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Originally from Gus Van Horn,

AP Called on Attack Piece

This Associated Press article by Jennifer Loven is getting skewered by the right-wing blogposphere for being a thinly-veiled attack piece masquerading as news. But the question that headlines this article at Editor and Publisher, "AP's Bush 'Straw Man' Story: News Analysis Or Unlabeled Opinion?", as well as its first two paragraphs, appears to punch a hole in the criticism.

Did a recent Associated Press story examining President George Bush's alleged tendency to use a "straw man" approach in his speeches cross the line from news to biased opinion? Or was it just a long-overdue, in-depth review of the president's public speaking approach?

The viewpoint, as often happens in Washington, depends on whose blog you are reading, and what you consider opinion and analysis. Still, the article by reporter Jennifer Loven sparked an interesting debate on the blogosphere, and in some newsrooms, over how such an examination of a public figure can cross the line from reporting to opining. Since the piece was not labeled a column, or even analysis, it raised some eyebrows as it veered into a sharp attack on Bush's use of such tactics.

But Power Line plainly admits that Bush uses the straw man frequently, noting that although it is a logical fallacy, it is a "time-honored rhetorical device". In fact, the Power Line attacks the article for its biased reporting, and doesn't even use the word "opinion".

I looked into this because I realized that the AP article did report something factually correct: Bush does employ straw men. If the AP were being attacked for simply reporting a fact, that would be one thing. (And it would be unreasonable to demand that the story be labeled as an opinion piece.) But the piece is an example of selective, biased reporting, which is another thing entirely. This is something that one can get away with if one drops the greater context in which the story occurs, as Editor and Publisher's Joe Strupp invites his readers to do when he offers the "news analysis" loophole at the start of his article.

Africa: "The World's Richest Continent"

On a long article about poverty as a man-made phenomenon in Africa, I found the following paragraph noteworthy.

In fact, Africa is quite rich. As the economist Walter Williams of George Mason University wrote, "In terms of natural resources, Africa is the world's richest continent. It has 50 percent of the world's gold, most of the world's diamonds and chromium, 90 percent of the cobalt, 40 percent of the world's potential hydroelectric power, 65 percent of the manganese, millions of acres of untilled farmland as well as other natural resources." What Africa needs is not "aid," but less corruption.

Confusing Apology with Advocacy

At first, I was glad to see, finally, an article that advocated privatization of the potable water industry, until I read this snippet.

My former colleagues at the Globalization Institute in London have released a report on the differences between the private and public provision of water around the world. They place much of the blame for the current problems on the very fact that 95% of the world's potable water is supplied by governments rather than by (properly regulated) private sector providers. Governments are inefficient at providing services, swayed all too easily by the desires of their political supporters, prone to corruption and even worse -- in many parts of the world -- do not have the simple competence (let alone capital) to operate a fully functional system. [link dropped, bold added]

Author Tim Worstall cites plenty of empirical evidence to support his contention that private industry can do what most automatically assume to be a function of the government, but in addition to the above parenthetical backing off from laissez-faire, he ends on this note: "We can't have just governments providing water and sanitation. Don't you realize it's all much too serious a problem to leave it to them?"

Both of these remarks leave unchallenged the Dickensian notion that a water company would poison its customers and run with the money, and that water companies must therefore be "properly regulated". This indicates a either a low estimate of his reader's intellect, or a failure to understand that capitalism is, in fact, self-regulating. I would have rather seen some ink devoted to this phenomenon (which explains why capitalism provides services better than governments, which need not survive by merit) rather than on constant apologies to the reader for even bringing the "c-word" up on World Water Day.

The World's Last True Blonde?

I have no strong preference for any one hair color, but I did find this <a href="http://jewishworldreview.com/0306/pjohnson.php3">article on blonde hair interesting.

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