Maybe you thought the crazy Birthers over at WorldNetDaily had given up on their nutty campaign to prove that Barack Obama isn't really president, or whatever it is they're after, and dedicated their full attention to peddling silly get-rich-quick schemes. Nope:
Yeah, uh ... Good luck with that, fellas.
Last week, Washington Post reporter Perry Bacon suggested GOP Sen. George Voinovich would vote against health care reform because he is a "strong fiscal conservative." As I noted at the time, that's an odd use of the label "fiscal conservative," given that health care reform would, according to the Congressional Budget Office, reduce the deficit.
Well, today, a Post reader asked Bacon about that:
I didn't understand you last week: Perry, in last week's chat there was a strange back-and-forth & wondered if you might clarify it for us today? Here goes:
"Arlington, VA: Of all the Senators, only Voinowich of Ohio, a Republican, did not vote. As he voted on other legislation that day, could the non-vote indicate that he might be supportive of the health care bill?
Perry Bacon Jr.: I'm pretty sure he will be a no, he's retiring, but known as a strong fiscal conservative."
But the CBO says the Senate health care bill would actually - reduce - the deficit, so why does being a "strong fiscal conservative" make Voinovich likely to vote - against - legislation that would reduce the deficit.
Do you really think a strong "fiscal conservative" has any business voting against deficit-reducing health care reform measures?
washingtonpost.com: Post Politics: Senate brings health-care bill to floor
Perry Bacon Jr.: I suspect Voinovich will say the bill costs almost $1 trillion a year* and shouldn't be passed. This is the GOP view of the bill. I will let everyone define fiscal conservative on their own.
Oh, come on. Perry Bacon introduced the phrase "fiscal conservative" to the discussion, offering it up as a reason why someone would vote against the bill. And now he says everyone can define it for themselves? What an absurd cop-out.
Bacon owns the phrase. He should tell us what he meant by it, and explain why fiscal conservatives oppose things that reduce the deficit (and, in doing so, consider what that says about fiscal conservatives' anti-deficit rhetoric), or he should simply say that he screwed up and shouldn't have used the phrase. But he can't use the label as an explanation for Voinovich's vote, then pretend it isn't his responsibility to define the label.
* As Bacon later acknowledged, "$1 trillion a year" is obviously false.
Warren took a star turn on Meet the Press over the weekend for a Thanksgiving-flavored MTP. But host David Gregory didn't press the news-making (i.e. political) pastors on many topics. And specifically, Gregory never asked Warren about his previous association with a rabidly anti-gay Uganda minister who's been making headlines.
As Newsweek noted on Sunday:
Now Warren's on the defensive again, this time for his affiliation with Martin Ssempa, a Ugandan pastor who has endorsed proposed legislation in Uganda that makes certain homosexual acts punishable by life in prison or even, in some cases, death. Ssempa has made appearances at Saddleback and has been embraced warmly by Warren and his wife, Kay.
Newsweek clearly spotted the news swirling around Warren this weekend, Why didn't Gregory? Asks Mediaite's Michael Triplett:
So why no Uganda questions from Gregory? You have the heir to Billy Graham's bully pulpit on your show for over 20 minutes, and not a single question about why he works with leaders in Uganda who support the death penalty for gay people as part of AIDS reduction efforts?
I've previously noted that Howard Kurtz is apparently incapable of understanding very straightforward questions -- or unwilling to do so -- posed to him during his weekly online Q&A sessions. Here's another example, from earlier today:
State Dinner Gate Crashers: Ethics question regarding that couple that crashed the WH dinner...I understand it's news about the security breach, etc., etc. ...BUT, it seems they did it for the attention and the spotlight, and even a friend has been quoted as saying they are enjoying the media attention...Is there ever a discussion as to whether, while reporting the story, newcasts should refrain from showing their pictures? I mean, when someone rushes on the field at a sports event, the practice has been for some time NOT to show them on TV so as not to encourage/reward that behavior....In short, could this story be covered with out giving the couple the screen time they are craving? I for one feel like the newscasts should now decline to show the footage of them inside or their Facebook pages....seems like they are being rewarded for a dumb stunt..
Howard Kurtz: Yes, the media have made them into instant celebrities, beyond what is necessary to cover the security breach that required the Secret Service to apologize. But the Salahis, with their tangled history, are also an interesting story. No question this was overplayed over a slow holiday weekend. But I must say, having been out of town to visit family, that there is a heckuva lot of interest in them among ordinary folks who aren't obsessed with politics. [Emphasis added]
Notice that Kurtz doesn't come within a mile of actually addressing the question? And why not? It isn't a particularly controversial one; it doesn't directly challenge Kurtz's own performance or that of his employers (we know he ducks those questions.) There's no reason not to address it. But this happens all the time.
I can only assume he is either incapable of understanding straightforward and reasonable questions about the media (in which case you have to wonder why two of the nation's leading news organizations pay him good money to write and talk about the media) or he has nothing but contempt and disinterest for his readers, and doesn't bother to look at what they're actually asking (in which case you have to wonder why he does these Q&As at all.)
