Editor's note: I shouldn't blog before I've had coffee. The Times story below is from January. This entire porcine palaver is based on a post today by Steve Hayward at No Left Turns. Steve, in addition to being a fine political scientist and historian, is a foodie extraordinaire. (Listen to Joel and me interview Hayward about his Age of Reagan.)
Behold... the Bacon Explosion! (Warning: Even the photo may cause chest pains.) The New York Times
profiles profiled the 5,000-calorie, fat-laden monstro... er, delicacy, and its inventors, in Sunday's paper in January (in case you missed it, as I did). Naturally, the Times reporter couldn't help but insert a cute political angle:
The Bacon Explosion posting has since been viewed about 390,000 times. It first found a following among barbecue fans, but quickly spread to sites run by outdoor enthusiasts, off-roaders and hunters. (Several proposed venison-sausage versions.) It also got mentions on the Web site of Air America, the liberal radio network, and National Review, the conservative magazine. Jonah Goldberg at NationalReview.com wrote, “There must be a reason one reader after another sends me this every couple hours.” Conservatives4palin.com linked, too.
So did regular people...
I love that last sentence.
I don't think so. But the Governator clearly inserted a special hidden acrostic in a veto note he sent to the Legislature earlier this month. (Warning: It's naughty.)
Naturally, the Schwarzenegger people deny it, though it probably wasn't a coincidence that the governor's veto was directed at a bill by Tom Ammiano, who just days before had invited Arnold to kiss a part of his homosexual anatomy.
Honestly! These guys make Alan Grayson look like Winston Churchill.
Update (10/30/09): Jack Pitney has just the right take at The Corner:
Granted, cussing is not the deadliest sin. In moments of anger, many of us mutter expletives. YouTube is full of embarrassing “open mike” incidents in which public figures have used bad language. But this case is different. Schwarzenegger deliberately etched an obscene word into the official public record, where it will stay forever.
It probably took his staff a good deal of effort to devise the acrostic. So think about it: Amid a fiscal crisis requiring severe cutbacks, a public employee had to use government time and resources to carry out the governor’s potty-mouth prank. This incident sends the message that he does not take the crisis very seriously. And one hopes that he did not assign a female aide to the task: Such is the stuff of sexual-harassment lawsuits.
Nobody should expect elected officials to be perfect in their private lives. But we can expect them to behave like adults in their public lives. By pulling a stunt that would land a junior-high-school kid in detention, the governor has flunked this standard.
My old boss John Temple gave a speech in Montreal last week in which he attempted to answer that question, and what lessons, if any, could be divined from the paper's demise. I don't want to spoil any surprises, but John offers his own "Twitter" answer at the top:
"Yes and no. Internet the fundamental cause of death. Economic collapse the final blow. Denver could not support two general interest papers."
The rest of Temple's fascinating talk delves into the whys and what-fors.
(Incidentally, he could have included a verb in the second and third sentences if he shortened the fourth with a contraction and an abbreviation. Just saying.)
Joe Queenan has some tough words for Barack Obama's liberal critics in Monday's Wall Street Journal:
In demanding that the president man up and do the will of the people—as defined by last night's polls—critics are insisting that the president dance with the one who brung him. Well, he is dancing with the one who brung him. Barack Obama got elected president in large part because an awful lot of blue-collar Democrats in Pennsylvania and Ohio and the border states voted for him. He didn't get elected simply because of liberals in Malibu and Massachusetts. So, in reality, Mr. Obama already has manned up. He's told the left wing of the Democratic Party that he's running the show, not them. Not comfortable with that? Go blog about it.
Er... over to you, Joel?
Hmmm. I'm trying to decide whether stuff like this falls under the category of annoying rhetorical trope or disturbing trend? Here's Joe Klein blogging at Time about Fox News:
Let me be precise here: Fox News peddles a fair amount of hateful crap. Some of it borders on sedition. Much of it is flat out untrue.
But I don't understand why the White House would give such poisonous helium balloons as Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity the opportunity for still greater spasms of self-inflation by declaring war on Fox.
Yeah, yeah. Fox bad, blah blah blah. What's with the sedition crack? I noticed this theme popping up in April, when the tea parties started to take off. I made note of it again a couple of weeks ago when some guy named Matt Osborne posted a long and terribly earnest screed on treason and sedition at the Huffington Post.
Now Klein invokes sedition, almost as a throwaway line. What Fox News does, he says, "borders on" a notoriously subjective "crime" that has been wildly abused for partisan gain in this country. It could be Klein doesn't know what he's talking about, or it could be he'd really like to see Beck, Hannity, O'Reilly and Ailes hauled away in shackles, or it could be some combination of the two. All I know is, dissent isn't patriotic anymore.
"Scratch a civil libertarian, find a censor," I wrote about the Osborne post. I'm beginning to wonder if that should be the name of a new regular feature, alongside "Gun/Badge/Judgment" and "La Prensa said..." Am I wrong? Maybe I am. But surely Atrios was right.
There’s a solid argument to be made against hate crimes of any sort: We shouldn’t be singling out any group of people as a “protected class.” I respect that argument. But as a legal and practical matter, we’ve long recognized that there are groups of people who are particularly vulnerable to being victimized and that society has an interest in discouraging acts against those people.
In any case, it’s worth remembering the Republicans controlled Congress and the presidency for much of this decade. If they felt that “hate crimes” legislation is generally bad, they certainly could’ve made an effort to repeal the law. As far as I know, they didn’t. Draw your own conclusions.
I conclude that Republicans were too busy larding up spending bills with earmarks and passing new entitlements to pay attention.
