Tag Archives: journalism

Fear and Loathing in Washington D.C.

Washington DC Capitol - HDR

“President Obama will negotiate with the Syrian butcher Assad and erase his red line, will capitulate to Vladimir Putin, and he will negotiate with the happy face of the killer regime in Iran, President Rouhani, but not with Republicans over issues all presidents have always negotiated over.”

That quote – from American conservative radio host/shame-free liar and propagandist Hugh Hewitt – encapsulates how far the U.S. has to go to overcome the most embarrassing and pathetic government shutdown in the history of the country. Not every conservative in the United States is as crazy or deluded as Hewitt, but enough are to where an angry, xenophobic, racially charged minority, belonging to one faction in one house of government, has been able to manufacture a government shutdown threatening to destroy the US and global economy unless the party opposite capitulates to their bidding.

The truth is, no American president has ever “negotiated” repealing a duly enacted law [the Affordable Care Act] whilst being blackmailed with the destruction of his government, or indeed with the destruction of the global economy. But this line of baseless rhetoric has become the new mantra of the Republican Party and their apologists: repeat the lie until enough Americans have been coerced that they [Republicans] are not singularly to blame for the disastrous impasses the country continuously finds itself in (e.g. sequestration, shutdown, debt ceiling, etc.). This isn’t just a minority problem – it’s a party problem. The American Tea Party may be [entirely] comprised of callous fools and disgraceful opportunists, but we’re mostly here because “moderate” Republicans have consistently folded to these vandals rather than stand up to them.

It’s important not to forget that Republicans manufactured the U.S. government shutdown for one reason and one reason only: to stop poorer Americans from getting health insurance funded by cuts to Medicare and the taxing of the richest Americans. Let’s also keep in mind that Congress itself passed the healthcare law in 2010; the Supreme Court then affirmed its constitutionality through its landmark ruling earlier this year; and the majority of Americans want it – as proven when they re-elected the President who signed it.

In a few weeks (or sooner), the shutdown/default crisis will long be over and maybe even forgotten. The federal deficit will in all likelihood continue to fall, and growth will probably resume. But the long-term inadequacies of the U.S. political system will continue to be exploited by the Republican Party, creating a sort of dystopic future for American politics. The American people put pretty much all of the blame of the shutdown/default crisis on the shoulders of Republicans, but conservatives can still expect to hold enough seats in the House come the 2014 midterm elections (mainly because of the way district lines are drawn. Republicans were lucky enough to have had a huge win at the state level in 2010, which coincided with post-census redistricting or gerrymandering). Democrats may very well win the White House again in 2016 with Hillary Clinton or Papa Joey B, but the Congress will probably remain the same, meaning we’ll see more shutdowns/threats of defaults before it’s all said and done.

I’ve been able to gauge the puzzled, incredulous looks of my international friends at the LSE – many of whom come from democratic countries – when they hear that an extremist minority party caused the “most powerful” democracy in the world to close up shop. I tell them that American politics, as constructed by James Madison (“father” of the Constitution), was designed with stagnation, derision, and polarization in mind. But the country’s founders couldn’t foresee something as inane as the Tea Party (and warned against political party’s altogether); they couldn’t possibly expect the damning practice of gerrymandering districts or the influence of special interest groups both in elections and public policy.

Mostly, I’ve had to tell my foreign friends that what they’re currently seeing and reading about is not at all what American politics was meant to be. But they better start getting used to it, because it’s here to stay.

Photo: Nicolas Raymond


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Could The Shutdown/Debt Ceiling Cost Republicans The House?

Because the American people are a fickle bunch, the usual order of things is that the sitting President’s party loses seats in the House during the midterm election. Conventional wisdom would then lead one to accept the points expressed by The New Republic and Real Clear Politics in their estimation(s) that it’s unlikely Democrats will overturn the Republican majority in 12 months. The rule has exceptions, of course. Clinton’s Democrats actually picked up a few seats in 1998, following Speaker Newt Gingrich’s 21 day government shutdown.

It’s been reiterated quite exhaustingly that one of the main reasons Republicans have been able to keep the House despite losing the national popular vote to Democrats by 1.5% is that they enjoy the considerable majority of gerrymandered districts. In short, Democrats needed to win the House by a margin of more than 7% to become the majority party.

