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.
In an October 5 post on his blog, CBN News White House correspondent David Brody claimed that Education Department official Kevin Jennings did not report the "sexual abuse of a minor to authorities," writing:
We now have the first member of Congress who has called on controversial "Safe Schools" Education Official Kevin Jennings to resign. More on the Jennings controversy here.
Even though Jennings has come under fire for not reporting sexual abuse of a minor to authorities, clearly Evangelical groups see that as just once incident in a much bigger underlying problem. Pushing a pro-homosexual agenda laced with "attacks" on people of faith is what is really at the heart of the matter. You know what? Across the country, tens of millions of people are concerned about that too.
Conservative groups charge that Jennings, who is openly gay, condoned statutory rape and child molestation. That's in reference to an incident in 1988 when Jennings, who was a teacher at the time, did not tell authorities that a 16-year-old student revealed to Jennings that he'd had sex with an older man.
Now that former student is speaking out for the first time and telling CNN he did not have sex with that man at all. He did not elaborate on what he told Jennings at the time. Jennings could not be reached for comment late Friday.
In a statement obtained by CNN, the former student, who wanted to be called Brewster, wrote: "Since I was of legal consent at the time, the 15-minute conversation I had with Mr. Jennings 21 years ago is of nobody's concern but his and mine. However, since the Republican noise machine is so concerned about my 'well-being' and that of America's students, they'll be relieved to know that I was not 'inducted' into homosexuality, assaulted, raped, or sold into sexual slavery."
The former student recounted what happened at the time and maintained there was no sexual contact.
"In 1988, I had taken a bus home for the weekend, and on the return trip met someone who was also gay. The next day, I had a conversation with Mr. Jennings about it. I had no sexual contact with anybody at the time, though I was entirely legally free to do so. I was a 16-year-old going through something most of us have experienced: adolescence."
Shoddy work from "top political reporter" Brody.
In Sunday's Washington Post, Newsweek editor-at-large Evan Thomas reviewed Taylor Branch's The Clinton Tapes. After some throat-clearing, Thomas begins the meat of his review with a refreshing confession rarely seen from mainstream media figures:
It is possible to sympathize with Clinton. Today, when the mainstream media seems so weakened, we forget how powerful -- and arrogant -- the New York Times and The Washington Post, along with the networks and news magazines, seemed to be in the early and mid-1990s. They were part of a giant scandal machine that dominated official Washington in the first few years after the Cold War. The endless string of special prosecutors and the media's obsession with Whitewater seem excessive in retrospect. [Note: it seemed excessive to rational people even at the time; Gene Lyons wrote a whole book about it 15 years ago.]
Clinton was not wrong to be frustrated or to believe that the single greatest mistake of his administration (against the advice of the first lady) was to appoint a special prosecutor to look into Whitewater. He also had the canny insight that Whitewater served as a proxy for what really interested reporters: those rumors of "bimbo eruptions" floated by political enemies and less-than-reliable state troopers.
But just when you think that finally (and belatedly) a major journalist may grasp the simple concept that the 'Clinton scandals' were media scandals, not political scandals, Thomas shows that he still just wants to hear about the "bimbo eruptions":
Given all that, how could Clinton have been so foolish as to take up with a White House intern just as he was turning back the tide of Gingrichism in the fall of 1995? The reader longs for some insight, some Shakespearean narrative to help explain Clinton's self-destructive recklessness. But Branch does not deliver; he merely reports that Clinton said he "just cracked." Branch seems almost too embarrassed to try to find out more.
And Thomas seems not to realize that not everything is a Shakespearean drama. Sometimes a dumb affair is just a dumb affair. Millions of people have them; they don't all yield the kind of fascinating morality play Thomas yearns for even 11 years later.
And that yearning makes up pretty much Thomas' entire review. He doesn't waste a word on health care, or on national security, or on welfare reform or the 1994 crime bill or ... Well, much of anything. Thomas may finally realize the media's obsession with Whitewater was obsessive, but he remains fully obsessed with the "bimbo eruptions" that Whitewater was merely a "proxy for."
