Posted tagged ‘New York Times’

03.01.17 An awful day

March 1, 2017

My stomach for reading the news has been getting queasier by the day over the past week. I already assumed — before Trump’s big speech last night — that I would have to avoid my daily diet of the New York Times and Washington Post today. I assumed that the daily horror would be some new policy announcement. No such luck.

Today was the day when NYT and WaPo, along with much of the rest of the media (I assume — I can’t bear to read it) decided to normalize the Trump regime. “How presidential!” they declared. “What a respectable tone,” they pointed out.

Yes, February seemed bad. But there was a certain amount of Schadenfreude during the month, as we witnessed the regime’s utter incompetence. There was hope — as day after day of temper tantrums and mismanagement played out — that the GOP might eventually tire of the antics and decide that enriching the 1% might work out better under President Pence.

But, with the cheerleading of our supposed newspapers of record today, we know that this regime is in it for the long haul, with full, enthusiastic GOP support from now ’til kingdom come.

Normalization of bigotry, incompetence, and corruption was the shoe left to drop. It has now fallen. I may never be able to read a newspaper again.

©2017 Keith Berner

10.31.16 Fire James Comey (on November 9)

October 31, 2016

See this outstanding article by Richard W. Panter in the New York TimesOn Clinton Emails, Did the F.B.I. Director Abuse His Power? Even if Comey did not commit an illegal act, his credibility is too compromised to continue serving as the nation’s top law-enforcement officer. While I would like Obama to act on this promptly, the damage that has been done to our electoral process cannot be reversed and firing Comey prior to November 9th would fan right-wing rage without a clear benefit.

©2016 Keith Berner

07.06.16 Apology to Bernie Sanders + Don’t trust NYT

July 6, 2016

On May 29, I wrote about the hypocrisy of the Sanders campaign’s having opposed the superdelegate system in principle, while turning to superdelegates as the the last hope for overturning the will of the voters. While I stand by the my post, as a whole, it included these unfortunate words: “his supporters. . .throw things.” This was an oblique reference to an incident that was widely reported as taking place at the Nevada state convention in May. I should never have made that reference and hereby apologize for it.

As it turns out, there was no chair throwing in Nevada. According to the myth-busting website, Snopes.com, the incident was completely made up by a Nevada journalist by the name of Jon Ralston and then further propagated by such liberal bastions as Rachel Maddow and the New York Times.

Your blogger was gullible enough to take Maddow’s and NYT’s reports at face value. Dear Reader, as an one-person opinion blogger, I cannot promise you that I will engage in the kind of fact checking that I would expect of professional journalists and the institutions they work for. I find it outrageous that Maddow and NYT (not to mention hundreds of other media outlets) didn’t do their due diligence on this. I have learned a new lesson about relying on them and will try harder to verify controversial items I see in the mainstream media.

Ultimately, I don’t think this particular piece of misreporting changed in any significant way the outcome of the race: Bernie Sanders pretty much had no hope of victory by then. But it certainly contributed to greater hostility between the Clinton and Sanders campaigns, which has not been good for anyone (except Trump and the GOP).

So, what of the Bernie claim that the media was horribly unfair to him from the moment he got in the race. I certainly saw clear evidence of this from the Washington Post, which is a consistent pro-corporate rag with no line between editorial and reporting. But I again failed to notice New York Times’ irresponsibility. This outstanding piece by Bill Moyers sheds good light:

Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone wrote a scathing takedown of The Times’ most egregious offense: a March article by Jennifer Steinhauer on how Sanders functioned as a legislator. Headlined “Bernie Sanders Scored Victories for Years Via Legislative Side Doors,” as originally published, the article recounted how effective Sanders was at attaching amendments to pieces of legislation, both Republican and Democratic, and forging coalitions to achieve his ends. The piece was bandwagon stuff.

But then something happened. The original article, already published, underwent a transformation in which Sanders suddenly wasn’t so effective a legislator. Even the headline was changed to “Via Legislative Side Doors, Bernie Sanders Won Modest Victories.” And this paragraph was added: “But in his presidential campaign Mr. Sanders is trying to scale up those kinds of proposals as a national agenda, and there is little to draw from his small-ball legislative approach to suggest that he could succeed.”