Congress passed the first federal hate crimes law in 1968, shortly after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. One justification for that law, much like the rationale for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, was that federal intervention was necessary where the states failed or refused to act. That's why Dwight Eisenhower sent federal troops to enforce court-ordered desegregation, because state governors refused. And that's why the
Civil Voting Rights Act singled out certain states and districts within states, because of the pervasive history of discrimination in those places.
No similar rationale exists today for a federal hate crimes law.
The federal legislation aimed at protecting gays and lesbians from hate-motivated crimes is named after Matthew Shepard, the Wyoming man who was murdered in 1998 perhaps because of his homosexuality, and James Byrd, the black man dragged to his death the same year by three white racists in Texas. In both cases, the animals who committed the crimes were caught, prosecuted, and sent to prison. Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson are serving two consecutive life terms for Shepard's murder. Lawrence Russell Brewer and John William King are sitting on death row for Byrd's murder and Shawn Allen Berry will spend the rest of his life in prison for his role in the killing.
Was there a miscarriage of justice in either of those cases that I'm unaware of? Or is this yet another case of Congress cynically abusing its authority to pile federal laws atop of state laws?
In other words, if it were the case that state and local prosecutors were ignoring or downplaying crimes against certain groups of people, there might be a rationale for a bigger and more robust federal hate crimes law. But they aren't and there isn't.
Over at Sam Karnick's American Culture, our Dr. Zaius dissects CNN's comical analysis of conservative talk radio. Zaius has fun with the cable network's condescending anthropological expedition into the darkest heart of right-wing savage land. "From the tone of Part One, you almost expect the sparkly CNN reporter to beat her way through the topical jungle of Palm Beach, enter the EIB studios and ask: 'Dr. Limbaugh, I presume?'" writes Zaius. (Or even more fitting: "Imagine the growing regrets, the longing to escape, the powerless disgust, the surrender, the hate...")
He continues: "This series promises to reveal more about CNN and the ignorant snobs in the MSM — who see conservative talk radio as a mysterious 'Dark Continent' — than it does about those who listen."
Just so! Naturally, CNN interviewed a shrink, who analyzes conservative talk show hosts and their listeners and reaches some predictable conclusions: Talkers like Rush Limbaugh are just bullies and listeners are like the Vichy French. Or something.
"This segment... is not only a reflection of the network's cluelessness," Zaius concludes, "but about how it assessed its own audience." I'm not the connoisseur of talk radio that I used to be, and I haven't watched CNN since the vice presidential debate last year, but I'd say network's reporting is more insulting to the intelligence of its audience than the most incendiary hour of the worst talk show host in the United States. Thank goodness Zaius watched so we don't have to.
The Bennington Banner interviews Hoosick Falls Police Chief Robert Whalen, grandfather of Matthew Whalen, about the trouble in Lansingburgh. Chief Whalen, who gave Matthew the two-inch knife that landed him in all this trouble, thinks the school district overreacted.
"I think it was overboard on their part," Chief Robert Whalen said.
Understatement of the week, anyone?
Whalen also adds an additional detail about just how unreasonably the Lansingburgh district has behaved in all this:
The chief said school officials asked the boy to provide them with a letter from either the National Guard or the Boy Scouts, both organizations the boy belongs to, saying that it is normal for him to carry a knife. Whalen said the Boy Scouts provided a letter, but another 15 days was nevertheless added to the suspension.
Got that? Whalen jumped through the hoops the bureaucrats set up for him, and they punished him anyway.
The elder Whalen contributes some law enforcement wisdom, too:
Whalen said he believes another student told school officials about the knife in his grandson’s vehicle. He said officials demanded that he open his vehicle and show them what was in the glove compartment, which he said was a violation of the boy’s rights.
Robert Whalen said that zero-tolerance policies, like the one under which Matthew Whalen was suspended, aren’t proven to work. He said that his 33 years a police officer have taught him that each case is different, and that while rules are rules, one catch-all standard cannot be applied.
Don't forget, the school board meets next week. Superintendent George Goodwin and Lansingburgh high school officials have a lot of explaining to do.
Update: Here's the prepared text of Alexander's "enemies list" speech.
Update 2: And here's a good point from Jennifer Rubin at Commentary. What must the independents think of such shenanigans?
And as a style of politics, over the long haul, this sort of hyper-partisan nastiness takes its toll. Independent voters, already disenchanted with the president’s Left-leaning agenda, tend not to approve of such tactics. Indeed, it was the promise that Obama would rise above Clintonian tit-for-tat politics and leave behind past baggage that made candidate Barack Obama so attractive. The American people are quickly learning that candidate Obama — the model of dignified calm, moderation, and bipartisanship — bears little resemblance to the Obama in office.
The fainting couches are getting quite a workout lately at the Media Matters offices. Rush Limbaugh on Tuesday opined -- possibly facetiously, but I can't say for sure -- that a New York Times writer who blogged about the environmental benefits of contraception should go the extra green mile and kill himself. Earnest liberals were purple with indignation.
So overtaken with the vapors are Limbaugh's foes that they missed the obvious reference.
Life's short and hard like a body-building elf
So save the planet and kill yourself
If you're feelin' down-and-out with what your life is all about
Lift your head up high and blow your brains out
Evidently, Andrew Revkin is not a Bloodhound Gang fan, either.
As another philosopher once asked: How will I laugh tomorrow when I can't even smile today?
The one glaring question we have is where is the school board?
This paper called a couple of board members and they said only the president can speak on behalf the board so they couldn’t comment on the situation.
We weren’t asking them to speak on behalf of the board. They’re elected independently, and we were asking them to speak their own mind.