Fast forward to today. If this WaPo/ABC news poll is any indication (and I’d like to think it is), the country soundly puts the blame of the shutdown and the upcoming debt ceiling disaster on the shoulders of the GOP.


But while public opinion of the GOP might be very low, commentators have rightly noted that President Obama garners considerable blame (deservedly or not) for the current Washington impasse. That may be true, but luckily for the President and his party, Obama is not running for re-election in the next 12 months. That point led Public Policy Polling to conduct a set of district-level polls meant for ascertaining Congressional preference — which has, in the past, tracked the national vote pretty closely. So, PPP set out to survey 24 congressional districts held by Republicans, and asked voters there to chose between their current Congressional representative and a Democrat. Here are their results, plotted against last year’s election result:

It’s important to note that we’re talking about surveys taken during a government shutdown explicitly engineered by Congressional Republicans, but the results show that Democrats swung 23 races (below the red line) while Republicans held one race (above the red line). If the results hold (and I don’t expect them to), Democrats will win the House. Comfortably.

I say I don’t expect this to last because, well, Americans have the tendency to forget about things like the shutdown when it comes time to vote. The midterm elections are still a long away off to where Republicans can successfully coerce their constituents to re-elect them to the House. I do expect Democrats to pick up some votes, which is not totally inconsequential since they’d be able to force the chamber to actually vote on resolutions that Boehner refuses to allow.

The survey doesn’t take into account how voters will feel about House Republicans if the Government hits the debt ceiling, but given the plausible disaster that would ensue if such a thing were allowed to happen, when compounded with the shutdown and the [still] terrible sequester, these results could hold true to the midterm, and possibly even increase.

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Coming Back On October 7!

Due to the lack of consistent access to internet and space, as well as the natural need to assimilate into a new environment (it’s been quite a change going from California sunshine to London fog), I’ve been absent from my duties here on Left and Center. Orientation week just started, so I’ve pinpointed October 7th as the date when I return to active service.

Until then, dear readers!


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What The Rest Of The World Thinks Of US

U.S Military Forces in Bosnia - Operation Joint Endeavor

Paul Waldman provides timely perspective on how the rest of the world feels about U.S. military action since 1963:

Some of these operations worked out very well, others didn’t. And just to be clear, this history doesn’t tell us whether bombing Syria is a good idea or a bad idea. But if you’re wondering why people all over the world view the United States as an arrogant bully, reserving for itself the right to rain down death from above on anyone it pleases whenever it pleases, well there you go. It doesn’t matter whether you think some or even all of those actions were completely justified and morally defensible. From here, we tend to look at each of these engagements in isolation, asking whether there are good reasons to go in and whether we can accomplish important goals for ourselves and others. But when when a new American military campaign begins, people in the rest of the world see it in this broader historical context.

If you take a longer look at the list he provides (and do some basic math), you’ll find that the United States has launched one significant overseas assault every three years since 1963 — or every 40 months. Kevin Drum laments how little of this resonates with the American people:

Too many Americans have a seriously blinkered view of our interventions overseas, viewing them as one-offs to be evaluated on their individual merits. But when these things happen once every three years, against a backdrop of almost continuous smaller-scale military action (drone attacks, the odd cruise missile here and there, sending “advisors” over to help an ally, etc.), the rest of the world just doesn’t see it that way. They don’t see a peaceful country that struggles mightily with its conscience and only occasionally makes a decision to drop a bunch of bombs. They see a country that views dropping bombs as its primary means of dealing with any country weaker than we are.

Considering the rate at which we’ve launched bombs against foreign states the past 50 years, we’re actually ahead of schedule for the next round. It’s only been two years since Libya.

(Photo: U.S. military forces in Bosnia — operation Joint Endeavor, by Expert Infantry)

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Here Are The Seven Worst Tweets About Bradley Manning Coming Out As Chelsea

In what was the most unsurprising announcement of the year, Bradley Manning’s lawyer revealed Thursday on NBC’s “Today Show” that his client would now like to live as a woman, and be referred to as Chelsea Manning going forward.

Manning, sentenced yesterday to 35-years in prison for leaking classified information to WikiLeaks, released a written statement that was read on the show:

    Subject: The Next Stage of My Life

    I want to thank everybody who has supported me over the last three years. Throughout this long ordeal, your letters of support and encouragement have helped keep me strong. I am forever indebted to those who wrote to me, made a donation to my defense fund, or came to watch a portion of the trial. I would especially like to thank Courage to Resist and the Bradley Manning Support Network for their tireless efforts in raising awareness for my case and providing for my legal representation.

