Now just let me at those beetles...

Does the mainstream media show a liberal bias? I’ll leave aside the question of whether such a thing as a “mainstream media” is still distinguishable in the modern world, and state that I’m always on the lookout for such bias, as well as for accusations of bias that do or don’t hold water. NPR, for example, is often assumed to lean left, while I generally find almost the opposite to be the case: that when it comes to Washington politics they bend over backwards to quote, interview, and convey the perspectives of a preponderance of Republican lawmakers.

(Although, granted, actual lawmakers on both sides tend to sound more ridiculous than other people. So maybe giving the GOP their due in that arena doesn’t prove anything much.)

The New York Times is a different matter, being a repository of large amounts of in-depth reporting rather than a compendium of breaking news and interviews. A progressive bias can sometimes be seen in the Paper of Record in its selection of topics, its headlines, and in the words of its reporters, though, for the most part, the latter show evenhandedness in their text.

A global warming Cassandra might pull her hair in frustration searching for clear-cut support for her positions in the long (over 4,000-word) article titled “With Deaths of Forests, a Loss of Key Climate Protectors” under the aegis “Temperature Rising.” In it, reporter Justin Gillis painstakingly reviews evidence and opinion as he documents how warming temperatures (which aren’t in question, by the way) are rejiggering the life cycles of forests worldwide. Many forests, for example, are dying from beetle infestations which under earlier, cooler temperatures weren’t taking place as far north as they are now. Warming is also cited as the cause of more forests burning down without, in some cases, being able to reassert themselves.

Those phenomena are definitely occurring, but the ultimate net effects aren’t known, though Gillis quotes various experts who warn of negative consequences. He closes thus: “To ensure that forests are preserved for future generations, [scientists] say, society needs to limit the fossil-fuel burning that is altering the climate of the world.” But fossil-fuel burning wasn’t the focus of the article. So…bias? Strictly speaking, yes, a touch.

The statement that spurred this post, however, came in an even newer article, today’s “New State Rules Raising Hurdles at Voting Booth.” The piece leans heavily towards the point of view that the many new state rules tightening voter eligibility will work against Democrats in the 2012 election.

Reporter Michael Cooper presents multiple points of view. He quotes the executive director of a center that just released a report on the phenomenon, calling it “the most significant rollback in voting rights in decades.” But he also cites another expert who, talking about early voting (which some of the new laws are restricting), notes that it benefitted Democrats in 2004, but Republicans in 2008.

Now here’s the kicker. Texas has a new law requiring presentation of a photo ID before voting. Here’s a paragraph from the Times article, in full:

“Under the Texas law, licenses to carry concealed handguns would be an acceptable form of identification to vote, but not student ID cards.”

If that isn’t meant to rile up the anti-gun Bloombergians among us, I don’t know what is. Meanwhile a local paper, Austin’s The Statesman, explains in greater detail which IDs count and which don’t:

“Acceptable forms of ID include: a Texas driver’s license; a personal ID issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety; an election certificate, which is a new form of state photo identification created by the legislation; a U.S. military ID card; a U.S. passport; or a Texas concealed handgun permit. State university IDs are not acceptable.”

Doesn’t sound quite so nightmarish anymore, does it? After all, a student from Texas State University could be from out of state, and we wouldn’t want an interloper to cast an illicit vote. Whereas accepting concealed handgun permits as IDs sounds pretty kosher, assuming Texas issues such permits only to its own residents. Which, of course, it—

Oh, wait. A nonresident of Texas can get a license to pack hidden weaponry there—see section 411.173 of this PDF.

Good to know! So, that economics major from Louisiana could be packing. Pardon me while I print out one of those PDFs myself, and then I’ll get right back to…wait, what was I talking about?