News came Wednesday that the blogger known as Jon Swift had died suddenly at the age of 46. His real name, it turns out, was Al Weisel and he lived in New York City and worked as a writer. He died while traveling to his father's funeral in Virginia. En route, he suffered two aortic aneurysms, reports his friend, and fellow-blogger, Tom Watson.
'Jon Swift' wasn't famous (more B-list than A-list, he would have agreed), and he didn't blog that often. (Sometimes it seemed like weeks between efforts.) But when those wordy, detailed 'Jon Swift' posts finally materialized they were often priceless. He punctured the Beltway press in ways that were smart, eloquent, and funny as hell. I don't think I've ever laughed as often reading a blog the way I did reading the Jon Swift site. He had me in stitches and he wrote about the news media. No easy task.
Actually, that's not true. 'Jon Swift' wrote about lots of things, not just the news media. But it was his brand of necessary truth-telling about the press that made him a small, but important star, of the liberal blogosphere. His 2007 meditation on Mark Halperin's hair still makes me laugh. His "Journalism 101" post remains one for the ages. And his takedown of the right-wing blogosphere's performance during the 2008 campaign represented a brilliant, invaluable, and uproarious piece of media analysis.
'Jon Swift' was a talented and droll satirist, with a keen eye for the absurd, who lovingly adopted the persona of a faux, well-intentioned conservative who did not take kindly to folks besmirching Fox News. (Think Stephen Colbert, but without all the manic yelling.) And yes, I'm sure lots of readers, and especially first-timers, didn't catch onto the joke and took the site at face value. But that was the genius part; Jon Swift blog posts worked whether you were in on the joke or not.
While I was researching and writing my book, Bloggers on the Bus, I came to appreciate the extraordinary number of deeply talented people who contribute to make the liberal blogosphere such an the alluring, educational and rousing place. It's filled with previously overlooked bystanders (like Al Weisel) who, thanks to the power of the Internet, were allowed to showcase their immense talents and make a contribution to the public discourse, in ways that were both quirky and profound.
Jon Swift will be missed.
Under the headline "Massa-gate," she writes:
This could be very bad news for the Dems -- Hoyer knew and it seems made some unleader-like presumptions:
The National Review Online editor then links to a Politico article about the retirement announcement of Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.), amid questions about a House ethics investigation. But the article, which Lopez suggests points to trouble for House Majority Leader, Rep. Steny Hoyer, contains nothing to suggest he did anything "unleader-like" with regards to Massa and ethical questions.
In fact, the Politico article Lopez links to includes this passage, which came from a Hoyer office statement [emphasis added]:
The week of February 8th, a member of Rep. Massa's staff brought to the attention of Mr. Hoyer's staff allegations of misconduct that had been made against Mr. Massa. Mr. Hoyer's staff immediately informed him of what they had been told. Mr. Hoyer instructed his staff that if Mr. Massa or his staff did not bring the matter to the attention of the bipartisan Ethics Committee within 48 hours, Mr. Hoyer would do so. Within 48 hours, Mr. Hoyer received confirmation from both the Ethics Committee staff and Mr. Massa's staff that the Ethics Committee had been contacted and would review the allegations. Mr. Hoyer does not know whether the allegations are true or false, but wanted to ensure that the bipartisan committee charged with overseeing conduct of Members was immediately involved to determine the facts.
The article contains no reporting that conflicts with anything in that statement.
So Hoyer appears to have followed the book in terms of how House leaders are supposed to deal with ethics inquiries (as opposed to how the GOP dealt with the Mark Foley controversy), so at NRO that means the story has the making of a scandal? Gimme a break.
UPDATED: Politico practically begs for this kind of right-wing misinformation with the Drudgey headline:
Hoyer knew of Massa allegations
UPDATED: More Drudge-like headlines from Politico:
Nancy Pelosi: Out of the loop on Eric Massa
In his apparent quest to distort and attack everything ever said by SEIU president Andy Stern, Glenn Beck aired another chopped-up distortion of another set of Stern's comments on his show earlier tonight:
BECK: I'm going to have Andy Stern answer why is it we're passing and jamming health care through.
