Here's MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell, interviewing Time's Karen Tumulty moments ago:
Karen, let me ask you one other thing. There was an event with doctors at the White House at the Rose Garden yesterday. And I have to pursue this more, in more depth, but do you know anything about this photo opportunity when they were told to bring their white lab coats, and those who forgot and came in, in business attire were handed lab coats by White House staff members so they would look like doctors for the photo op?
After Tumulty noted that this is "not such a huge deal" because the people were in fact doctors and do in fact "support the basic bill," Mitchell haltingly replied:
Well, again, it is an interest group, Doctors for America, but it was certainly, uh, assisted by White House staff. It just seems like a lot of choreography for a White House which claims to be doing things authentically. [Smirking, shaking head] It just, you know.
It just, you know.
Well, no, I don't.
Here's a free tip: When you're unable to articulate what's wrong with an action more eloquently than saying "It just, you know" while scrunching up your nose and shaking your head, its probably because there's nothing wrong with it.
Look: These were actual doctors. If they were not doctors, and the White House dressed them up to look like they were, that would be problematic.
But that isn't what happened. They were doctors. There was nothing misleading about asking them to wear lab coats so people would know they were doctors rather than, say, insurance company executives.
(By the way: handing someone a lab coat is not "a lot of choreography." It takes about two seconds.)
Now, why did Mitchell feel she had to ask Tumulty about this? Why does she think she has to "pursue this more, in depth"? How much "depth" is there to pursue?
Mitchell can't articulate a reason why it matters, but the right-wing is up in arms, so she thinks she has to "pursue" the Great Doctors Wearing Lab Coats Scandal of Ought-Nine in more depth.
UPDATE: According to Tommy Christopher at Mediaite, the controversy is not only dumb -- it isn't true. Under the header "Why Was The NY Post Alone in Reporting 'White Coat-gate? Because It's Not True," Christopher writes:
The picture bothered me, because I didn't recognize the staffer who was handing out the white coats.
I checked on it, and a White House source told me that the White house did not provide the extra lab coats. Doctors for America paid for and brought the extras. OOPS!
I wonder if Mitchell's in-depth pursuit of this crucial story has turned up that little detail yet.
From WorldNetDaily editor and CEO Joseph Farah's October 6 column, headlined "Obama's freak show":
But this guy, Barack Obama, is giving us all more than we bargained for in the way of craziness, chaos, radicalism, extremism and immorality on a scale that would possibly make even Bill Clinton blush. Well, maybe not that much.
We've got a homosexual activist by the name of Kevin Jennings as czar of "safe schools." Talk about the fox guarding the chicken coop! This guy is a disciple of Harry Hay, founder of Radical Faeries and a longtime advocate for the North American Man-Boy Love Association. Do you feel like your child is safe with him in charge of school safety?
Then there's science czar John Holdren who wrote in a college textbook that "illegitimate children" born to unwed mothers should be seized by the government and put up for adoption if the mother refuses to have an abortion. He also argued the Constitution supports "compulsory" abortion.
Then there's Cass Sunstein, the regulatory czar, who explains that embryos are "just a handful of cells" and that an adult dog is more rational than a human baby.
Now come the revelations about his nominee to be commissioner of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission - Chai Feldblum.
She signed a manifesto praising polygamy and arguing traditional marriage should not be privileged above other forms of union.
Another outspoken homosexual-rights activist - it seems almost a prerequisite in the Obama administration - she is a signatory to an online petition entitled "Beyond Same-Sex Marriage: A New Strategic Vision For All Our Families and Relationships." Among the stated "partnerships" the petition seeks to protect is "households in which there is more than one conjugal partner."
She also proclaimed gay sex as "morally good" - not just neutral, mind you, but something God apparently smiles upon.
I wonder what kind of database Obama uses to locate people like this? Is it Monster.com? That would be appropriate. Or is it FreaksUnlimited.com? Maybe Obamanations.com? No, it's got to be Perverts.gov.
I'm telling you, the entire federal government is going to have to be fumigated some day when these deviants and degenerates are finally sent packing.
Kane's rebuttal is pretty standard fare these days. He claims Media Matters only dissects his work because we're holding some sort of personal grudge against him. (I must have missed that MMA memo.) And then Kane fails to address a key criticism we made of his work. It's a pretty goofy dance, but it's the one Beltway journalists seem to prefer.
Quick primer. Two weeks ago I noted that in a piece about Democratic fundraising woes, Kane wrote in the very first paragraph that one of the reasons that coffers were less full this year was because Democrats were bashing big business, thereby scaring off wealthy donors.
Wrote Kane [emphasis added]:
Democratic political committees have seen a decline in their fundraising fortunes this year, a result of complacency among their rank-and-file donors and a de facto boycott by many of their wealthiest givers, who have been put off by the party's harsh rhetoric about big business.