Furthermore, they’re elected to set policy for the district and dictate how those policies are implemented. As such, we are calling on the school board to lift Whalen’s suspension, modify any and all “zero-tolerance” policies to include a modicum of common sense and then take a hard look at those responsible for the boneheaded suspension of an Eagle Scout, whose motto is always be prepared, for having a two-inch pocketknife in the glove box of his car.
Those people are: (George) Goodwin, because he handles the day-to-day operations, high school Principal Angela Bergin and Athletic Director Mike Harkin, because they held the superintendent’s meeting without the superintendent, and Assistant Principal Frank Macri because he imposed the initial five-day suspension.
Goodwin, as I've argued, deserves the lion's share of the scrutiny -- and the blame -- because he has been completely unreasonable and unmovable in the face of revelations that New York law does not recognize Whalen's two-inch knife as a weapon and gives superintendents far more discretion in such cases. What's more, Goodwin's senseless intransigence could lead to a costly lawsuit for the school district -- and isn't that what "zero-tolerance" policies were made to avoid?
The Lansingburgh school board is scheduled to meet on October 27. That's the ideal time to air these questions. And the board and school administrator's better have some good answers.
I saw that headline on the Drudge Report today and thought, "Finally! The MSM is getting hip to the hoax that is global warming." Alas, those esteemed MSM outlets — who we can trust because they check their sources with the kind of doggedness the "new media" do not — were simply suckered by a purposely fraudulent Web site called The Yes Men who put out a phony Chamber of Commerce press release. Here's Politico's recap.
In a dramatic shift, the Chamber of Commerce announced Monday that it is throwing its support behind climate change legislation making its way through the U.S. Senate.
Only it didn’t.
An email press release announcing the change is a hoax, say Chamber officials.
Several media organizations fell for it.
A CNBC anchor interrupted herself mid-sentence Monday morning to announce that the network had “breaking news,” then cut away to reporter Hampton Pearson, who read from the fake press release.
Pearson quickly followed up with a second report saying the “so-called bulletin” was an “absolute hoax.” ...
In a story posted Monday morning, Reuters declared: “The Chamber of Commerce said on Monday it will no longer opposes climate change legislation, but wants the bill to include a carbon tax.”
Reuters updated the story to acknowledge the hoax, but it was too late: The Washington Post and the New York Times had already posted the fake story on their Web sites.
Though CNBC wiped the egg off its face with haste, the slime still reflects poorly on the MSM suckers. As Iain Murray notes at The Corner:
What amazes me is that this sort of fact-checking takes just a couple of mouse clicks. ... All of which suggests that major news organizations are simply machines for regurgitating press releases, real or not, that accord with their view of where the world should be going. That's what the Yes Men have exposed ...
Jonathan Turley writes in USA Today about the Obama administration's wrong-headed decision to sign on to the U.N. Human Rights Council's efforts to restrict free speech.
"The public and private curtailment on religious criticism threatens religious and secular speakers alike. However, the fear is that, when speech becomes sacrilegious, only the religious will have true free speech," Turley argues. "It is a danger that has become all the more real after the decision of the Obama administration to join in the effort to craft a new faith-based speech standard. It is now up to Congress and the public to be heard before the world leaves free speech with little more than a hope and a prayer."
George Goodwin is the superintendent of the Lansingburgh Central School District in Troy, NY. Goodwin is responsible for sustaining the decision by Lansingburgh High School administrators to suspend 17-year-old senior, Eagle Scout and national guardsman Matthew Whalen for possessing a two-inch keychain knife -- a knife that New York state law does not recognize as a weapon and that was locked up in the trunk of Whalen's car.
Goodwin is also a very unreasonable man. His intransigence may cost Troy's taxpayers some money as Whalen's parents have reversed course and decided to sue the school district over its mindless, insipid zero-tolerance policy.
(Update: The Whalens have hired an attorney.)
A profile on FoxNews.com describes Goodwin as "Mr. Zero Tolerance" and notes that the 55-year-old bureaucrat is "unwilling to speak to the teen's family or bend in his ruling."
Goodwin apparently won't even say hello to Whalen, who is reporting to the school district office every day for 90-minutes of tutoring for the duration of his 20-day suspension. Whalen was initially suspended for five days, but Goodwin approved the additional 15-day punishment after listening to a tape of a "superintendent's hearing" where the high school principle heard the student's case.
Naturally, the Whalen family is livid not just about the punishment but Goodwin's shabby and insulting handling of the case:
The ruling from Goodwin has outraged Whalen's family, which said if district officials are unable to use their own judgment, their roles aren't necessary.
"I don't think it's unreasonable to ask for some intelligence on the part of administrators to use discretion and judgment in their daily decisions," said Bryan Whalen. "Otherwise, what are we paying them for?
"You could have a trained monkey or a computer sitting there just spitting out right and wrong and never any gray areas. That's just not the way the world works," he told Foxnews.com.
I think that's an insult to monkeys, actually.
So... what else do we know about George Goodwin? I couldn't find much about him at the Troy Record, but the Albany Times-Union had a bit more. He's been with the district for nearly 15 years, serving as assistant superintendent until 2007, when he took over for Lee Bordick, who retired after 22 years on the job. Goodwin was one of six candidates for the job, which pays a respectable $140,000 a year.
According to a Times-Union story published at the time of his promotion in 2007:
Goodwin joined the district in 1995 as assistant superintendent. Before coming to Lansingburgh, he was principal of Dansville High School and Hilton High School and assistant principal of Spencerport High School, all in the Rochester area. Before moving into administration, he was a mathematics teacher and program coordinator in the Buffalo City Schools.
A native of Buffalo, Goodwin earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics education from the State University College at Buffalo, a master's degree from State University at Buffalo and a school district administrator certification from the State University College at Brockport.