    As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition. I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun (except in official mail to the confinement facility). I look forward to receiving letters from supporters and having the opportunity to write back.

    Thank you,

    Chelsea E. Manning

ThinkProgress compiled the “seven most ignorant reactions” — which were hardly unexpected — to Manning’s admission of being transgender:


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“Scoop, if true”: How The New York Post Gave Up On Journalism Altogether

The New York Post is a groundbreaking news organization. Some magazines and newspapers waste time by vetting sources, checking facts, reporting on things that exist — you get the idea. 20130807-155530.jpg

Not the Post. They have no such time for that nonsense. I mean, why make yourself all tired and whatnot by finding sources when you can just have your readers tell you what’s what?

Take today’s column by Michael Goodwin for an example. Goodwin quotes one of his readers — again, who cares who he is, right? — who has a real life “scoop, if true”.

    Reader Don Reed has a scoop, if true. “People are going nuts trying to smoke out the identity of Eliot Spitzer’s clandestine girlfriend,” he writes. “I think it’s Huma.”

    Stop the presses!

Give the man a Pulitzer!

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Rolling Stone Founder Promotes 22 Year-Old Son To Run Website


After a long, storied career as a college student, 22 year old Gus Wenner — son of Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner — has been promoted to head up all operations at RollingStone.com.

Like nepotism? Take a big whiff.
Via JimRomenesko.com:

From: Jann Wenner
Date: Monday, May 20, 2013 2:52 PM
Subject: Gus Wenner

Dear all:

[Wenner Media chief digital officer] David Kang and I are very pleased — and I am very proud — to announce that Gus Wenner, after leading the re-launch re-design effort for our website, will now continue by heading up the overall operations of RollingStone.com.


Hopefully this doesn’t get in the way of Wenner’s and Scout Willis’ — offspring of John McClane and Demi Moore — alternative country band, affectionately called Scout + Gus.

Don’t let them change you Gus!

(Photo: Facebook.com)

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Newsweek Is Dead; Plenty Of Blame To Go Around

Newsweek, Ipoh

We really learned two things from the New York Times article on the death of the once lauded magazine Newsweek and the leadership of its editor-in-chief, Tina Brown. Newsweek was always going to fail and Brown’s editorial style probably made it certain. But apportioning blame for something that was always doomed to fail is a tricky business, and probably unfair, which is why the legendary editor eviscerated her one-time Editor-Writer Howard Kurtz when he tweeted this:

And with one fail swoop, Brown ripped the knife from out of her back, and stuck it into Kurtz’ heart:

A small but surely cathartic victory for Brown, in what is otherwise a pretty tragic situation.

(photo by Mr. Bao)

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Jeffrey Toobin, Glenn Greenwald Debate Bradley Manning Verdict, Government Leaks (Video)


CNN and New Yorker legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald had a spirited debate Tuesday night on the verdict reached in the Bradley Manning trial, and government leaks in general.

Toobin began by admitting that the “aiding the enemy” charge — of which Manning was justly acquitted — was excessive, but went on to laud the verdict as a whole, one which will almost undoubtedly result in life in a military prison for Manning. Greenwald pulled no punches in his defense of Manning and government leaks, labeling it “bizarre” and “baffling” that someone who calls himself a journalist would openly call for the criminal prosecution — and indeed persecution — of such an important leaker.

“And the thing that I find most bizarre is that anybody who would go into the field of journalism or call themselves a journalist who would call for the prosecution and imprisonment for decades of a source like Bradley Manning, who as I said didn’t publish anything top secret the way that most sources for large media outlets in America do all the time, it’s baffling. What Bradley Manning did is the job of journalists, which is to bring transparency to what the government is doing.”

Toobin fired back by arguing that despite the effect of the leaked documents, the decision to disclose them was not up to Bradley Manning:

“But it’s not up to Bradley Manning to make the decision to disclose this. These are people, the people who wrote those cables have devoted their lives to trying to make the world a better place, particularly Foreign Service Officers. You know, maybe you disagree about that, Glenn, but I admire the Foreign Service a great deal and I trust their judgment about what’s a secret a lot more than I do Bradley Manning.”