Yikes! A "de facto boycott." Yet Kane never backed up that claim in the article. In fact, later in the piece he softened the claim, suggesting, it had "become increasingly difficult to raise money on Wall Street." That, of course, isn't a "boycott," which is how Kane opened his piece.
Yet in his lengthy response today during an online chat to a reader who raised the Media Matters critique, and who specifically asked about the WashPost's claim that anti-big business rhetoric from Dems had created a "boycott" among donors, Kane remained mum. He offered no evidence to support his claim that (alleged) anti-big business rhetoric was driving donors away. I suspect that's because Kane doesn't have any proof that there's a donor "boycott" in place.
Also, note the headline of Kane's Post piece announced Democrats were "Jarred by Drop In Fundraising." Yet nowhere in the article did Kane quote a single Democrat who expressed being "jarred," or anything remotely like that. In fact, some Democrats in the article suggested the fundraising dip was completely expected given the historic money heights the party reached in 2008.
Kane however, failed to address that point in his rebuttal as well.
UPDATED: Kane claimed Media Matters tried to "to invent some form of conservative bias" in his reporting." Not true. In my critique, I merely pointed out the obvious weaknesses in his reporting. I didn't suggest "bias" had anything to do wtih the shortcomings.
In my column last week, I wrote (again) about the need for reporters -- who have spent the whole year telling us that cloture is the health care vote that matters -- to start telling us how Senators will vote on cloture. I wrote that a major news organization like the Washington Post should simply contact every Senator's office and ask if they'll filibuster a health care reform bill that contains a strong public option.
During an online Q&A today, Washington Post reporter Paul Kane was asked which Senators would filibuster such a bill:
Helena, Montana: When Max Baucus said that he supported the public option but he didn't think there were 60 votes for it - who does he think will join the Republicans in filibustering it? Democratic members of his committee? Can Reid hold the caucus together for cloture, even if some will vote against the bill?
Paul Kane: This is the insider's insider's question right now, the one that not even my friends at Politico and my alma mater Roll Call are writing.
Will the Ben Nelson/Landrieu/Lieberman crowd vote 'no' on cloture (the filibuster vote)? Will they vote yes on cloture, then vote however they want on final passage?
Activists on both sides are exploring this issue, trust me. I think that's where this whole debate is headed.
My gut: I don't know the answer. Sorry, I don't.
So ... Maybe that's something the Washington Post should start working on?
(I assume Paul Kane isn't responsible for making such decisions about resource allocation, but maybe he should mention the idea to an editor?)
UPDATE: Later in the Q&A:
Ask the question, maybe?: Given how much reporters write about the need for 60 votes to break a filibuster, it's pretty stunning that you never get around to asking Senators whether they'll vote to sustain or end a filibuster. Isn't it long-past time for reporters to start asking Senators if they will filibuster the public option -- not just whether they support it, or think it has enough votes: Will they filibuster it? Has the Post reported on this and I've just missed it?
Paul Kane: Most folks like Nelson and company just dodge the question, when asked, telling us it's way too soon to deal with questions like that.
Which raises a rather obvious question: Why don't news organizations report that "folks like Nelson and company" refuse to say they'll filibuster? All year, they've been reporting that cloture is the vote that matters. And whenever "Nelson and company" make so much as a grunt indicating unhappiness with a public option, journalists rush to report it. So why won't they report the fact that when it comes to the vote that matters, "Nelson and company" are unwilling to commit to filibuster? That would certainly paint a less pessimistic picture of the prospects for health care reform.
Here's how the New York Times begins an article about new Federal Trade Commission rules about bloggers who review products:
FOR nearly three decades, the Federal Trade Commission's rules regarding the relationships between advertisers and product reviewers and endorsers were deemed adequate. Then came the age of blogging and social media.
On Monday, the F.T.C. said it would revise rules about endorsements and testimonials in advertising that had been in place since 1980. The new regulations are aimed at the rapidly shifting new-media world and how advertisers are using bloggers and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to pitch their wares.
The F.T.C. said that beginning on Dec. 1, bloggers who review products must disclose any connection with advertisers, including, in most cases, the receipt of free products and whether or not they were paid in any way by advertisers, as occurs frequently. The new rules also take aim at celebrities, who will now need to disclose any ties to companies, should they promote products on a talk show or on Twitter.
Oddly, the Times never tells us what the rules that have been "deemed adequate" for "nearly three decades" are. The Times does suggest that the new rules simply extend to bloggers the regulations that have long governed newspapers and television shows:
For bloggers who review products, this means that the days of an unimpeded flow of giveaways may be over. More broadly, the move suggests that the government is intent on bringing to bear on the Internet the same sorts of regulations that have governed other forms of media, like television or print.
