Monthly Archives: October 2009

Front Page?

The Washington Post has a front page story about a Foreign Service officer resigning in protest against the Afghan War.  I didn’t read but the first graph or so but thought it odd that a relatively junior officer would deserve that newsprint position. 

Well regarded former Post reporter Tom Ricks, asked this morning on The Diane Rehm Show on NPR if The Post  overplayed the story, said,

“Yes. Oh my god, who’s going to run the office copy machine?  I don’t think [the State Dept.] trusts this guy with the men’s room key yet.

I’m a Republican…and I’m a Mac

Humor can be most effective in political advertisements, especially when it’s used to ridicule your opponent.  I think it can be most effective when used against the right-wing extremists and when there is intentional misinformation.  But just a simple spoof of the Apple vs. PC commercials is catchy, too.  Note that they use a woman as the Democrat and a smarmy white guy as the Republican. (Thanks to Political Wire.)

‘Tolerate Inequality to Achieve Prosperity’

You wonder if these guys ever listen to themselves.

A Goldman Sachs International adviser defended compensation in the finance industry as his company plans a near-record year for pay, saying the spending will help boost the economy. "We have to tolerate the inequality as a way to achieve greater prosperity and opportunity for all," Brian Griffiths, who was a special adviser to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, said yesterday at a panel discussion hosted by St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

‘Obnoxiously Articulate’?

This is pretty funny.

In short, {AP’s Liz] Sidoti criticized Obama in early September for failing to "articulate his vision" on health care. Obama then gave a nationally televised speech laying out his position on the issue and continued to speak out about health care and other issues in the following weeks. The result? Sidoti suggests that he is "obnoxiously articulate" because he hasn’t "stop[ped] talking about his goals." In other words: heads I win, tails you lose.

A Call for Brauchli to Resign

As Washington Post editor Marcus Brauchli tries to minimize the damage from the salon affairs, calls are beginning for his departure.

As managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, he had allowed Rupert Murdoch, the paper’s new owner, to push him around — and ultimately out the door — in contravention of the editorial-independence framework that the News Corp. (NWS) owner had agreed to. Rather than sound the alarm, Brauchli held his tongue, his amiable silence purchased by $3 million (or more) of Murdoch’s money.

…This is serious. This isn’t about journalistic judgment; it’s about integrity. Brauchli was given a chance to take responsibility, and he responded by falling back on the exact sort of obfuscation and hair-splitting that newspapers like his exist to demolish. And he’s still doing it: In a chat with Post readers today, Brauchli faulted himself for failing to see to it that the salons were marketed correctly, but said nothing about his own role in propagating the "misunderstanding." No doubt he’s a fine journalist in many regards, but the top editor of an institution like The Washington Post — one of a handful of great American newspapers, and the first line of defense against government perfidy — has to be more than just a fine journalist. He has to be a paragon.

Brauchli will probably survive this episode, if only because his boss, at whose pleasure he serves, shares his culpability. But he should offer his resignation.

Why Is the Obama Administration Attacking Fox News?

Conventional wisdom is that attacking Fox News does little for the Obama administration.  It energizes about one-fifth of the population, let alone Fox CEO Roger Ailes and owner Rupert Murdoch.  It’s not just to play to Obama’s base. 

The Obama guys are smart.  What is the thinking behind their attacks?

Pat Buchanan highlighted a truth the mainstream media is loathed to promote:  They are culpable to pressure to emphasize conservative views. 

“I know when we hit the New York Times, for example, in the 60s, all of sudden they blossomed with an op-ed page that had some conservatives on it and had conservative voices on it, and all the other newspapers did as well,” [said Pat Buchanan on the Chris Matthews show yesterday about his efforts while in the Nixon administration].

Whether that kind of public admonishment would work against conservative media such as Fox News is debatable. I can’t imagine Rupert Murdoch caving to this kind of pressure from the Obama administration. 

During the segment below, Matthews made the claim that Fox has journalists who do not reflect an agenda in their reporting.  He cited specifically Major Garrett, Shepherd Smith and Britt Hume. I don’t know much about Garrett’s or Smith’s reporting.  It’s hard not to see Hume as biased, however, despite his past as a reporter.  In any case, if some of these more objective journalists feel frozen out, their only choice will likely be to find another job.