Responding to angry Sanders supporters, The Times’ own public editor, Margaret Sullivan, asked why the changes were made and wrote, “Matt Purdy, a deputy executive editor, said that when senior editors read the piece after it was published online, they thought it needed more perspective about whether Mr. Sanders would be able to carry out his campaign agenda if he was elected president.” Yeah, right.

Moyers also reports the numbers:

On CNN, Clinton got more than 70,000 of the Democratic-candidate mentions, while Sanders got just under 42,000. On MSNBC, Clinton got more than 93,000 mentions to Sanders’ roughly 51,000. On Fox News, she got more than 71,000 mentions to his more than 28,000. The numbers are similar on the Lexis-Nexis database of newspapers.

Moyers’s conclusion about why all this happened, though, contradicts one part of the conspiracy theory held by many Bernie supporters. According to Moyers, media bias against Sanders was not the result of a corporate, right-wing cabal to defeat the left, but rather resulted from a self-reinforcing echo chamber. That is, the media assumed from the start that Sanders couldn’t possibly win against Clinton. Therefore, they under-covered him and denigrated him to justify their firm conclusion that he was and would be a loser. Writes Moyers:

. . .this isn’t just what the MSM think of Bernie Sanders. It is what the media think of losers. They don’t like them very much, and they seem determined to make sure that you don’t like them either — unless they beat the press’s own odds and become winners.

Do I suspect anti-left bias in the media? To some extent. But in some ways it’s even more alarming to learn that the news sources we rely on are just so completely irresponsible that truth and balance simply don’t matter. If you can’t rely on the New York Times, whom can you rely on?

©2016 Keith Berner

02.21.16 BREAKING NEWS: WaPo is a right-wing rag

February 21, 2016

The fact that the Washington Post’s editorials are right wing does not, in itself, make the newspaper a rag. And, to be fair, this supposed bastion of the “liberal media” is not all right wing. On social policy, from capital punishment to gay rights to reproductive freedom, WaPo is reliably progressive. It’s all the other topics that get under a progressive’s skin:

  • On foreign policy, the paper is almost always hawkish neocon, ala W, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz
  • The paper is virulently anti-labor
  • Its coverage of the local region is wearyingly pro-corporate/pro development.

What makes the paper a rag is mostly the lack of a firewall between its editorial opinions and its news coverage. Two recent instances come to mind.

On January 20, the Post covered Maryland Republican Governor Larry Hogan’s budget under a headline including the words “tax relief.” Last time I checked, the objective term for lower taxes was “reductions” or “cuts.” The moniker “relief” comes directly from Grover Norquist: taxes are ipso facto bad and any reduction in them is about alleviating a burden on the suffering populace.

Another example is on the front page of today’s Metro section (no link provided, because I’m referring to the hard copy), where a headline declares: “Hogan learns to lead his way: Governor finds success while foiling foes’ attempts to vilify him.” On the continuing internal page, the headline reads “Hogan’s moderate agenda leaves Democrats little to attack.”

Neither of these statements is objectively true. First, one can hardly call Hogan’s record a success, when the Democratic legislature just overturned six of his vetoes. Reacting to the last veto override – restoring voting rights to ex-felons – the governor threw a temper-tantrum, unleashing a barrage of hard-right attacks and threats against Democratic lawmakers. Since that outburst, Hogan has taken to name-calling and assaults on legislators’ integrity that have embarrassed even the GOP.

Second, “moderate” is clearly in the eyes of the beholder. Many of us would not consider a refusal to allow citizens to vote moderate at all. (One can disagree with me on this, but the very point I’m making is that the Post is stating its opinion as objective fact.)

Further evidence of the WaPo’s “raggishness” comes from the decreasing quality of its reporting and writing. The newspaper has nearly given up covering the metro area at all. There is a single political reporter (Bill Turque) assigned to 1-million strong Montgomery County, for example, and his writing is usually superficial and vapid. (A county politician I discussed this with yesterday called Turque “lazy.” I think it’s the publication’s fault for allowing him to be.)

I have seen the lack of a firewall between opinions and reporting in the Post for years: consider the decades-long refusal to acknowledge now-County Councilman Marc Elrich’s very existence in print, because they didn’t like his stand on growth (slow it down!) and unions (support them!).