Salon's Joan Walsh nails it:
Jesus, take me now. We know way too much about the Lewinsky mess; we know not nearly enough about the collapse of health care reform, the compromises over Clinton's crime bill, the strategies of GOP leaders in those years, and yes, certainly, Haiti. Who really thinks we don't have enough insight into what Clinton thought and felt about the Lewinsky affair? What grownup journalist who lived through Whitewater, the Lewinsky scandal and impeachment, in the prosperous days before 9/11 and the Bush economic collapse, doesn't hate themselves in the cold light of (post-Bush) day?
Sadly, most of them don't. Many are reliving minor Clinton issues through the lens of Branch's book, at the neglect of the major ones, including my friend Chris Matthews on "Hardball."
Twelve hours ago, I knew nothing about Deepak Bhargava. I didn't know that he is executive director of the Center for Community Change. I didn't know that he worked for ACORN a number of years ago. I had no idea that he was getting his BA at Harvard undergrad at the same time President Obama was at Harvard Law. But now that I've listened to Glenn Beck's radio program yesterday and watched his television program yesterday afternoon, not only do I know Mr. Bhargava's name and these curious factoids about his personal life, I also know that he's a "radical," he's at the center of some inexplicable government conspiracy to engineer crises of financial and foreign policy, and we should all be "scared" of him.
Beck, as is his wont, didn't really explain how the heretofore unheralded Bhargava came to hold such influence. What Beck did say, however, was this: "I want to make it clear -- I don't have any evidence that he has any links to the White House. I am not bringing him up and saying, 'Look, he's making policy.' I just want you to listen to his words and compare them to the words of our president." OK, so no evidence of any connection to the White House or any policymaking of any kind, which doesn't really help to explain why Beck is attacking him. And just in case you thought Beck would actually explain why he thinks this man is important, he followed this all up with: "See if you can figure out why I think this man is important."
Ah, so it's our job to figure out why Beck is going after Bhargava. Apparently, it has something to do with a panel discussion hosted by The Nation in April that Bhargava spoke at, in which he praised the administration's anti-poverty measures but bemoaned Obama's "stealthy agenda" that doesn't "lead with questions of poverty or racial justice." OK, so Bhargava likes the administration's anti-poverty measures but wishes they were more about racial justice. Of course, that's just one man's opinion, and since Beck explained that Bhargava has no influence with the White House at all, we still hadn't figured out why Beck cared about him.
However, in spite of this lack of influence, Bhargava, according to Beck, is a key component of the "strategy" being employed by Obama, which involves creating "intentional" crises in order to "transform" the country. Beck explained all this -- well, perhaps "explained" is too generous a word -- he shouted lots of words about all this in one of his bizarre albeit entertaining chalkboard segments, all the while telling us that we are not going to "freak out."
But clearly he's bad, right? I mean, for Beck to call him a "radical" who wants to engineer crises and devote so much time to exploring who he is, he must be a pretty awful guy whose doing some serious damage to the country, right? Well, not really, it seems, as Beck led off his discussion of Bhargava with Breitbart crony Scott Baker by saying, "So, help me out on who this guy is. I'm not even claiming this is a bad guy, or anything. Who is he?"
At this point we didn't know what to think. Thankfully, Baker was there to do the thinking for us. "He's not a guy who works in the White House, but he's not just a guy either," Baker explained. "There are connections between Deepak Bhargava and his Center for Community Change and Barack Obama." Those connections are, apparently, that Bhargava worked for ACORN for a few years and was at Harvard with Obama at the same time. And they've appeared at a few labor events together. That's it. What matters most to Beck and Baker, apparently, is that Obama and Bhargava "use the same language." Words like "transform" and ... well, that's the only example Beck offered. But apparently that's enough in Glenn Beck's world to not only earn yourself an entire cable news segment devoted to you and you alone, but also a key role in the Obama-engineered conspiracy to create "intentional" crises.
And to round it all out, Baker declared, based solely on the fact that Bhargava is tangentially connected to Obama, that "people should be scared." Beck and Baker could offer no link between Bhargava and Obama other than the utterly trivial, and they acknowledged as much during the 20 minutes they spent defaming him on national television simply because he and the president have used similar-sounding language in the past.
The only thing more reprehensible than Glenn Beck dragging Deepak Bhargava through the mud was the fact that Beck admitted that he couldn't explain why he was doing it.