STERN: The politics aren't complicated. People are making investments in politics, and they expect a return on their investments. There's not ideology involved in corporations. They're looking for return on their investment. [Cut in video clip.] I'm totally involved in distorting the political system you know, with contributions. That's what we've become in America so we have to do that.
BECK: Wow, I didn't know that's what we've -- have you gotten that memo? I didn't think that we were into distorting politics for -- and just looking for a return on my investment. That's what's happening, from the guy who helped design this health care nightmare. He just wants a return on his investment.
The manner in which Beck presented Stern's comments makes it sound like Stern is endorsing or justifying the state of our political system. Beck also suggested that Stern is brandishing his "distortion" of politics to get health care reform.
But a closer look at what Stern actually said shows that Beck is being disingenuous. The video Beck played comes from a June 20, 2007 discussion with Stern at an event hosted by NDN. During the Q&A portion of the event, Stern is asked the following question, which occurs around one hour and six minutes into the video:
QUESTION: The other [question] is on political contributions. Someone mentioned that many of these multinational companies are operating on a completely global basis [...] Yet they're able to make the political contributions that help to determine policy and elections. If you can speak a little about some of those points, the politics of this. What lessons can we learn and how do we move forward?
Stern responded by telling the audience that that the way the campaign finance system works now, corporations and others are essentially making "investments in politics" that Stern suggests distort the political system, a reality which he acknowledges he is a part of. But Stern, in the portion of his answer that Beck skips over, makes clear that he opposes the current campaign finance system and advocates a system of publicly financed campaigns in which Americans wouldn't be forced to make campaign contributions to have their voices heard. That's pretty much the opposite of what Beck suggested Stern was saying.
Here's Stern's full answer, with the portion that Beck didn't air on his program in bold:
STERN: The politics aren't complicated. You know, people are making investments in politics, and they expect a return on their investments. There's not ideology involved in corporations. They're looking for return on their investment. So they're going to make as much investment as they think is good policy. I'm just talking macro, there's lots of individuals that have -- So I'm just saying, let's just publicly finance these elections and get that over with. I appreciate that there's always going to be independent expenditures. One of these days Buckley v Valeo will get overturned because it was written at a different time under different circumstances. But unless we want people investing in politics like they invest in capital and they invest in training, you know, we're just going to have a distorted political system. I'm totally involved in distorting the political system you know, with contributions. You know, that's what we've become in America so we have to do that.
In a Twitter post this afternoon, NBC's Luke Russert linked to a Politico article reporting that "the House ethics committee has been informed of allegations" that Rep. Eric Massa "made unwanted advances toward a junior male staffer" -- allegations Massa has reportedly denied. In his post, Russert made the completely baseless assertion that "if true the Dems got a Mark Foley situation."
The Politico report contains absolutely no evidence that "the Dems" have handled whatever allegations exist against Massa in any way that comes close to Republicans' handling of the "Mark Foley situation."
Just to refresh Russert's memory, the "Mark Foley situation" wasn't limited to Foley's inappropriate emails and explicit instant messages to teenage House pages. It also involved the widespread failure of Republican members of Congress and their staffs to appropriately address Foley's behavior when they had the chance. Or, as the House ethics committee put it in their report on the matter, "The Investigative Subcommittee finds that few of the individuals who ultimately came to participate in those events handled their roles in the manner that should be expected given the important and sensitive nature of the issues involved."
More specifically ...
The refusal of Rep. Alexander's office to provide copies of the e-mails to the Clerk is not supported by the stated concerns for the family's privacy. Although at least one member of Rep. Alexander's staff had been aware of the e-mails for over two months, Rep. Alexander and his chief of staff learned of the e-mails only because at least one newspaper reporter had them and called both the family of the page and Rep. Alexander's office. The staff's refusal to give those e-mails to an officer of the House based on concerns for the family's privacy defies logic given that the reporter already had copies of them, and that Rep. Alexander's office gave a copy of one of the former page's e-mails to the reporter.