Many, see a recent decline in overall quality since Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post two-and-a-half years ago. The bottom line is that WaPo has gone from being irritating and unprincipled to being an outright embarrassment.

Sadly, there is only one quality daily newspaper left in this country of over 300 million: the New York Times. And even the NYT hardly matters, when most of the country gets its news from Fox, comedy shows, and internet conspiracy theorists. Seeking explanations for the Trump phenomenon? The decline of quality journalism is certainly one of them, with WaPo as Exhibit 1.

©2016 Keith Berner

04.19.14 “This thing is working” (or, why you need to write a check to the Democrats now)

April 19, 2014

President Obama was spot on when he said this week that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is working. Eight-million enrolled. Thirty-five percent of them under 35 years old. Millions with health insurance who wouldn’t have it, otherwise. Millions more who will be covered in coming years, people whom our convoluted health care system would have left to die impoverished. It’s hard to be more successful than that.

Writing in the New York Times, columnist Charles Blow noted today that the president’s words came across as more defensive than triumphant.  Indeed. And the president and Democrats are largely to blame. Obama’s lies (yes, that’s what they were) about no one’s having to change plans,  and nearly incomprehensible mismanagement of the site’s rollout, took the country’s mind off of the GOP government shutdown last October and directed it back to the screaming “death panel” liars on the right. No matter that the ACA is now working — the majority of the country still opposes it and the GOP have staked their entire campaign on portraying its (made up) horrors. (Note that the GOP, as usual, has neither proposed any alternative to the ACA nor positive plans to fix any other problem the country faces.)

As Blow points out, this vapid GOP tactic should fail. Why might it not? Because the spineless, inarticulate Democrats are refusing utterly to shout (or even gently mention) the truth: THIS THING IS WORKING. Even without Obama’s help, the Democratic Party has a long history of trying to seem Republican, because they are t0o scared or too bought off by corporate power to stand for a fucking thing. GODDAM IT, YOU LOSERS: STAND UP AND BE COUNTED!

Midterm elections following a president’s reelection always go badly for that president’s party. The deck is further stacked against the Democrats by a supreme court that is deeply hostile to democracy. If someone doesn’t stand up and fight, “badly” will end up being “disastrously,” making 2010 look pretty. GET THIS, YOU STUPID DEMS: YOU COULD LOSE THE SENATE!

I have written plenty about Obama’s flaws. This is hardly the first time I have characterized the Democrats as misguided losers. My disgust with the president and his party is overwhelming. (It is not by accident that I am not referring to the Dems as “us” in this post.) If you are a progressive civil libertarian and support economic justice, you no doubt agree with at least part of my critique. But, here’s the thing we can’t forget: we may be critics, but we are critics from the left. The Koch brothers are real. The Supreme Court’s persistent evisceration of democracy is real. There is unmitigated evil on the right and it must be stopped.

I gave up on the Democratic Party, per se,  years ago. But, this is the year to choke back moral queasiness and write a check to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. There isn’t a chance in hell the Dems will take back the House in 2014, so forget about it. But we must, must, must stop the Koch brothers and company from owning the Senate. Even though Democratic elected officials are failing to do their job — hell, because they are failing to do their job — we must stop the right-wing behemoth by any means necessary, including by writing checks to a bunch of losers whose only redeeming characteristic is being less evil than the other guys.

PS. For readers in Montgomery County, Maryland: Don’t forget that Hans Riemer is a liar. Do not reelect him to County Council. (Just as Gail Collins in the NYT reminded us in nearly every 2012 column that Mitt Romney once strapped his dog to the roof of the car on a trip to Canada, I will proudly remind voters in every post between now and the June primary about Mr. Riemer’s persistent problem of pretending that he has done things he hasn’t and is something he isn’t. We owe it to future generations to stop Riemer’s political career here and now.)

©2014 Keith Berner

 

12.02.12 Red state blues: a retraction

December 2, 2012

My post-election post suggesting that we kick out all the red states generated more disagreement than anything else I’ve posted. I was really just blowing off steam and expressing my feeling of utter alienation from what I might call “red state thinking.” Now I realize I was entirely wrong.