But despite the comments coming from the White House, David Axelrod said the administration would continue to appear on their shows.  He didn’t say which.

While Buchanan defended the administration’s right to attack Fox, he said in this case it would be counterproductive.  He also made this comment about his efforts against the New York Times, “We did it out of necessity, not out of some kind of planning.”  I’m not sure what that means.  It may be that Obama thinks it is necessary to reign in Fox News.

A more plausible reason is to send a warning shot to mainstream media:  If you start bloviating against me, I’ll freeze you out, or at least disparage you publicly.  Journalists live and die for access.

But I suspect that the real message is this:  Fox can say whatever it wants, but we’re tired of the MSM picking up every charge Fox makes and taking it seriously. 

For example, the death panels.  Because they can get hundreds of people to show up making an absurd charge doesn’t mean the MSM should give it credence by covering it all out of proportion.  The recent announcement by the editor of The Washington Post that it would more carefully monitor Fox and right-wing talk radio to make sure their views are reflected in The Post’s  coverage is disturbing.  What that means, of course, is that if an outlet has the backing of large enough caches of cash to make noise, their views are examined.

Much of the August town hall meeting shenanigans and a lot of the opposition to health care are fueled by very rich people.  (The same can be said of liberal views, but I would suspect there is less money behind them.)  But the lesson is clear.  Find enough money to make a lot of public noise and your viewpoints are elevated, while those voices without access to cash are muted or ignored.  I suspect that’s where the Obama administration may want a more level playing field.  It's not a beanball thrown at Fox so much as it's a brush backpitch at MSM.

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Bulletin! Bulletin! Nobody Likes Congress!

Pelosi’s Numbers in the Toilet!

The Field Research Corporation has a new poll out that has some shocking numbers.  Congress is not popular and Pelosi couldn’t even win a “Best Grandma With Too Much Make-Up” award.  Truly shocking!

The perception that California voters have of the job that the U.S. Congress is doing now matches its lowest approval levels of the past two decades.

Voters in this state also now view Democrat Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi more negatively than positively, but not to the same extent as the overall Congress.

So what does that tell you?:  That Republicans don’t like her for what she is doing and Democrats don’t like her because she isn’t doing it fast enough.  For policy guidance these kind of “how is Congress doing?” polls are useless, except as catnip for third-party activists.  Somewhere a George Wallace-Ross Perot-Jesse Ventura wannabe is taking heart.  Now if he only had some money.

During the 1990s California voters had a largely dim view of the job that Congress was doing. For the most part sizeable pluralities or majorities disapproved of the performance by the nation’s lawmakers.

This long standing negative perception of the Congress became more favorable during the early part of this decade, with more voters offering a positive than negative assessment on the order of five to four or five to three.

However, more recently voter perceptions of the Congress have turned downward to a point where those holding an unfavorable view of the Congress has included sizeable majorities in most Field Poll surveys conducted over the past three years.

The latest Field Poll completed earlier this month produced a measurement on par with its lowest rating in thirty separate measurements conducted over the past two decades. At present, just 23% approve while 66% disapprove of the job the Congress is doing.

Democrats and non-partisans hold the Congress in disfavor by roughly two to one margins, while a huge 83% of Republicans disapprove and just 9% approve.

All this tells me is that there are some California Democrats who have low standards.

Pelosi does a little better.

Voter assessments of her were initially much more positive than negative when she became Speaker, but became more divided in subsequent surveys conducted in mid-2007 and 2008. Earlier this year, following the election of Barack Obama as President, 48% viewed her favorably and 35% unfavorably.

The current poll finds that more Californians are now rating Pelosi more negatively than positively, with 34% approving and 44% disapproving of the job she is doing. The Speaker is still viewed positively by Democrats, 51% to 23%. However, California Republicans overwhelmingly see her in a negative light – 79% disapprove and 7% approve. Non-partisans are about evenly split.

So everyone is dissatisfied with Congress and its leader.  Shocking!

What Does Off-the Record Mean?