Until this week, the most controversial issue Goodwin had to deal with was a controversy surrounding Landingsburgh High School's football team. Seems like he's out of his depth.
Here is George Goodwin's contact information. Please consider dropping him a line expressing your respectful disagreement with his mindless decision.
Mr. George J. Goodwin
Superintendent of Schools
Lansingburgh Central School District
576 Fifth Avenue
Troy, New York 12182
Phone: (518) 233-6850 Ext. 3400
Fax: (518) 235-7436
But the problem isn't just Goodwin, of course. It's the school board to which Goodwin is supposed to be accountable. An earlier story noted how one member of the board, reached at home, deferred all press inquiries to the superintendent. And the president of the board has said she cannot comment on the discipline of an individual. The question is no longer what the board intends to do about Matthew Whalen but rather what does the board intend to do about George Goodwin?
Here is the current membership of the Lansingburgh Board of Education:
• Mrs. Mary Sweeney, President
• Mrs. Susan Farrell, Vice President
• Mrs. Hilary McGrath
• Mr. P.J. Higgitt
• Mrs. Bonnie Lance
• Mrs. Karlene Gamble
• Mr. Edward McDonough
• Mr. Jason Shover
• Mrs. Kelley Bristol
The board is scheduled to meet next on October 27. Should be a lively one.
George Goodwin, a soulless bureaucratic automaton and superintendent of the Lansingburgh Central School District in Troy, NY, won't back down from one of the dumbest school discipline decisions in American history.
This was originally just going to be a comment beneath the previous Rush and the Rams thread, but I started to babble on, so now it's a full post. Concerning previous comments that (roughly) this is the "free market" at work, Rush has no right to own an NFL team, etc. ... Ramesh Ponnuru gets to the crux of the matter, and why it's outrageous, at The Washington Post's forum:
In his gleeful column about Limbaugh's failed attempt to become an owner of the Rams, Eugene Robinson writes: "In announcing that Limbaugh was no longer associated with his bid for the Rams, Checketts said it was 'clear that his involvement in our group has become a complication and a distraction.' That's the way the free market works in this great country of ours. I know that Rush will join me in a chorus of 'God Bless America.'"
Nice try. Since nobody is talking about using government regulation to keep Limbaugh from suffering from a smear campaign or its fallout, conservatives' belief in the free market is entirely irrelevant to the controversy. (People acting under no government compulsion make foolish and even wicked decisions all the time. Has any conservative ever denied this obvious truth?)
Conservatives' criticism has been directed at the invented quotes that much of the media have used to portray Limbaugh as a racist: the vile claims that he approved the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and favors slavery. Incredibly, Robinson does not mention these journalistic fabrications.
And it's much the most interesting facet of this story. Much of the press was willing to believe that Limbaugh believes these hateful things, and even broadcast them--and that millions of American conservatives listen daily to this type of filth. This is what a lot of liberal journalists think about their conservative fellow citizens. Is it any wonder their coverage is so frequently unfair?
As Limbaugh himself noted on his radio show yesterday, this is not really even about him. He is just a conduit for the liberal establishment's attack on conservatism, which they believe to be racist at its core. Whether or not most liberals actually believe that, the leading lights of liberalism that get on news chat shows and write columns are quick use race as a club to shut down debate and discredit their political opponents. One look no farther than attempts to portray criticism of Obama as having no grounding in principle, but in racism.
As but the latest example, Michael Wilbon, a sports columnist I used to greatly admire in The Washington Post, did not use his column yesterday to walk back from his unfair characterization of Rush. Instead, he doubled down.
But Limbaugh has [a] long history of the same insults and race baiting, to the point of declaring he hoped the president of the United States, a black man, fails. I never understood why someone with Limbaugh's gift for communication was so nasty and, in my opinion, gave cover to bigots everywhere under the guise of conservatism. Clearly, I'm not alone.
So ... Limbaugh, as principled a conservative as you can find — one who even opposed John McCain for president (until the only other option was Obama) — opposes the ultra-liberal Obama because he is black. Must be the only explanation. (Sigh.) This from a man who admits he doesn't listen to Limbaugh — but everyone he knows tells him that Rush is a racist, so it must be true. (How much do you want to bet Wilbon has few if any friends who have listened non-stop to a single hour of Rush's show, let alone a week's worth?)
Certainly, Rush Limbaugh does not have a "right" to be a minority owner of an NFL team. And there is no "right" that protects him from being unfairly called a racist (though libel laws do give him the right to seek judicial punishment for the slander). Yet we should all agree that what has happened to him this week was a terrible wrong. In a just society, those who peddled the lies about what Rush said should be thumped out of the public commentariat. There are no accusations more damning in American society than to be unfairly portrayed as a racist, especially if one makes his living as a public commentator. And to be falsely accused of saying on the air that the assassin of MLK deserves a Medal of Honor? To say that slavery "wasn't all bad"? Egad! Yet I've heard no one who peddled those vicious libel fully take it back (Excising the quotes from stories with an "editor's note" stating Limbaugh "claims" he never said it, or that it can't be proven is almost as shameful as the original smear).
Of course, the two loudest howlers against Rush — Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson — continue to enjoy fawning media attention despite their own long history of race hustling and perpetuating mythical "race crimes" (See: Rape Case, Duke Lacrosse; Brawley, Tawana). They are never even asked to apologize, let alone have it in them to do it.
So, yes. My wish is about as likely to come true as I am to be signed by an NFL team. But I will cling to it nonetheless.
I'm more exercised by the harm school administrators and their stupid policies do to kids than I am bothered by news that Rush Limbaugh won't get to own a piece of the St. Louis Rams. But I'm still plenty bothered.