In any case, it does nothing to help the public's understanding of the news media for the nation's most prominent media critic to be so incapable of dealing with straightforward questions.
A couple of days ago, I noted that Mark Halperin's idiotic portrayal of Sen. Mary Landrieu as having semen in her hair hadn't drawn as much attention and criticism as you might expect -- particularly given the widespread media attention that greeted Newsweek's use of a photo in which Sarah Palin posed for in a running suit.
Here's an example: Washington Post/CNN media critic Howard Kurtz addressed the Palin photo controversy on the November 22 broadcast of CNN's Reliable Sources.
Oh, yeah -- Mark Halperin works for Time magazine, whose web site hosted his offensive doctored photo of Sen. Landrieu. Time and CNN are corporate siblings.
(H/T: News Corpse)
In defending cable news and talk radio from PBS host Jim Lehrer's statement that they offer relatively shallow approaches to health care coverage, Newsbusters' Tim Graham asks:
Does Lehrer think Rush Limbaugh doesn't get into the nitty-gritty of a health-care bill?
Here's some recent "nitty-gritty" from Limbaugh on health care:
Rush Limbaugh's coverage of health care reform, like most issues Rush Limbaugh covers, is error-riddled, misleading and offensive. In the eyes of conservative media critics like MRC's Newsbusters, this is getting into the "nitty-gritty". Heaven help us.
In his Nov. 30 column, Newsmax president and CEO Christopher Ruddy declared that the "mainstream media" is" simply out of touch with ordinary Americans" and that "the major media establishment lives in a bubble." Ruddy's evidence for this: The media criticized Sarah Palin for reading Newsmax.
Ruddy touts the popularity of Newsmax's website, claiming it "has reached close to 4 million unique visitors monthly." He also promotes Newsmax's magazine, asserting that it has "a monthly readership of more than 800,000." But note that he said "readership," not paid circulation, which is the standard accepted metric for measuring a magazine's reach. Newsmax has previously indicated that it believes the magazine is read by four people for every copy sold, which is apparently where it gets that inflated "readership" number.
Ruddy writes: "The bottom line is this: Those who live in the Big Media Bubble can't comprehend the appeal of Newsmax -- or Sarah Palin." He's got us there. We have trouble grasping the appeal of a website that has published columns advocating a military coup against President Obama, calling for a "tenting" of the White House, blaming the Holocaust Museum shooting on Obama, and embracing the birther conspiracy.
Ruddy also touted how Palin's book "shot to the top of the best-seller lists, reportedly selling 700,000 copies in the first week after its Nov. 17 release." He fails to mention that a not-insignificant amount of those copies are the likely result of below-cost loss-leader deals from online retailers -- including Newsmax's own $4.97 deal for the book.
This is getting to be an embarrassing habit. Right-wing activist Andrew Breitbart has already shown us he doesn't know what a "hate crime" is," and that he doesn't understand what "blackmail" means. And now, apparently he can't read Supreme Court rulings.
Breitbart's been wildly (over) hyping a batch of ACORN documents that a San Diego private investigator (and failed GOP candidate) by the name of Derrick Roach stuffed into his car one night back in October. Roach got the docs after a dumpster dive behind ACORN's office. Breitbart has been claiming the latest ACORN installment is Watergate-meets-the-Lindbergh-kidnapping in terms of blockbuster news, even though, to date, his site hasn't produced the goods yet on San Diego, which is why the story's gone nowhere.
But in a recent post, note how Big Government pushed back against claims that the ACORN docs may have been obtained illegally; a claim that California AG's Jerry Brown seemed to endorse. Here's how Breitbart's site defended the charge [emphasis added]:
At age 71, California's top cop and erstwhile Gov. Moonbeam might benefit from a refresher course in current law. Attorney General Brown cited a case from the 1960's where items placed in the garbage were considered private; however, in 1988 the United States Supreme Court ruled in a case, California v. Greenwood, 486 U.S. 35 (1988), that there was no expectation of privacy when items are thrown in the garbage since it is common knowledge that plastic garbage bags are readily accessible to animals, children, scavengers, snoops, and other members of the public. As for the local National City ordinance prohibiting scavenging through garbage that the ACORN office and its supporters cite, that law was enacted in 1984 and was nullified by the United States Supreme Court ruling just four years later.
Breitbart's Big Government pointed to a 1988 Supreme Court ruling to suggest that everything Roach did in obtaining the ACORN docs was okay.
From CALIFORNIA v. GREENWOOD, 486 U.S. 35 (1988):
Here, we conclude that respondents exposed their garbage to the public sufficiently to defeat their claim to Fourth Amendment protection. It is common knowledge that plastic garbage bags left on or at the side of a public street are readily accessible to animals, children, scavengers, snoops, and other members of the public. See Krivda, supra, at 367, 486 P.2d, at 1269. Moreover, respondents placed their refuse at the curb for the express purpose of conveying it to a third party, the trash collector, who might himself have sorted through respondents' trash or permitted others, such as the police, to do so. Accordingly, having deposited their garbage "in an area particularly suited for public inspection and, in a manner of speaking, public consumption, for the express purpose of having strangers take it," United States v. Reicherter, 647 F.2d 397, 399 (CA3 1981), respondents could have had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the inculpatory items that they discarded.
