Patterico's Pontifications


Debunking the Idea That Race Attitudes Explain the Famous Katrina Captions Showing a White Person “Finding” Items and a Black Person “Looting” Them

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:52 am

Ken from Popehat, who has helped me greatly in my life and whom I respect deeply, recently posted the following tweet:

Somewhere in the back of my head, I had a memory that this example of racism was not all it was cracked up to be. Turns out my memory was right: there is a race-neutral explanation for the differing captions. I don’t think I ever posted on this before, and since the perception obviously persists that the difference in the captions is due to attitudes on race, I thought I would do a post about it — even though it is eight years later.

It’s never too late to help debunk a persistent misperception.

Surprisingly, I found the source materials I needed at Even more surprisingly, the debunking of this episode as racism comes in part from an article at (The other half of the debunking is from an online forum for sports photographers.)

Regarding the caption that accused someone of “looting,” we learn that the photographer saw the person take the goods from the shop:

Jack Stokes, AP’s director of media relations, confirmed today that Martin says he witnessed the people in his images looting a grocery store. “He saw the person go into the shop and take the goods,” Stokes said, “and that’s why he wrote ‘looting’ in the caption.”

Regarding the photo by Chris Graythen whose caption said someone had “found” the items they were carrying, the photographer did not see the person take the goods from the shop. Here is the photographer, Chris Graythen, talking about his observations on a photographers’ forum:

I wrote the caption about the two people who ‘found’ the items. I believed in my opinion, that they did simply find them, and not ‘looted’ them in the definition of the word. The people were swimming in chest deep water, and there were other people in the water, both white and black. I looked for the best picture. there were a million items floating in the water – we were right near a grocery store that had 5+ feet of water in it. it had no doors. the water was moving, and the stuff was floating away. These people were not ducking into a store and busting down windows to get electronics. They picked up bread and cokes that were floating in the water. They would have floated away anyhow. I wouldn’t have taken in, because I wouldn’t eat anything that’s been in that water. But I’m not homeless. (well, technically I am right now.)

I’m not trying to be politically correct. I’m don’t care if you are white or black. I spent 4 hours on a boat in my parent’s neighborhood shooting [he means “taking photos of” — Ed.], and rescuing people, both black and white, dog and cat. I am a journalist, and a human being – and I see all as such. If you don’t belive me, you can look on Getty today and see the images I shot of real looting today, and you will see white and black people, and they were DEFINATELY looting. And I put that in the caption.

According to the Salon article, the AP had a policy that action was described as looting only if a reporter or photographer saw people taking the goods from a business:

Santiago Lyon, AP’s director of photography, told Salon that all captions are vetted by editors and are the result of a dialogue between editor and photographer. Lyon said AP’s policy is that each photographer can describe only what he or she actually sees. He added, “When we see people go into businesses and come out with goods, we call it ‘looting.’” On the other hand, he said, “When we just see them carrying things down the road, we call it ‘carrying items.’”

And the AFP had the same policy:

Regarding the AFP/Getty “finding” photo by Graythen, Getty spokeswoman Bridget Russel said, “This is obviously a big tragedy down there, so we’re being careful with how we credit these photos.” Russel said that Graythen had discussed the image in question with his editor and that if Graythen didn’t witness the two people in the image in the act of looting, then he couldn’t say they were looting.

So there is really no reason to attribute racism to the people who took these pictures. They were following the similar policies of their news organizations, and observed different things.

Racism is a touchy issue in this country. It certainly exists — more than some people think, and less than other people think. Nothing about this debunking is intended to imply that racism is not a problem. It’s simply intended to show that there was a race-neutral explanation for the differences in these captions . . . and that people who use the captions as an example of racism (or race attitudes) may be unfairly attributing bad motives to photographers and caption writers who were just doing their job.

It’s a useful reminder in an era when any criticism of a black president is considered by some to be racism, no matter how much he lies or takes actions that harm the country.


What Would Gore Have Done? (WWGHD)

Filed under: General — Karl @ 4:00 am

[Posted by Karl]

In advance of the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, 60 Minutes and Vanity Fair commissioned a poll asking Americans how different they think the world would be if our response had been led not by George W. Bush but by Al Gore, Jr.  A 56 percent majority responded they really did not think anything would be different, breaking down as 57 percent of Republicans, 62 percent of Independents, and even 48 percent of Democrats.  Two progessive pundits surprised by these results gave their own speculation, but reached quite different conclusions. (more…)


Pac-Map App: A Lawsuit Waiting to Happen

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 10:12 am

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.]

For like two seconds I thought this was kind of cool.  Then I started to think about it.