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Quote For The Day: Hunter On Political Junkies

Baby, you aint nothin' but a political junkie.

Maria Popova finds a couple of really excellent excerpts from the great Hunter S. Thompson:

Flat-out lying, in fact, is something Thompson attributes to politicians whose profession he likens to a deadly addiction. In Better Than Sex: Confessions of a Political Junkie, the very title of which speaks to the analogy, he writes:

“Not everybody is comfortable with the idea that politics is a guilty addiction. But it is. They are addicts, and they are guilty and they do lie and cheat and steal — like all junkies. And when they get in a frenzy, they will sacrifice anything and anybody to feed their cruel and stupid habit, and there is no cure for it. That is addictive thinking. That is politics — especially in presidential campaigns. That is when the addicts seize the high ground. They care about nothing else. They are salmon, and they must spawn. They are addicts.”

Later, he resurrects the junkie analogy in Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72 and ties it back to journalism:

“Anything that gets the adrenalin moving like a 440 volt blast in a copper bathtub is good for the reflexes and keeps the veins free of cholesterol… but too many adrenaline rushes in any given time span has the same effect on the nervous system as too many electro-shock treatments are said to have on the brain: after a while you start burning out the circuits. When a jackrabbit gets addicted to road-running, its only a matter of time before he gets smashed — and when a journalist turns into a politics junkie he will sooner or later start raving and babbling in print about things that only a person who has Been There can possibly understand.”

(photo by flickr user Misserion)

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Tweet Of The Day

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Your Daily Quote: The Greenwald/Nader Parallel


Greenwald, like Nader, does not believe in meliorist progress. If you are not good, you are evil…This way of looking at the world naturally places one in conflict with most liberals, who are willing to distinguish between gradations of success or failure. Nader and Greenwald believe their analysis not only completely correct, but so obviously correct that the only motivation one could have to disagree is corruption. Good-faith disagreement, or even rank stupidity, is not possible around Greenwald. His liberal critics are lackeys and partisan shills. He may be willing to concede ideological disagreement with self-identified conservatives, but a liberal who disagrees can only be a kept man…Greenwald insisted that “even if Obama is the lesser of two evils, he’s the more effective of two evils.” Statements like this make their putative allies more nervous, or even provokes them to break with them altogether. But this only convinces them all the more deeply of their uncorruptable virtue.

Jonathan Chait, Glenn Greenwald is Ralph Nader

(Photo by Erik Alberhalden)

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Should Universities Pay Newspapers For Advertising?

Front Desk @ the OCR

Ben Bergman reveals that Chapman, UC Irvine and CSU Fullerton have all signed on to a deal proposed to them by The Orange County Register in Southern California, where in return for a lump sum of $275,000, the newspaper will give them each a year’s worth of coverage, “filled with feel-good features, smiling pictures of students and guest columns written by faculty”:
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Your Daily Quote


There’s no problem whatsoever with the U.K.’s Guardian reporting the leaked Verizon court order, engaging with Mr. Snowden, and publishing the known details about that NSA program, as well as PRISM. It is not in committing an act of premeditated journalism that such an august publication entered the realm of self-aggrandizing hyperbole. The journalism is the job. It was in the additional editorializing of the lead reporter [Glenn Greenwald] in telling us exactly how “indiscriminate” the NSA program was. Such characterization jumps past the known into the argumentative, and actually undercuts the fundamental journalism. The NSA program involves a great amount of phone data, but it has by no means been proven indiscriminate.

David Simon, The Guardian: I Am Straw Man, Reborn

(Photo by flickr user Frederic.jacobs)

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The Battle Between Politico And Nate Silver Continues!

It’s safe to say that there’s no love lost between Politico and New York Times polling guru Nate Silver. The latter once described the publication — specializing in Washington insider politics — as one that covers politics like sports but “not in an intelligent way at all.” That later lead to a twitter spat between Silver and Politico investigative reporter Ken Vogel, where Silver labeled Vogel as a troll when he (Vogel) criticized a semantic detail in one of Silver’s posts.

Now Politico editor-in-chief John Harris is entering the fray. In an interview with the New Republic, Harris admitted to consciously ignoring Silver’s contributions to polling the 2012 election (where Silver correctly predicted the outcomes of all 50 states):

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