But that suggestion seems to be false. Tom Wark, author of the wine blog Fermentation, notes that the FTC rules that will require bloggers to disclose the receipt of comped products for review do not apply to "traditional" media:
Let me put this in plainer words. If a publisher sends me (a wine blogger) a copy of a new book about the wines of Bolivia and I review it positively I must disclose the book was given to me or face a fine of $11,000. If a reporter at the Wine Spectator (traditional media) receives a free copy of "The Wines of Bolivia" and reviews it positively, they need not disclose they received it free from the publisher.
As Wark notes, the FTC's double-standard seems to be based on the presumption that "traditional" reporters are more ethical than bloggers:
Should I be offended by the FTC's presumption that since I don't make a living off this blog I am more likely to deceive its readers by being on the take than the Wine Spectator or Wine Enthusiast or Wine & Spirits, which are moneymaking ventures?
I guess that depends on whether or not I believe that, in general, those with little or nothing to lose are more likely to engage in unethical or immoral actions and society (consumers) need to be protected from this sort of suspect class of people.
The fact is, I am offended by the assumptions built into the FTC's new guidelines on commercial endorsements. I'm offended because the FTC has chosen to codify this suspect assumption about the morals and ethics of people who write, but don't get paid to do so.
That assumption -- that bloggers lack the integrity of "traditional" journalists, who would never let the receipt of something of value affect their reporting -- naturally made me think of Howard Kurtz.
Howard Kurtz is one of the most famous reporters in America. He covers the media for the Washington Post, where he writes thousands of words a week. He also hosts a television show for CNN, one of the companies he covers for the Washington Post. And his reporting for the Washington Post has on at least one high-profile occasion given his CNN bosses a free pass.
And nobody in the traditional media seems to care. The Washington Post has remained silent about the fact that one of their star reporters is clearly letting his financial relationship with a company he covers affect his reporting. Nobody else has paid it much attention. It's as high-profile and blatant a conflict-of-interest as you could imagine, and the Post and the rest of the media look the other way.
And we're supposed to believe that bloggers need stricter ethical regulations? That a blogger writing favorably about a bottle of wine he gets for free is a bigger ethical problem than, for example, Howard Kurtz taking it easy on a company that pays him what I assume is tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars a year? Please.
After granting health care liar Betsy McCaughey a national television platform she doesn't deserve, MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan is going to get eviscerated by conservatives for the sin of trying to make her actually answer his questions.
Howard Kurtz will point to Ratigan's aggressive questioning of McCaughey as evidence of MSNBC's supposed liberalism -- conveniently overlooking the fact that Ratigan was giving a platform to a proven right-wing liar.
And Ratigan and MSNBC will be defensive about the criticism. Rather than apologizing for hosting a proven liar to talk about the topic she has lied most about, they will redouble their efforts to convince conservatives they can get a fair shake on MSNBC
Yesterday, I noted that the problem with Betsy McCaughey isn't that she's a liar -- it's that the media gives her a platform to lie.
Let's be clear about this: it isn't just FOX News and the New York Post that are guilty of promoting someone whose claim to fame for 15 years has been spreading falsehoods about health care reform.
As I write this, McCaughey is on MSNBC, talking about health care. Why? What has she ever done to deserve such a platform?
(And remember MSNBC's promotion of McCaughey next time someone tells you it is a "liberal" cable channel.)
UPDATE: McCaughey and MSNBC host Dylan Ratigan just had this exchange:
McCAUGHEY: You're not a very fair moderator.
RATIGAN: Well, you're not a very fair answerer, so there you go.
Right. McCaughey isn't a very fair answerer. in fact, she's a liar. We've known she's a liar for 15 years. She's famously a liar about the very topic MSNBC is hosting her to discuss. So why is she on television? Why is Ratigan interviewing her?
UPDATE 2: Ratigan ended the segment by telling McCaughey: "Betsy it was a pleasure, again, I thank you for spending some time with us, and I do hope you will come back."
Why? McCaughey is a proven liar. Ratigan spent the entire interview trying to get her to answer questions and saying she wasn't doing so and saying she wasn't being "fair" in her responses; McCaughey spent the interview attacking Ratigan and basically behaving like Betsy McCaughey. And Dylan Ratigan wants to put her on television again.
This is why public discourse in America is broken.
Well, at least the WashPost, in its write-up of anti-ACORN/SEIU talking points today, managed to reference some actual members of Congress in an attempt to back up its headline:
Some Criticize SEIU for Its ACORN Connections
As I noted last week, the standards have changed within the Beltway press corps since Obama took office. In the past it used to be that when leaders from the party out of power had a (partisan) beef with the White House and were willing to spend some political capital to make a stink, the Beltway press maybe paid attention.