Rep. Alexander's office took steps to bring the existence of the e-mails to the attention of others in the House in an effort to make sure that Rep. Foley's communications to the former page ceased. They contacted the Speaker's office and were directed to the Clerk[.] Those steps brought the e-mails to the attention of Rep. [John] Shimkus [R-IL] and [House clerk Jeff] Trandahl, who then confronted Rep. Foley in November 2005.
He [Trandahl] also, according to his testimony, pressed Rep. Alexander's chief of staff for copies of the e-mails, but the staff member reportedly refused to provide copies, citing the wishes of the parents for privacy.
Ethics committee found that then-Speaker Dennis Hastert's counsel "showed an inexplicable lack of interest in the e-mails." From page 84 of the ethics committee report:
The Investigative Subcommittee deliberated over whether the Speaker's counsel Ted Van Der Meid should have undertaken a more active response to the e-mails, including demanding to see their contents and following up as appropriate, and whether his failure to do anything after learning about the e-mails could be a violation of House rules or standards of conduct. The Investigative Subcommittee concludes that Van Der Meid, as the Speaker's liaison with the Clerk, and therefore as the staff person within the Speaker's office with responsibility for page-related issues, showed an inexplicable lack of interest in the e-mails and the resolution of the matter with Rep. Foley, particularly in light of his prior knowledge regarding concerns raised by Jeff Trandahl about Foley's close (albeit not sexual) interaction with pages. Van Der Meid had also heard from Trandahl about the alleged incident involving Rep. Foley being intoxicated outside the page dorm.
Given Van Der Meid's knowledge regarding Foley's past conduct, as well as his role within the Speaker's office, the Subcommittee believes that he should have done more to learn about the e-mails and how they had been handled. The general concerns he had heard about Rep. Foley had now become more specific and tied to a particular incident. He knew that the matter involved e-mails and a former page, which should have raised a sufficient concern to trigger further inquiry on his part. The new incident involving the e-mails also should have been sufficient to cause Van Der Meid to share what he knew with more senior staff in the Speaker's office, or with the Speaker directly. The Subcommittee concludes, however, that Van Der Meid's conduct does not support a finding that he acted in a way that violated House Rules or standards of conduct.
Ethics committee found that Hastert was likely told about Foley emails and apparently took no action. From page 85 of the ethics committee report:
The Investigative Subcommittee finds that the weight of the evidence supports the conclusion that Speaker Hastert was told, at least in passing, about the e-mails by both Majority Leader [John] Boehner and Rep. [Tom] Reynolds [R-NY] in spring 2006.
Neither the Majority Leader nor Rep. Reynolds asked the Speaker to take any action in response to the information each provided to him, and there is no evidence that the Speaker took any action.
The Speaker's reported statement in response to Majority Leader Boehner that the matter "has been taken care of" is some evidence that the Speaker was aware of some concern regarding Rep. Foley's conduct prior to his conversation with the Majority Leader in spring 2006. Although the Speaker testified that he does not recall ever hearing about the e-mails prior to Foley's resignation in late September, he may have been aware of the matter and believed it had been taken care of prior to spring 2006, given the involvement of his office by Ted Van Der Meid, Mike Stokke and Tim Kennedy in November 2005. The Subcommittee notes, however, that each of those witnesses has testified under oath that they did not tell the Speaker or anyone else in the office about their knowledge of the Foley e-mails until after Rep. Foley's resignation on September 29, 2006.
Ethics committee criticized Hastert's office's response to Foley scandal. From page 88 of the ethics committee report:
However, in the Investigative Subcommittee's view, the efforts by the Speaker's office to prepare a statement under the direction of counsel could have had the additional effect of inhibiting the Investigative Subcommittee's ability to secure evidence from witnesses without interference resulting from efforts to compare and contrast recollections prior to testimony before the Committee. This effect was compounded by the appearance of Evans and a law partner as counsel for the Speaker, Stokke and Kennedy during their testimony before the Subcommittee.