Limbaugh was slandered and libeled. Without question. Cable news networks aired wholly fabricated quotations attributed to the conservative radio talk show host. Worse, when those networks were called on the fabrications, they refused to retract or apologize. CNN's Rick Sanchez aired the phony quotes. Sanchez later said that although the phony quotes were "in dispute," Limbaugh had said plenty of offensive things. So there!
John Hinderaker at Powerline observes: "It is worth noting, as a kind of macabre footnote, that CNN found it worthwhile to 'fact check' Saturday Night Live when that program had the temerity to ridicule CNN's President, The One. Maybe CNN could become a respected news organization if it tried to fact check news stories as well as comedy skits, starting with--is this too much to ask?--its own broadcasts."
And Mark Steyn asks: "Can Rush buy the St Louis Rams if he gets Roman Polanski to front the deal?"
Incidentally, Steyn points to an excellent piece by Toby Harden in the London Telegraph, who writes:
The irony is, of course, that the people reporting this as fact are the same types who are always denouncing bloggers and the internet as forces of evil intent on destroying proper journalism – proper journalism being the kind that involves checking facts. In the case of Rush Limbaugh, however, it seems to be enough that the intention (i.e. to show the talk radio host is a racist) is considered pure.
Even those who have been primary movers in spreading these malicious falsehoods – which would lead to payouts of hundreds of thousands in British libel courts if lawsuits were ever filed there – are brazenly unapologetic.
Thus, St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bryan Burwell pens this column containing the slavery quote and then follows up with another column with a kind-of-sort-of-well-not-really-at-all mea culpa in which he states that the quote seemed “so in character with the many things that Limbaugh has said before that we didn’t verify it beyond the book”.
OK, so it sounded right and it was on the internet or in a book or something so it was fine to just go ahead and print it as stone-cold fact without any attribution? I wonder which journalism school teaches that?
None of them. And all of them.
Washington Post writer-turned-Huffington Post editor Thomas Edsall argues at length for a point that I made in passing when I interviewed a couple of months ago at the Sacramento Bee: If you're going to be liberal, or "progressive," then make no pretense of being something else. The readers don't buy it anymore anyway.
Here's Edsall, writing at the Columbia Journalism Review:
If reporters were the only ones allowed to vote, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, and John Kerry would have won the White House by landslide margins. More specifically, reporters and editors tend to be social liberals, not economic liberals. Their view of unions and the labor movement is wary and suspicious. They are far more interested in stories about hate crimes than in stories about the distribution of income.
But, and this is a mega-but, even though the mainstream media are by this measure liberal, ending the discussion at this point would be a major disservice to both the press and the public. While the personnel tend to share an ideological worldview, most have a personal and professional commitment to the objective presentation of information, a commitment that is not shared by the conservative media. FOX News, The Weekly Standard, National Review, The Washington Times, Drudge, The Washington Examiner, The American Spectator, CNS News, Town Hall, WorldNetDaily, Insight Magazine are all explicitly ideological. FOX makes the bizarre and palpably untrue claim of ideological neutrality, “We Report, You Decide”—a claim it violates so routinely that no one takes it seriously.
While the mainstream media often fail to live up to their own standards, their committed pursuit of neutrality and objectivity is crucial to the quality of American journalism. That commitment is the main reason the mainstream press is so intensely sensitive to allegations of bias. The refusal of mainstream media executives to acknowledge the ideological leanings of their staffs has produced a dangerous form of media guilt in which the press leans over so far backward to avoid the charge of left bias that it ends up either neutered or leaning to the right. This happened at The Washington Post and was reflected in weak and sometimes fawning coverage, first of the opening years of the Reagan administration, and even more so during George W. Bush’s first term—when not only the lead-up to the Iraq invasion but key domestic initiatives went largely unexamined, with disastrous consequences.
I'd take issue with a number of particulars, but I think Edsall's broader point is right on: The press has a vast and ever-expanding trust deficit with readers and viewers, and pretending to be "objective" when the opposite is obvious to even the least-comprehending consumer is counterproductive and economically ruinous.
Edsall goes on to offer several interesting suggestions for how the media should reposition itself. He ends with the following:
Although it is the subject for another essay, the fact is that there are very few good conservative reporters. There are many intellectually impressive conservative advocates and opinion leaders, but the ideology does not seem to make for good journalists. In contrast, any examination of the nation’s top reporters over the past half-century would show that, in the main, liberals do make good journalists in the tradition of objective news coverage. The liberal tilt of the mainstream media is, in this view, a strength, but one that in recent years, amid liberal-bias controversies, has been mismanaged.
That is indeed a subject for another essay, and I think here Edsall's biases get the better of him. Why are there so few good conservative reporters? Perhaps because like attracts like. Journalism, in the main, attracts a certain type of personality and temperament. At the risk of over-generalizing, that personality tends to gravitate toward do-good causes. For whatever reason, many conservatives are simply not wired that way. But the lack of intellectual diversity in America's newsrooms has contributed to the media's implosion.
Again, it's not that Americans do not want straight news, or prefer opinion to fact -- although there does seem to be a sizable segment of the choir that prefers to be preached to by safe and predictable ministers of the liberal or conservative Gospel. Don't forget: "Objectivity" is a mostly 20th century phenomenon. Nobody outside the serene cubicles of a modern newsroom believes that objective journalism guarantees accuracy or truth. Often, the opposite is true. And, let's face it, the republic survived and thrived with openly partisan journalism. It might have been a bit more vicious, but there was a certain honesty in the old journalism.