Today, with the GOP increasingly irrelevant and the right-wing media, and specifically Fox News, taking over as the Opposition Party, other journalists are now taking their cues in terms of partisan news from radio talk show hosts and cable TV hosts. It's unprecedented.
In today's "Some Criticize" era, all White House opponents have to do (regardless of who they are or what power they hold) is criticize Obama and the press corps snaps to attention and starts typing up the list of grievances. So today we have the Post furthering Fox News' attempted guilt-by-association with regards to ACORN and labor power SEIU, but the Post pretends it's really the GOP that's leading the charge:
Last week, Republican Reps. Mark Steven Kirk and Peter Roskam of Illinois and Patrick T. McHenry of North Carolina urged the Census Bureau to stop allowing the SEIU to help recruit workers for its 2010 head count.
This utterly mundane partisan request suddenly qualifies as news in a Post article that's virtually barren of any actual revelations about ACORN or SEIU? Again, it's really Fox News and the GOP Noise Machine that are criticizing the "connections" between ACORN and SEIU, and it's the Post presenting that hodge-podge as news.
Better yet, the Post seeks out a semi-professional SEIU basher for an SEIU-bashing quote [emphasis added]:
"If there are piles of money being spent and you have a bureaucratic apparatus that's not really accountable to its members, then you have all the nice bases for corruption," Benson said. "Whether that's the case here, I really can't say."
Ha! Corruption might be rampant at SEIU, but Benson "really can't say."
UPDATED: Benson's "I really can't say" quote appears to have been (properly) edited out of the Post piece online. It appeared in the original version, as seen here.
I, like many of you, often catch myself thinking about the trouble conservatives have relating to the Bible. You hear it all the time from the right -- they complain about how the Bible is a little too "activist" for their tastes, or how they can't be expected to live their lives by its "urban" sensibilities. I never knew what the reason was, but one thing was for sure: Conservatives just didn't get the Bible.
Thankfully, the good people at Conservapedia ("The Trustworthy Encyclopedia") have looked into the issue and come up with an answer: liberal bias. That's right, the King James Bible, the religious tome that for centuries has set the international standard for Christian religiosity, is a commie rag.
And thus was born -- and I wish I were kidding -- the "Conservative Bible Project." You see, it turns out that liberal bias "has become the single biggest distortion in modern Bible translations." But never fear, Conservapedia has looked at the issue and come up with a few solutions. It seems that the King James Bible doesn't quite satisfy the set of 10 guidelines -- or commandments, if one were feeling cheeky -- that Conservapedia has established which ensure a holy publication is free from "liberal bias." Among these rules: thou shalt have "free-market parables," thou shalt not commit "liberal wordiness," and thou shalt honor "the logic of hell."
But even better are the specifics. Apparently, the following words should be excised from the Bible for their liberalness: government, gambling, comrade, laborer and labored, and fellow. They even target an entire passage for deletion -- Luke 23:34, which quotes Jesus saying, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." Conservapedia explains: "This does not appear in any other Gospel, and the simple fact is that some of the persecutors of Jesus did know what they were doing. This quotation is a favorite of liberals but should not appear in a conservative Bible." Granted, I'm no biblical scholar, but this seems ... off. Does Conservapedia really think it's a good idea to sneer at a message of forgiveness as "liberal bias." And this isn't just any message of forgiveness, this is the ultimate message of forgiveness -- a man facing death implores his father, who has all the powers of divine retribution, to turn the other cheek as his son is murdered. Powerful stuff, but to the editors at Conservapedia it doesn't even merit a "stet."
I must say, though, that I'm actually looking forward to reading the liberal bias-free edition of the Bible. It'd be fun to experience an antiquity in which David fells Goliath with an AR-10, Solomon quotes the Gipper, and Jesus goes Galt.
It's nice to see that some media outlets are starting to pay attention to deliberation in the Senate over the reauthorization of expiring PATRIOT Act provisions. It's less nice when, as in this FOX News report, "paying attention" means "peddling outrageous falsehoods." To be sure, the issue can be dauntingly complicated, but these are enormous howlers that the most elementary fact checking ought to catch. Many of the false claims appear to echo this Wall Street Journal op-ed by former attorney general Michael Mukasey, which is similarly misleading. Let's review.
I think it's telling that opponents of common-sense civil liberties safeguards don't seem to think they can make their case without wildly misrepresenting the facts about both investigations and the changes legislators have actually proposed. They have to make it sound as though people are trying to eliminate important investigatory powers altogether—which nobody is arguing for—because it's awfully hard to argue against reasonable and carefully crafted privacy protections if you're honest about what they actually entail. And isn't it a little rich that a network that is forever warning us that we're on the verge of descending into fascism should be so hostile to any suggestion that there ought to be some moderate limits on government surveillance? I'd have thought having a Democrat in the White House might make it acceptable to care about the scope of executive power to spy on Americans again.