What we say it means, seems to be the answer from Marcus Brauchli, editor of The Washington Post, who was challenged today in his online chat about what he knew, when he knew it and how does he describe what he knew in connection with the flap that continues to haunt The Post.

When the political paper of record was caught selling access for anonymity, Brauchli tried to claim ignorance.  He said at the time that he didn’t know the salon sessions (pronounced sa-lahn se-shahn, I presume) were “off the record.”  According to a “correction” at the New York Times, he did.

On Sept. 12, an article in The Times reported that Charles Pelton, the marketing executive at the center of the plans, had resigned from The Post. That article, referring again to Mr. Brauchli’s comments at the time, reported that he said he had not understood that the dinners would be off the record.

However, in a subsequent letter to Mr. Pelton — which was sent to The Times by Mr. Pelton’s lawyer — Mr. Brauchli now says that he did indeed know that the dinners were being promoted as “off the record,” and that he and Mr. Pelton had discussed that issue.

During an online discussion, a reader took him to task, accusing Brauchli of lying.  Brauchli objected to that characterization.

When these events were planned, we intended that the information from them would inform and shape our coverage, without attribution. That is not, under our rules, off the record. They were later promoted as "off the record," and I knew that before July 2. As I have said repeatedly since then, I failed to reconcile the language and the intentions, which I should have done. The notion that I lied to the New York Times "hoping not to get caught" is absurd.

What does “information from them would inform and shape our coverage, without attribution” mean?  Off the record, I think most journalists would agree, is that which can inform the coverage but without informing us.  In other words, when information is given off the record you can’t give that information to readers, whether you identify the source or not. But certainly if a reporter believes the information to be true, she is not going to write something that contradicts it.  Rather, most reporters will use that information to get other sources to corroborate it on the record.

Brauchli seems to be splitting hairs.  I’ll look forward to hearing others’ views on this.

Interracial Couple Denied Marriage License

We’ve been told we’ve entered a post-racial society with the election of the offspring of an interracial couple.  Not quite.

A Louisiana justice of the peace refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple because

He was concerned for the children who might be born of the relationship and that, in his experience, most interracial marriages don’t last.

"I’m not a racist," [JP Keith] Bardwell told the newspaper. "I do ceremonies for black couples right here in my house. My main concern is for the children."

Bardwell [said he couldn’t personally endorse the marriage.

That’s OK, Keith.  We understand.  It’s just like the pharmacists who won’t dispense contraceptives even if they are legal.  Right?  If it offends you, just say no. 

Keep an eye out for the next development in this series of “Going My Way” decisions. 

Perhaps we’ll see police officers refusing to investigate black on black crimes because police feel this is an internal problem in the black community, and they really need to take care of it themselves.  Or perhaps it will be fireman who refused to put out a house fire because they believe the house is a blight on the neighborhood and really needed to be removed.

Or maybe we take him at his word.  Bardwell was “concerned for the children” who might, he feared, one day become president of the United States.

MSNBC Slanders ‘Boy in Balloon’ Family

UPDATE:  Given the reports that are now coming out, it appears the family deserves if not a flogging, certainly an admonishment.  The dad may wind up with a jail sentence.

Per my earlier real time post, here is the clip from Ed Schultz’s show tonight about the boy in the bubble and his “s-t-r-a-n-g-e” family.  It’s clear that MSNBC’s editors wanted to milk this story for all it was worth, even if it meant putting this family through a public flogging.  As the media showed footage of an object perhaps falling from the balloon, they feared their son was lying somewhere after falling thousands of feet to his death. 

Once it was learned he was OK, MSNBC and Schultz tried in every way to paint the family as irresponsible.  Listen to Schultz’s inquisition.

After this segment, Arianna Huffington was the guest.  He asked her what she thought of the story.  After saying that it was indeed a strange story, she asked, “Now that he is found, why are we still talking about this?”

I can never seem to upload MSNBC videos (the one above is from YouTube), so here’s the link —  It was quite an argument.

When I told my wife about this, she, as she is wont to do, cut to the chase.  “It’s the 24-hour news cycle.  They got to have something talk about.  We need a law:  They can only air news at 10, 2 & 6 – for one hour.”

It’s an idea worth considering.  Well, it’s at least as good as the journalism practiced here.