Ethics committee found that Rep. Boehner and then-Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-NY) failed to show "any curiosity regarding" Foley emails. From page 85 of the ethics committee report:
Rep. Alexander did not ask either the Majority Leader or Rep. Reynolds to do anything -- each decided to mention the matter to the Speaker on his own initiative. Like too many others, neither the Majority Leader nor Rep. Reynolds showed any curiosity regarding why a young former page would have been made uncomfortable by e-mails from Rep. Foley. Neither the Majority Leader nor Rep. Reynolds asked the Speaker to take any action in response to the information each provided to him, and there is no evidence that the Speaker took any action.
Ethics committee criticized Rep. Shimkus' (R-IL) handling of Foley scandal. From page 87 of the ethics committee report:
The Investigative Subcommittee similarly concludes that Rep. Shimkus should have demanded copies of all relevant e-mails or other documents, if not before he confronted Rep. Foley, then after. Although there is conflicting testimony on whether Rep. Shimkus had excerpts or phrases from the e-mail, there is no suggestion by any witness that he had copies of the actual e-mails. The Investigative Subcommittee concludes that confronting a Member in such a matter without having access to all relevant information was imprudent, but the action did not constitute conduct failing to reflect creditably on the House.
The Investigative Subcommittee also considered whether Rep. Shimkus should have informed others on the Page Board about Rep. Foley's conduct toward the former page. The Page Board is charged by federal statute with ensuring that the page program is managed to provide for the welfare of the pages. As the Page Board Chairman, Rep. Shimkus was the logical person for Trandahl to contact regarding an issue related to a former page. But once made aware of such a concern, Rep. Shimkus also had an obligation to determine whether the issue brought to him by Trandahl was one that should be addressed by the Page Board rather than by him individually. The Investigative Subcommittee was not persuaded by the argument that the Page Board did not have jurisdiction over the matter because it involved a fonner page rather than a current one. Rep. Foley's e-mails to the former Alexander page began while he was still a page, and the e-mails the former page characterized as "sick" were sent within a month after he left the page program. The Subcommittee finds that at a minimum Rep. Shimkus had an obligation to learn more facts regarding the e-mails before concluding that he should handle the matter himself without informing the other members of the Page Board or seeking their input.
Ethics committee criticized then-Rep. Jim Kolbe's (R-AZ) handling of allegations that his former page received a "sexually graphic instant message" from Foley. From pages 81-82 of the ethics committee report:
The incident involving the former Kolbe page and the handling of his communications from Rep. Foley presents a more difficult question. The Investigative Subcommittee deliberated extensively over whether the evidence supports a finding that Rep. Kolbe saw a copy of the sexually graphic instant message allegedly received by his former page, or whether, as Rep. Kolbe testified, he was only told by the former page that Rep. Foley had sent an e-mail or instant message that made the former page "uncomfortable." The Investigative Subcommittee found the former page to be credible and his testimony to be plausible, but given the absence of documentary evidence, the denial by Rep. Kolbe of having seen the communication, and the possibility that the instant message could have been attached to an e-mail sent to Rep. Kolbe but not opened and read, the Investigative Subcommittee cannot definitively conclude whether Rep. Kolbe saw the instant message.
In the end, however, the Investigative Subcommittee did not consider the answer to the question of whether Rep. Kolbe actually saw the instant message sent by Rep. Foley to be dispositive in addressing the conduct of Rep. Kolbe and others in his office. If Rep. Kolbe was not shown the instant message he should have asked for it. He knew that Rep. Foley was gay, knew that the communication made the former page (who by this time was only a college freshman and was less than two years removed from the page program) uncomfortable, and recognized that the communication may have been sexual in nature. He also knew that he was being asked to confront another Member about the Member's conduct on a potentially extremely sensitive issue. In light of those facts, the Investigative Subcommittee believes that Rep. Kolbe should have asked for the instant message (if he did not already have it) in order to make sure that his response was the correct one.