You see some company has created a Google Droid app called Pac-Map, where it uses GPS tech to apparently play real life Pac-Man.  That is right, your position is where the “Pac-Man” is, your city is the maze, and imaginary ghosts are projected on it, and its your job to try to avoid them and get your Pac-man to eat pellets.  You can see video of how this is supposed to operate, here:

And at first blush, it all sounds like a fun retro-ish augmented reality concept.  And then I realized how idiotic this was, from a liability viewpoint.

So let’s say you are getting into it and you are so anxious to get away from Winky that you make a hasty turn and…  run down a little girl on her bicycle?  Okay, yes, that would officially make you a moron, but in the eyes of the law, it also is extremely likely to get the game company in trouble.  The whole thing recalls the suits against Dominoes Pizza related to its 30 Minutes or Its Free guarantee.  And while parts of that story are apparently an urban legend even Snopes says that concerns for liability did drive the decision to end the policy.  And of course in this country, the moment you get sued you almost always come out a loser—it’s just a matter of how much you will lose. Now there are relevant differences between Domino’s and this game company, not the least being that the Domino’s cases involved drivers who were their employees. Still, I am fairly certain that this will still give rise to a lot of suits, if not a lot of liability.

If I was advising this company, I would tell them to immediately stop selling this game and find a new way to make money.

Anyway, hat tip to Joystiq.

[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]


NBC’s Brian Williams: “The world has no money and the emperor has no clothes.”

Filed under: General — Karl @ 10:34 am

[Posted by Karl]

Last night, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams talked to Dave Letterman about yesterday’s mini-plunge on Wall Street:

Williams noted the reports that attributed the afternoon free-fall to trader error and program trading, but correctly added that these were only the sparks to a larger pile of dry tinder. Traders were glued to the televised rioting in Greece over that country’s debt crisis, which may be followed by similar crises in countries like Spain and Portugal.

The establishment press, including USA Today and even the Los Angeles Times, are waking up to the fact that America’s unsustainable entitlement programs and bloated public employee pensions put us on the path to the sort of fiscal crisis we see in Europe today. Indeed, we are far closer to Greece’s spending levels than many think, though our demographics are less disastrous.

As Williams ultimately put it (quoting Neil Cavuto), “the dirty little secret is: the world has no money and the emperor has no clothes.” To paraphrase Margaret Thatcher, “the problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.” If European street riots — and their impact on our markets — bring this point home to someone like Williams (who left college to work for Pres. Jimmy Carter), it’s a good sign for the Republic. Sadly, Williams has yet to identify the Naked Emperor, but HOPE springs eternal.



Hillary’s [Mis]Statements

Filed under: Government — DRJ @ 6:36 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

First Hillary claimed she had been named for Sir Edmund Hillary, the famous mountain climber, despite the fact that she was born more than 6 years before he gained fame for climbing Mt. Everest. Then it was her exaggerated claims of importance in negotiating peace in Northern Ireland. That was followed by the debunked campaign story of the pregnant Ohio woman who died after she was denied care. And who can forget Hillary’s “mis-speak” about avoiding sniper fire in Bosnia?

Now a British paper has questioned Hillary’s statements regarding her stay at Belfast’s Europa Hotel:

“But according to the Sunday Life newspaper, during a speech she made to the Stormont parliament she said that Belfast’s landmark Europa Hotel was devastated by an explosion when she first stayed there in 1995.

The Europa, where most journalists covering the decades-long conflict stayed, was famed as Europe’s most bombed hotel, earning the moniker “the Hardboard Hotel”.

However, the last Provisional IRA bomb to damage the Europa was detonated in 1993, two years before President Clinton and his wife checked in for the night.

The last time the Europa underwent renovations because of bomb blast damage was in January 1994, 22 months before the presidential entourage booked 110 rooms at the hotel.

Mrs Clinton told assembled politicians at Stormont: “When Bill and I first came to Belfast we stayed at the Europa Hotel … even though then there were sections boarded up because of damage from bombs.”

Hillary’s spokesman clarified that she was “trying to express a sincere
‘perception’ of a Belfast in darker days” and was “simply contrasting,” not mis-speaking.



Washington Post Elbows Its Way Past Time Into The Lead In The Race For The Title of “Least Journalistic Integrity”

Filed under: 2008 Election,General,Media Bias — WLS @ 1:02 pm

[Posted by WLS]

Washington Post “Fact-Checker” Michael Dobbs takes on his own newspaper’s account of Barack Obama’s connection to Franklin Raines as portrayed by the McCain’s new ad.

Dobbs’s verdict?

He says the Post‘s article, editorial, and one other reference to the Obama-Raines connection were all based on one reporter’s interview with Raines — and yet while the characterization of the paper was never challenged by Obama or Raines, the verdict is that the McCain campaign is:

…clearly exaggerating wildly in attempting to depict Franklin Raines as a close adviser to Obama on “housing and mortgage policy.”