"The Republican Party has thrown in its lot with the terrorists - the Taliban and Hamas this morning - in criticizing the President for receiving the Nobel Peace prize," DNC communications director Brad Woodhouse told POLITICO. "Republicans cheered when America failed to land the Olympics and now they are criticizing the President of the United States for receiving the Nobel Peace prize - an award he did not seek but that is nonetheless an honor in which every American can take great pride - unless of course you are the Republican Party.
"The 2009 version of the Republican Party has no boundaries, has no shame and has proved that they will put politics above patriotism at every turn. It's no wonder only 20 percent of Americans admit to being Republicans anymore - it's an embarrassing label to claim," Woodhouse said.
For the record, I harbor no particular ill-will toward President Obama for accepting the Peace Prize. It's merely politics, after all.
But I read statements such as the one from Woodhouse and I think maybe -- just maybe -- Atrios was right.
I know, I know... who the hell is Matt Osborne? Well, I suppose the same question might be asked of me. (The answer, briefly, is here.) But, as it happens, I'd never heard of Matt Osborne or Osborneink.com until tonight, by way of Memeorandum, when I discovered the man's post on "Treason and Sedition" at the Huffington Post.
Osborne, like Brother Mathis before him, doesn't particularly care for some of the rhetoric he's hearing from the fever swamps of the right. He writes:
When the right-wing website NewsMax.com ran a John Perry column praising the idea of a military coup against the president, they were also engaging in sedition. NewsMax wisely pulled the column, but Perry's rhetoric is only growing more common with a new burst of militia movement activity. Sedition keeps showing up on talk radio: Michale (sic) Savage has pined for armed revolt on the air, and Jim Quinn has called for riots. The callers can be even worse...
You would think that Republicans, being the party of law and order, would move quickly to condemn this kind of speech. But in fact, they both enable and encourage it. Texas Governor Rick Perry famously invoked the spectre of secession against stimulus spending and health care reform; Republicans regularly stovepipe policy statements through FreeRepublic.com, whose founder openly advocates the overthrow and removal of the entire US government.
Let me stipulate that what Osborne says about Savage, whose show I sometimes hear but do not listen to, and Quinn, whose show I do not know, is true. Let me also stipulate that what Osborne says about former LBJ staffer John Perry is true. Furthermore, I'm prepared to stipulate that there are some whack jobs at Free Republic. And that Rick Perry used the word "secession" in a speech last spring at a Tea Party event on April 15. Also, many callers to talk radio shows are insane.
Osborne cannot seriously want the U.S. government to start prosecuting people again for seditious libel. The history of such prosecutions is not a distinguished one. Reviving the practice makes no sense under the First Amendment or as a matter of basic political calculation: What goes around, comes around.
A few years ago, Gabriel Schoenfeld made the case in Commentary for prosecuting the New York Times under the Espionage Act. Schoenfeld is obviously smarter than Osborne, but his idea was just as foolish. Do we really want to return to the good old days of A. Mitchell Palmer? Do we even need to have that discussion?
Obviously, the fear is that crazy speech will lead to crazy -- or deadly -- acts. Fear of violence or subversion has long been an excuse to suppress dissent or mere heterodoxy. But it's worth remembering that George W. Bush never did what Osborne and his ilk are contemplating today. Scratch a civil libertarian, find a censor, I guess.
This would be fun to laugh at if it wasn't so sad. While the ACORN story was blowing up all over the Web and "right-wing" news outlets for the last month, readers of The New York Times — considered by some to still be the "paper of record" — were ignorant of all the basic background by the time the paper finally reported that Congress was canceling millions slated for ACORN's coffers.
It go to the point that Clark Hoyt, the paper's "public editor," had to step in and gently chide his employer for ignoring one of the biggest stories of the year.
When The Times misses or is slow on a story that is boiling elsewhere — and Acorn was having real-world impact, with Congressional votes and a criminal investigation — it lets its readers down.
Even sadder is a comment from a reader that John Hinderaker at Powerline notes from Hoyt's column.
Here's an example, from Leigh Allen of San Francisco, who said she relies on The Times to keep her informed: "I often don't hear about the latest conflict until I read a Facebook rant from an old high school friend or talk on the phone with my mother (both in conservative Orange County, Calif.). It's embarrassing not to be able to respond with facts when I hadn't even heard about the issue." Michele Cusack of Novato, Calif., said that when someone asked if she had heard the latest about Acorn, "I had to answer 'no' because I get all my news from The New York Times."
Poor dear. Relying on The New York Times to keep her informed. The newspaper industry has enough problems — which are accentuated when they won't report the news because of elitist liberal bias. "If Fox News and Glenn Beck and talk radio is on the story ... we must not report it!"
MSM newspapers can still be a big player in the new media world. Unfortunately, newspapers keep accelerating their decline because of self-inflicted wounds.
The Muffled Oar blog calls shenanigans on an alleged unit of the Department of Justice's Office of Public Affairs "tasked with posting anonymous comments, or comments under pseudonyms, at newspaper websites with stories critical of the Department of Justice, Holder and President Obama."
The Heritage Foundation's Hans von Spakovsky elaborates at the Corner:
I doubt that the Office of Public Affairs (OPA) has received an ethics opinion from Justice’s Professional Responsibility Advisory Office (PRAO) saying that it is acceptable for OPA employees to be harassing critics of the department through postings that deliberately hide their DOJ affiliation (a practice that is not very “open” or “transparent”). DOJ lawyers also ought to be aware of ABA Model Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4, which states that it is professional misconduct for a lawyer to engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation. If the report in The Muffled Oar is correct, tax dollars are being used directly for such dishonest, deceitful behavior.
I'd like to see some follow up about this from other bloggers and perhaps even a mainstream media outlet before weighing in further. (With respect to the Muffled Oar, I'd never heard of it before today.) I would simply remind readers that the Pentagon found itself in a boatload of trouble last year over revelations that it had paid retired generals to parrot the government line on TV. This sounds similar, if not more insidious.