The Investigative Subcommittee does not conclude that Rep. Kolbe's handling of this matter supports a conclusion that Rep. Kolbe violated any House rule or standard of conduct. Although Rep. Kolbe says that he did not see the contents of the message, he did take steps to address the former page's complaint by asking his administrative assistant to contact both Rep. Foley's chief of staff Kirk Fordham and the Clerk. The former page received an apology from Rep Foley, which indicates that Rep. Foley was told that his communication to the former page had made the former page uncomfortable. The Investigative Subcommittee therefore does not recommend to the full Committee either that the Investigative Subcommittee's jurisdiction be expanded or that another Investigative Subcommittee be established to name Rep. Kolbe or others on his staff as respondents.
At least 80 advertisers have reportedly dropped their ads from Glenn Beck's Fox News program since he called President Obama a "racist" who has a "deep-seated hatred for white people." Here are his March 3 sponsors, in the order they appeared:
*Allergan, Inc was previously erroneously identified as a parent company of Hydroxatone, LLC. Media Matters regrets the error.
An anti-health care ad campaign boosted by promotions on Fox News is reportedly being revised because the commercials "had the wrong facts."
The Post-Standard (Syracuse, NY) reported today that the conservative group League of American Voters is spending $40,000 to air ads targeting Rep. Dan Maffei's (D-NY) "vote on health care reform. But there's one problem: The commercials from the League of American Voters had the wrong facts, and now the group is being forced to revise the TV campaign."
The ads, which started airing on local stations this past weekend, falsely claimed Maffei supports taxing individual health insurance plans to pay for the reforms, as approved by the U.S. Senate.
In fact, Maffei, D-DeWitt, has publicly opposed the Senate bill because of the tax on so-called Cadillac insurance plans. He voted for the House bill which pays for reforms through a surcharge on the wealthiest Americans - individuals with more than $500,000 per year in income, or $1 million for those filing jointly.
Bob Adams, executive director of the League of American Voters, a group formed in July to oppose President Obama's health care plan, said new commercials with correct information should begin airing today.
The new ads will no longer state that Maffei voted for "big taxes on good insurance plans."
"We have basically replaced the ad," Adams said Tuesday. "What we should have said is he voted for an income tax surcharge."
Maffei has defended the surcharge, saying it will affect less than 1 percent of all Central New Yorkers.
The ads have received help from Fox News "political analyst" Dick Morris in repeated appearances on Fox News. On last week's The O'Reilly Factor, Fox & Friends, and Hannity, Morris urged viewers to visit his website to learn how to pressure "vulnerable" Democrats to vote against health care reform. Morris' website features numerous fund solicitations ("give us money to run the ad!") for the League of American Voters. On Hannity, Morris said: "I urge everybody to go to DickMorris.com and call all of those guys and women. And then the League of American Voters has prepared advertisements to run in each of their districts."
The League of American Voters lists Morris as its chief strategist. In August, executive director Bob Adams said Morris was responsible for crafting "our ads and national campaign" against the "dream of a socialistic health care system." In September, the Huffington Post Investigative Fund reported that "[p]recisely when and how Morris connected with the group is not known" and Adams "declined to say exactly how and when the group formed, but he did say that Morris was involved from the beginning and came on board as a volunteer."
The larger point in all this is not necessarily that disgraced political strategist Morris is dishonest and has a flimsy grasp of facts (we already know this). It's that Fox News still allows its "Fox News political analyst" to use airtime to push donations to a political advocacy group so it can target "vulnerable" Democrats. As we've asked here, would a real news organization do that?
From a March 3 Accuracy in Media "AIM Report" by Cliff Kincaid:
THE FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION (FDA) STILL BANS MALE HOMOSEXUALS FROM donating blood because they are notorious disease carriers. This fact was pointed out by Bryan Fischer, the director of Issue Analysis for Government and Public Policy at American Family Association, in a column arguing that homosexual behavior should be outlawed because it is a public health threat. He also points out that most of those getting AIDS are male homosexuals. Yet President Obama and Defense Secretary Gates want the military to admit these people into the ranks, to live in close quarters and even bathe with normal heterosexual service personnel.
Fox Nation reacted to a March 3 speech by President Obama with the following headline:
The headline linked to a page that had the same headline with a write-up of the speech from the UK's Times Online. (The headline on the Times Online page was "Barack Obama: I'll steamroll health reforms through Congress.")