According to Dobbs’s “investigation” — his conversation with business writer Anita Huslin who wrote the piece in July, his review of Raines statement issued by the Obama campaign last night (I thought he didn’t have any connection with the campaign?? He couldn’t release his own statement?), and conversations with the Obama campaign — the situation is as follows:

So what evidence does the McCain campaign have for the supposed Obama-Raines connection? It is pretty flimsy, but it is not made up completely out of whole cloth. McCain spokesman Brian Rogers points to three items in the Washington Post in July and August. It turns out that the three items (including an editorial) all rely on the same single conversation, between Raines and a Washington Post business reporter, Anita Huslin, who wrote a profile of the discredited Fannie Mae boss that appeared on July 16. The profile reported that Raines, who retired from Fannie Mae four years ago, had “taken calls from Barack Obama’s presidential campaign seeking his advice on mortgage and housing policy matters.”

… I asked Huslin to provide the exact circumstances of the quote. She explained that she was chatting with Raines during the photo shoot, and asked “if he was engaged at all with the Democrats’ quest for the White House. He said that he had gotten a couple of calls from the Obama campaign. I asked him about what, and he said ‘oh, general housing, economy issues.’ (‘Not mortgage/foreclosure meltdown or Fannie-specific,’ I asked, and he said ‘no.’)”

By Raines’s own account, he took a couple of calls from someone on the Obama campaign, and they had some general discussions about economic issues. I have asked both Raines and the Obama people for more details on these calls and will let you know if I receive a reply.

In other words, McCain’s characterization of the article is exactly as it was written. But once the Obama campaign provides him with more self-serving propaganda with which he can call the McCain campaign a liar, he’ll get back to us.

Where is the criticism of Huslin for putting a casual comment by Raines during a photo shoot in the first paragraph of her story suggesting he’s a player in the Obama campaign? If Dobbs is going to bang on the McCain campaign for relying on Huslin’s own words, why not bang on Huslin — since it appears that it was her, and not McCain, that made more out of the relationship that was warranted . . . that is, taking the Raines and Obama denials at face value.

Is the McCain camp expected to be clairvoyant? Should they have solicited confirmation of the Washington Post‘s claims from the Obama camp or Raines himself? Do they need to start calling reporters to ask if they really meant what they said in their articles??

Maybe Dobbs would prefer the McCain campaign to ad to the little blurb at the end of every ad something like:

I”m John McCain, and I approve this message. But the Obama campaign disagrees and here is their statement in response ….”

I’m giving Washington Post 2 points for this beauty — it not only takes down the McCain campaign as a liar by giving him two “Pinocchio Noses,” it extricates itself from any responsibility whatsoever for McCain’s actions whatsoever.


Washington Post 2 — Time 1.


P.S. BY PATTERICO: And another “fact-checking” site loses my respect. Add it to Snopes and “Politifact” as another example of a site that has lost any credibility, due to its becoming a fact-bending organ of pro-Obama nonsense. And to think that I’d praised these fact-checking sites just a few weeks ago.


Beware the “Fact Checkers”

Filed under: 2008 Election,General — Patterico @ 10:51 pm

Don’t believe everything you read. Not even if you read it on a site that most people assume is an authoritative fact-checking site.

In an article that purports to debunk a viral e-mail claiming 50 lies by Obama, asserts:

Senator Obama never stated categorically that he would not run on a national ticket in 2008. He at one time said that he had “no plans” to run for national office in 2008, the standard response virtually all politicians give to press inquiries when they have not yet formulated (or do not wish to reveal) their plans for upcoming elections.

Oh really?

Russert: When we talked back in November of ‘04 after your election, I said, “There’s been enormous speculation about your political future. Will you serve your six-year term as United States senator from Illinois?” Obama: “Absolutely.”

Obama: I will serve out my full six-year term. You know, Tim, if you get asked enough, sooner or later you get weary and you start looking for new ways of saying things. But my thinking has not changed.

Russert: So you will not run for president or vice president in 2008?

Obama: I will not.

Gee. That kinda sounds like Obama “stated categorically that he would not run on a national ticket in 2008.” To put it Snopes-style, regarding Snopes’s claim:

Claim: “Senator Obama never stated categorically that he would not run on a national ticket in 2008.”

Status: False.

When these “fact-checking” sites aren’t botching the facts, they can sometimes be found dressing up opinion as fact. Take this doozy by a site calling itself “PolitiFact” (“PolitiOpinion” is more like it):

Did Obama call Palin a pig? No, and saying so is Pants on Fire wrong.