Furthermore, as we have held, the police cannot reasonably be expected to avert their eyes from evidence of criminal activity that could have been observed by any member of the public. Hence, "[w]hat a person knowingly exposes to the public, even in his own home or office, is not a subject of Fourth Amendment protection."
The 1988 ruling clearly dealt with garbage disposed "on or at the side of a public street." And today, Breitbart's Big Government claims that that decision means their actions were legit. But where did Big Government obtain the ACORN documents? Did they come across them in garbage bags that "could have been observed by any member of the public" and "left on or at the side of a public street"? Were the documents "knowingly expose[d] to the public"?
Of course not. According to Big Government's own telling of the tale, the docs were taken, under the cover of night, from a dumpster located behind ACORN's San Diego office. In fact, here's the photo Big Government posted showing the dumpster in question. And yes, the dumpster was caged:
In 1988, the Supreme Court ruled there was no claim to privacy regarding garbage bags placed on the side of a public curb from pick-up. Today, Breitbart says that law pertains to them, even though Big Government's docs were taken from a caged dumpster; a dumpster that Breitbart even concedes was located not on the side of a public curb, but "behind ACORN in San Diego."
And get this: Roach himself even admits that he drove by a no trespassing sign to get to the ACORN dumpster!
UPDATED: Big Government itself has referred to the San Diego document retrieval as a "dumpster dive." Obviously, the 1988 Supreme Court ruling did not concern itself with late-night dumpster dives into caged containers located beyond a no trespassing sign.
Continuing its proud tradition of doubling as a GOP bulleting board, where every possible anti-Obama talking point is treated as breaking news (hello Drudge link!), Politico's John Harris cobbles together a breathless laundry list of all the awful things people (i.e. Republicans and Village pundits) are saying about Obama. Y'know, that he's an "over-exposed" "opportunistic" "patsy" with a low opinion of America.
But oh my, the evidence of the 'trends' is awfully thin and Harris doesn't even bother to maintain the traditional three's-a-trend newsroom rule. Take a look at this knock [emphasis added]:
Obama, a legislator and law professor, is fluent in describing the nuances of problems. But his intellectuality has contributed to a growing critique that decisions are detached from rock-bottom principles.
Both Maureen Dowd in The New York Times and Joel Achenbach of The Washington Post have likened him to Star Trek's Mr. Spock.
The Spock imagery has been especially strong during the extended review Obama has undertaken of Afghanistan policy.
So far this year, out of the tens of thousands of Obama mentions made in the mainstream press, Harris found exactly two examples of his pundit pals comparing Obama to Mr. Spock, therefore voilà! it's a disturbing trend for the White House that's "gaining momentum."
Folks, this is why they call it The Village.
Or let's put it this way, she's willing to pretend she has no idea what public polling is when it suits the interest of her column. So she writes an entire piece about how devastating Obama's bow in Japan was to the president's reputation (the image "took off" and became "iconic") without mentioning that, oh yeah, a strong majority of Americans approved of the bow. And even a majority of Republicans thought the bow was fine.
Noonan writes a column in which she suggests that almost overnight the Obama bow became the defining image of his supposedly failed presidency (she can just feel it), and yet Noonan forgets to mention that most Americans, and even most Republicans, approved of the bow.
Which means this point is worth repeating as you read Noonan's latest filing from the parallel universe:
Yet more proof that the right-wing noise machine doesn't even reflect mainstream conservatives. It's just its own bizarre, fact-free world that whips up an endless stream of nonsensical allegations that only truly radical Obama haters care about.
UPDATED: Watching Peggy Noonan, who worked for (and worshiped) Ronald Reagan, now regularly re-write Reagan history is more than a little amusing. However, it does not speak well of her attempts at intellectual honesty.
For weeks now, Noonan has been writing about how Obama's not up to the job, about how his presidency is slipping away, and Americans are turning against him. And now, with the bow, about how Obama's getting tagged as a failure. What she conveniently ignores is the fact that Obama's current job approval rating stands at almost the exact same spot Reagan's did ten months into first year in office. Noonan wants to write Obama off as a first-year failure, even though Obama's first year has unfolded almost exactly as her hero Reagan's did.
In fact, Reagan's second year, in terms of job approval, was a complete catastrophe, as his rating plunged into the mid-30's. But Noonan ignores all that and pretends that Reagan sailed through his first term in office.
Here's Noonan re-writing history in her latest column:
You can get tagged, typed and pegged your first year. Gerald Ford did, and Ronald Reagan too, more happily.
According to Noonan, Regan was "happily" tagged with a public persona his first year; a first year that looked almost exactly like Obama's, which she presents as a growing failure. But if Reagan was "happily" tagged in year one, than how does Noonan explain Reagan's second year in office, in which his administration virtually collapsed?
Seems that if Noonan's going to re-write Reagan history on a weekly basis now, she's going to have to be less sloppy about it.