This is ranks as the lamest piece of journalism I've read in six, maybe seven hours.
Yahoo's Brett Michael Dykes goes about "fact checking" Saturday Night Live's opening sketch from October 5. In case you missed it, the sketch featured Fred Armison as Obama recounting the administration's accomplishments so far. The most cutting part of the bit was Armison/Obama saying the left should be more displeased with him than the right because, after all, "I could make it mandatory for all gays to marry and require all cars to run on marijuana. But do I? No!" Hey, Dykes: Just because the administration is "hopeful" it will somehow make its January 2010 deadline to shut down Gitmo, that doesn't make it a "fact."
Let the word go forth that Brett Michael Dykes is the biggest stick in the mud this side of David Brock, Christopher Hitchens and Charles Angoff. Off to clown college with him!
Update: My apologies to Brett Michael Dykes. He has nothing on the stiffs in the comments at Salon.
Update 2 (10/6/09): Good grief, CNN did a fact check segment on the bit, too?! Is this going to be a regular thing now? Why didn't they show this kind of interest in parsing comedy shows, say, 12 months ago? (Why, yes, that is a rhetorical question!) You know what's funny? This is coming from the same network whose president a couple of months ago told his producers to avoid booking radio talk-show hosts because "Complex issues require world-class reporting." Watch the video below and tell me: Does that look like "world-class reporting" to you?
(Via Townhall and a bunch of other people.)
Over at Mediaite, Tommy Christopher plays his analysis straight:
By framing the segment as a fact check, CNN is providing conservatives with confirmation that the mainstream media is “in the tank” for Obama, despite evidence to the contrary. They could have accomplished the same thing by deconstructing the clip as part of a broader examination of the way comedy fiction becomes popular fact.
Perhaps CNN isn’t being inconsistent, but rather instituting a new policy. If that’s the case, I can’t wait to see their first fact-check of “Family Guy.”
Update: Go to Twitter. Search "#CNNFactCheck". Funny stuff.
"Despite what Fernando says, you do NOT look marvelous."
"CNN has obtained a statement from the CDC advising that "more cowbell" is nvr the appropriate cure for a fever."
"General Francisco Franco is still dead."
That top 10 list isn't as funny (or maybe it is!) in the context of today's surprising news about David Letterman's run-in with an alleged extortionist. (The funniest part of the story is the part where the extortionist accepted a check for $2 million to keep quiet about Letterman's affairs with his staffers.)
I'm not as fond of Letterman as I once was. I think his act is tired and predictable. These days, I gravitate to Conan O'Brien at 11:30 p.m. I've read over the years that Letterman is a fairly self-loathing character. Clearly he has every reason to be, but I feel awful for Letterman's wife and his young son, Harry. Don't they deserve better than this man?
I've read a substantial bit of Matt Latimer's memoir, Speech-Less: Tales of a White House Survivor, which is getting flack from all the right people. (Did I buy the book? Of course not! I'm saving my money for John Derbyshire.)
Latimer is a stranger to me. But I happen to be good friends with a couple of former White House speechwriters. They wouldn't have written a book like this. I'm not a fan of George W. Bush and I believe a proper, non-screedy post-mortem of the Bush administration still needs to be written. But Speech-less isn't it. Is there a middle ground between Latimer's frivolousness and Latimer's attempted message? The story that needs to be told is subsumed by the shallowness of the teller.
(I understand that Latimer is collaborating with Donald Rumsfeld on the former secretary of defense's memoirs. Interesting.)
I am a fan of Bill Bennett, however -- warts and all. Bennett discussed Latimer's book on CNN yesterday. Here's what he had to say to Wolf Blitzer (via Peter Wehner at The Corner):
Talk about way over your head. He's way over [his] head. That's the best job he'll have ever. The guy is a worm. He's a worm. He belongs under a rock next to Scott McClellan. This is so disgusting. I don't know if Don Rumsfeld knows what he's getting. I have been critical of the Bush administration, but I did not work for the George W. Bush administration. This kind of disloyalty is — you know, give me ten ultra liberal Paul Begalas for his integrity. [Latimer] needs to read his Dante. He probably hasn't read "The Inferno." The lowest circle of hell are (sic) for people who are disloyal in the way this guy is disloyal and the very lowest point Satan chews on their bodies. Maybe Scott McClellan will chew on this guy's leg in the after life. So creepy and so disgusting. Why waste 15 minutes on this guy?
I would have said something like, "Latimer will likely regret writing this book, especially at this stage in his career." But you really can't go wrong with fantastically over-the-top Dante references.
To sum up: Matt Latimer belongs in the same company as Brutus, Cassius, and Judas Iscariot. Matt Latimer is officially History's Worst Monster.
Wow. Hitler, Stalin, and Jimmy Carter must be envious.
Politico reports ACORN is suing Andrew Breitbart, James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles for covertly videotaping an employee offering advice on tax evasion and immigration fraud.
Because it seems clear that Obama lied in his address to Congress. While I believe Obama was intentionally fibbing when he said no illegal aliens would get free health care under the plans floating around Congress, he certainly fibbed when telling this story:
President Barack Obama, seeking to make a case for health-insurance regulation, told a poignant story to a joint session of Congress last week. An Illinois man getting chemotherapy was dropped from his insurance plan when his insurer discovered an unreported gallstone the patient hadn't known about.
"They delayed his treatment, and he died because of it," the president said in the nationally televised address.
