, and worked for one for nearly two years, and if there was more than one drop of "synergy" between the two properties I sure as hell haven't seen it. Nor do I even understand how such a limitation would work in theory. What, so, the newspaper and the teevee station would have the same editorial line? The front page would look like the first three minutes of the News at Ten? Newspaper grunts would start wearing hair helmets, getting eye-tucks and pairing off in May-September female-male couplets?

The only thing that preventing newspaper companies from owning television stations does, is artificially limit the number of potential buyers of media companies. How this is supposed to increase the amount of "real news" we get is beyond me.

11/17/2007 10:54 PM  | 

WashPost Reviews Myth of a Maverick: Excerpt:

[T]his book excoriates John McCain as a calculating flip-flopper and the media for mythologizing him as a straight shooter. Welch, assistant editor of the Los Angeles Times' editorial pages, compares McCain's "ritual self-criticism" to Alcoholics Anonymous's 12-step program: First, he admits his flaws, then he sublimates them to a greater cause, and finally he takes that cause to the people. The book contains entertaining tales of equivocation aboard the Straight Talk Express, as when McCain was asked this year whether contraceptives help stop the spread of HIV and he answered: "You've stumped me.... Let me find out.... I have to find out what my position was." But in the end, this unflattering portrait turns out to be surprisingly flattering.

11/17/2007 08:44 PM  |  Comment (1)

New Column From Me -- "Free Sam Zell!": On why "media activists" should be mocked for trying to block the buying and selling of newspapers and television stations. In which I barf up my media diet and look for chunks of monopoly.

11/15/2007 09:58 PM  |  Comment (1)

The Hollow Trees' New Record! Available soon, with a few teasers online, include this one, with some familiar-sounding backups. Folk music for kids (and their parents).

11/12/2007 09:26 PM  |  Comment (1)

Is the Dollar No Longer a "Convertible" Currency? From Bloomberg:

Central banks from Bogota to Mumbai are imposing foreign-exchange curbs to take control of their soaring currencies from traders dumping the dollar.

In Colombia, international investors buying stocks and bonds must leave a 40 percent deposit at Banco de la Republica for six months. The Reserve Bank of India created a bureaucratic thicket to curb speculation by foreign money managers. The Bank of Korea is investigating trading of currency forward contracts to limit gains in the won, now at a 10-year high.

Instead of using currency reserves or interest rates to influence foreign exchange markets, central banks and finance ministries are setting up obstacles to keep the falling dollar from threatening company profits and economic growth. [...]

Stephen Jen, head of currency research at Morgan Stanley in London, said on Nov. 2 that the dollar's slide threatens to turn into a "more violent correction" that may require joint intervention by the U.S., European Union and Japan.

Back in the early 1990s, many toddling Central European governments would impose such currency-trading constraints and high deposit requirements in an effort to promote stability and forestall panic as their economies made the traumatic transition from communism to capitalism. Back then, the controls were (accurately) seen as temporary, a road marker somewhere on the way to becoming a fully "convertible" currency. I always knew back then that the Central Europeans (and even some Western Europeans) were weathering economic "shocks" no American would soon tolerate, but I never would have dreamed that the greenback would lose the ability to be "convertible."

I wrote about the "dollar bubble" on April 27, 2001, when a buck brought you 1.12 Euros. It would reach a peak of 1.19 Euros that July 6, and then start tumbling to its current 0.68. And to think that central banks in the developing world are trying to artificially prop up the price, and that the Red Chinese own about 5 gazillion in U.S. bonds....

Link via Atrios.

11/12/2007 05:38 PM  |  Comment (1)

The Secret of the Baby Backs' Success Is ... Dave Hansen? The mysterious Halos Heaven poster known as "Angel Aviator" alerts me to this mid-September article pinning some of the Arizona Diamondbacks' success with young hitters at the hands of AA hitting coach (and my former bandmate) Dave Hansen. Excerpt:

"Hansen really developed into a high-impact coach throughout the season," farm director A.J. Hinch said. "He has a tremendous feel for hitters and can easily relate to the players. His approach and selflessness is remarkable."

Hansen lives in nearby San Clemente, so the D-backs invited him to join them this weekend while they play the Dodgers.

That gave Hansen the chance to renew acquaintances with Mark Reynolds, Justin Upton and Emilio Bonifacio, all of whom he worked with at Mobile earlier this year.

"To be handed so much talent in my first gig was an honor," Hansen said. "It was nice that they thought enough of me to handle that kind of talent pool this year."
Reynolds was the first of Hansen's students to make it to the big leagues when he was called up in May. He made an immediate impact, earning him a chance to spend the rest of the season with the D-backs and he entered Friday's game with a .268 batting average to go with 17 doubles, 13 homers and 50 RBIs.

"As soon as things started clicking for him at the plate, there was no stopping him, and I knew where he was headed," Hansen said. "For him to get the call was beautiful."

Upton, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, was promoted in August.

"Upton you knew was just a matter of time," Hansen said. "This kid, talent-wise, is unmatched for his age and he's mature beyond his years. That's a credit to his parents, for him to be the kind of kid that he is."

Bonifacio got his chance just after the rosters were expanded, and it was the most emotional of the promotions for Hansen, who saw Bonifacio break down when he got the news.

"Bonifacio is going to be a sparkplug for many years to come," Hansen said. "He's just an unbelievable talent and what a great kid. He's a real humble kid and his demeanor on and off the field will fit right in with this group here. He's very passionate about the game. For him to get the call, I just couldn't wait to see him get the news."

Look for Hansen to be considered for the organization's hitting coordinator position next year. Rick Schu, who filled that role this year, was promoted to hitting coach at the big league level during the All-Star break.

Oh man, do I wish Dave -- who, unlike Mickey Hatcher, truly understands the value of patience at the plate -- could be snatched up by the Angels. He was a teammate of Mike Scioscia's for three years, after all. You'd expect the Dodgers to be too clueless to recruit one of their more popular and coach-worthy ex-players, but the Angels are smarter than all that. Snap him up, Mike! And isn't Hatcher due for a managerial assignment somewhere by now?

My Baseball Analysts bit about watching Dave Hansen can be found here.

11/11/2007 06:46 PM  | 

Hi! What are you doing down here?

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