(“” did a similar piece.)

Oh really?

Here’s part of what I wrote to the Politi”Fact” author:

How is that “fact”? It’s your opinion.

I happen to think Obama *may* not have meant it as a reference to Palin. However, his audience certainly seemed to take it as a reference to Palin, judging from their reaction. How could they, when as a “factual” matter it wasn’t?

Other data point: I run a conservative blog, and I wouldn’t look to my conservative commenters for evidence on this — but I have more than one liberal commenter who said (paraphrasing) darn right that’s how he meant it, and he’s right! How could they be so wrong on the “facts”?

The “fact” of the matter is that the interpretation of Obama’s remark is open to, well, interpretation. It’s opinion. If you can’t tell the difference between opinion and fact, you ought not be writing for a site that purports to deal only in facts. Feel free to write op-eds, but please, don’t give us opinions dressed up as irrefutable facts.

My kingdom for a “fact checking” site that a) gets the facts right and b) doesn’t pretend opinions are facts. Does such a thing exist?


The Truth About ANWR

Filed under: Environment — DRJ @ 11:06 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

Living in West Texas in the middle of oil country, I get a lot of emails from friends and family about energy. I was surprised to learn that has written an article about one of those emails entitled The Truth About ANWR.

The email uses photos and maps to show where proposed ANWR drilling is and what it looks like. It compares the barren Coastal Plain area that supporters want opened for exploration and drilling with the beautiful Alaskan wilderness that is not designated for drilling.

Without elaborating, the article labels the conclusions in the email “scant and one-sided” and links to websites with opposing views on ANWR drilling. However, apparently concedes that the ANWR photos contained in the email are accurate.

ANWR photos and references are at the link. Take a look and decide for yourself.



Measuring the Iraq War

Filed under: War — DRJ @ 9:42 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

It’s frequently said that the Iraq War is a failure. Initially, the conventional wisdom was that it failed because of the chaotic situation in Iraq, but the surge has helped to bring stability to many areas of Iraq.

It has also been claimed that the Iraq War is a failure because the Iraqis have not embraced freedom and taken control of their country, but the Awakening and Prime Minister Maliki’s showdown with al-Sadr’s Shiites suggest that many Iraqis have chosen to participate in rebuilding Iraq.

The most recent theme of failure in Iraq has focused on American deaths – over 4000 to date. That made me curious about military deaths compared with prior years. The Congressional Research Service published statistics on active duty military deaths from the Revolutionary War through 2006. The following statistics are excerpted from Table 4 at page 10 at the link:

U.S. Active Duty Military Deaths, 1980 Through 2006

Year-Total Military-Deaths

1980 – 2,159,630 – 2,392
1981 – 2,206,751 – 2,380
1982 – 2,251,067 – 2,319
1983 – 2,273,364 – 2,465
1984 – 2,297,922 – 1,999
1985 – 2,323,185 – 2,252
1986 – 2,359,855 – 1,984
1987 – 2,352,697 – 1,983
1988 – 2,309,495 – 1,819
1989 – 2,303,384 – 1,636
1990 – 2,258,324 – 1,507
1991 – 2,198,189 – 1,787
1992 – 1,953,337 – 1,293
1993 – 1,849,537 – 1,213
1994 – 1,746,482 – 1,075
1995 – 1,661,928 – 1,040
1996 – 1,613,310 — 974
1997 – 1,578,382 — 817
1998 – 1,538,570 — 827
1999 – 1,525,942 — 796
2000 – 1,530,430 — 758
2001 – 1,552,196 — 891
2002 – 1,627,142 — 999
2003 – 1,732,632 – 1,228
2004 – 1,711,916 – 1,874
2005 – 1,664,014 – 1,942
2006 – 1,664,014 – 1,858 used this information to summarize the deaths by President:

Carter – 1980 – 2,392
Reagan – 1981-1988 – 17,201
Bush I – 1989-1992 – 6,223
Clinton – 1993-2000 – 7,500
Bush II – 2001-2006 – 8,792
Est. 2007-3/26/2008 – 1,114

For those who measure the value of the Iraq War and the greater War on Terror by military deaths, these are the numbers.



Ma’am, We’re Not Gonna Go Down There and Enforce Your Western Bacon Cheeseburger

Filed under: Humor,Morons — Patterico @ 7:21 am

You must listen to this right now.

I had seen this before, but didn’t link to it because I didn’t know whether it was a hoax. Via Xrlq, I see that Snopes confirms the call was real, but wonders whether it was a prank call. Xrlq notes some subtle corroborating details, and concludes, “if it was a hoax, it was a better planned one than most.”

The entire hilarious transcript is in the extended entry, courtesy of Snopes.


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