In fact, the man, Otto S. Raddatz, didn't die because the insurance company rescinded his coverage once he became ill, an act known as recission. The efforts of his sister and the office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan got Mr. Raddatz's policy reinstated within three weeks of his April 2005 rescission and secured a life-extending stem-cell transplant for him. Mr. Raddatz died this year, nearly four years after the insurance showdown.
What Wilson did during Obama's address was rude. But that doesn't mean he was wrong on the merits.
(HT: The Corner)
John Fund guts ACORN like a mackerel in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal.
(That's right... I compared a nut to a fish. Sue me.)
You've been reading about the ongoing exposé of ACORN, I hope? Andrew Breitbart's latest venture, BigGovernment.com, launched amid real fanfare last week with journalist James O'Keefe's explosive video of a fake prostitute and pimp getting advice from ACORN workers in Baltimore on how to skirt tax and immigration laws to set up a brothel using underage El Salvadoran girls.
The organization of "community organizers" receives hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars every year from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Commerce, and other federal and state government sources. ACORN is even receiving money from the $787 billion stimulus bill President Obama signed in February.
ACORN officials said the Baltimore case was an "isolated incident."
Then O'Keefe and his collaborator, Hannah Giles, went to Washington D.C. and pulled the same pimp-and-prostitute stunt.
The U.S. Census Bureau, which planned to use ACORN volunteers next year as canvassers, cut ties with the group on Friday.
Then O'Keefe and Giles went to New York and did it again.
The United States Senate on Monday voted to strip ACORN of its HUD funding.
Then O'Keefe and Giles came here to California -- just down the road apiece in San Bernardino, as a matter of fact -- and did it again.
Meantime, House Republican Minority Leader John Boehner on Tuesday called on Congress to cut all federal funding to the group. Tax dollars aren't just ACORN's bread-and-butter... they're the group's very lifeblood.
O'Keefe, Giles, Breitbart and Fox News, which has been airing the videos, are going to be sued, of course. There are the usual questions about what O'Keefe may have edited out of his videos. I, for one, can't wait to see what comes out during the discovery phase of the lawsuit. But ACORN likely won't escape state scrutiny in all of this, either, in the form of criminal investigations. That's investigations, plural.
Live by Alinsky, die by Alinsky. Ironic, isn't it?
Update: ACORN is pushing back hard on the San Bernardino video. The San Bernardino Sun is reporting that "the head organizer for California ACORN says a new video that appears to show a staffer at the organization's San Bernardino office is fake journalism."
Also, the ACORN people are saying the crazy Berdoo lady, identified on the video as Tresa Kaelke, "was messing with" the would-be journalists.
From the Sun story:
"In this video, there are two actors who come into our office and who were messing with us. And our employee was messing with them," (California ACORN head organizer Amy) Schur said.
She said that the complete and unedited video needs to be released to the public.
Schur said that in a moment not shown on the edited video, Kaelke asked the undercover "pimp" if he was joking and then proceeded to play along with the joke.
Furthermore, Schur said that Kaelke will sign an affidavit stating that she was not seriously entertaining the idea of cooperating with an apparent attempt to establish a house of prostitution.
"She (Kaelke) asked if they were joking and asked if they were reporters. They said they weren't reporters and they aren't. This is not legitimate news," Schur said.
I don't believe a word Schur says. But I'm forced to agree with one thing: BigGovernment and James O'Keefe should post the unedited videos. There will always be questions, and Lord knows an editing job can paint a skewed or unreal picture. Releasing the videos would allay many doubts, answer many questions, and stop pro-ACORN spin cold.
John McCain's former chief of staff, campaign strategist, and book collaborator Mark Salter is dismayed at how far the public discourse has fallen. He writes:
Excesses of zeal by anti-Obama protestors make me ashamed for my country. As did excesses committed by anti-Bush protestors. Today's "birthers," are no more offensive or weird than those who believe the Bush Administration was complicit in planning the attacks of September 11 or invaded Iraq to increase the profits of defense companies. And, yet, it only seems to be rude or asinine behavior on the right that gives the press and other Washington elites the vapors. While on the left it is tolerated, attributed to provocations by the right, or in some cases invested with a virtuous significance it surely lacks.
So far so good. Salter goes on:
Political intolerance and incivility by the left and right is as prevalent on the internet as porn, and not that much less a factor in the coarsening of our culture. But for many reporters, anger on the right side of the web is worrying and important story. The Huffington Post is a source.
Right on. He continues:
I'm more than a little familiar with that calumny, having been charged along with other senior members of the McCain campaign and our candidate with the same offense. We were somehow complicit with every intemperate jerk who shouted something obnoxious at any of our campaign events. Our ads about Democratic support for Fannie Mae were racist. Calling candidate Obama a "celebrity" was racist. Shouts of "murderer" or "warmonger" by Obama supporters or our opponent's accusation that Senator McCain was anti immigrant or trying to steal grandma's Medicare went largely unnoticed. And yet it was our candidate who often and publicly denounced crude or outrageous attacks on our opponent. The courtesy was seldom returned. McCain would have fired any staffer who said something or acted in a way that could fairly be described as racist. For his troubles, he was likened by a leading civil rights figure and Obama supporter to the murderers who killed three little African American girls. There was barely a murmur of protest by the press about that injustice.
The double-standard is indeed appalling. Salter concludes:
I despair of the coarsening of our politics and our broader culture. So much so that after a lifetime in politics I'm beginning to think I might have rendered more honorable service to humanity had I worked in professional wrestling. That independents, who decide elections in this country, seem to feel the same way is enough encouragement to hope that perhaps we are still capable of reform. But our political discourse won't begin to recover any civility until we get some referees back in the game, who will call bullshit on both sides.
Oh, how that kicker makes me smile. Once again: Atrios was right.