This insight stretches back at least a dozen years, to the first time I saw a map of national election results in the New York Times, broken down by district or county. I saw then that, even in blue states, the blue in them was heavily concentrated just along the coasts or in big cities. The only exception to this was in New England, where entire states were blue. I paid somewhat less attention to the counter-case: even in red states, there were blue pockets for cities, albeit less in the south than elsewhere.

Nonetheless, I was aware that the political split in this country is only partly regional, but is mostly urban vs. rural. I ignored this phenomenon when I called for dispensing with the red states once and for all.

Now comes a fascinating piece of analysis in the Atlantic, titled Red State, Blue City: How the Urban-Rural Divide is Splitting America. I didn’t realize that even Dallas and Houston — in (nearly fascist) Texas — have voted blue in two consecutive elections. So have cities like Birmingham, Tucson, Little Rock, and Charleston, S.C. In fact (quoting from the article), “the only major cities that voted Republican in the 2012 presidential election were Phoenix, Oklahoma City, Fort Worth, and Salt Lake City.”

I have seen some other recent analysis (that I cannot put my finger on right now) that living in close quarters makes people blue: there is a need for more common infrastructure and regulations to keep life civil and flowing in large population centers. The Atlantic article, while not getting at root causes, makes that point: “The voting data suggest that people don’t make cities liberal — cities make people liberal.” It’s not that lefties move to cities because of arts, restaurants, and creative jobs, but rather that city life makes people need government in a way that rural living doesn’t.

Of course, there are some regional differences: a given city in a given southern state is less likely to be blue (or likely to be less blue) than a similar city elsewhere. And, as I mentioned previously, New England is the only part of the country where even rural areas are blue. But still, it is abundantly clear that population density trumps regionalism when it comes to voting.

So, can anybody think of a  way to get rural America to secede?

©2012 Keith Berner

10.08.08 “One of the most appalling campaigns we can remember. . .”

October 8, 2008

I have not considered it the mission of this blog to forward the analysis and opinion of others, but this is an exception to the rule . . .

Following is an extensive quote from today’s lead editorial in the New York Times:

Politics of Attack

It is a sorry fact of American political life that campaigns get ugly, often in their final weeks.  But Senator John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin have been running one of the most appalling campaigns we can remember.

They have gone far beyond the usual fare of quotes taken out of context and distortions of an opponent’s record — into the dark territory of race-baiting and xenophobia.  Senator Barack Obama has taken some cheap shots at Mr. McCain, but there is no comparison.

. . .

Ms. Palin, in particular, revels in the attack.  Her campaign rallies have become spectacles of anger and insult.  “This is not a man who sees America as you see it and how I see America,” Ms. Palin has taken to saying.

That line follows passages in Ms. Palin’s new stump speech in which she twists Mr. Obama’s ill-advised but fleeting and long-past association with William Ayers, founder of the Weather Underground and confessed bomber.  By the time she’s done, she implies that Mr. Obama is right now a close friend of Mr. Ayers — and sympathetic to the violent overthrow of the government.  The Democrat, she says, “sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country.”

Her demagoguery has elicited some frightening, intolerable responses.  A recent Washington Post report said at a rally in Florida this week a man yelled “kill him!” as Ms. Palin delivered that line and others shouted epithets at an African-American member of a TV crew.

Mr. McCain’s aides haven’t even tried to hide their cynical tactics, saying they were “going negative” in hopes of shifting attention away from the financial crisis — and by implication Mr. McCain’s stumbling response.

We certainly expected better from Mr. McCain, who once showed withering contempt for win-at-any-cost politics.  He was driven out of the 2000 Republican primaries by this sort of smear, orchestrated by some of the same people who are now running his campaign.

. . .

In a way, we should not be surprised that Mr. McCain has stooped so low, since the debate showed once again that he has little else to talk about.  He long ago abandoned his signature issues of immigration reform and global warming; his talk of “victory” in Iraq has little to offer a war-weary nation; and his Reagan-inspired ideology of starving government and shredding regulation lies in tatters on Wall Street.

But surely, Mr. McCain and his team can come up with a better answer to that problem than inciting more division, anger, and hatred.

The epithet that the Times chose not to repeat was “Sit down, boy!”  They also didn’t quote another participant at a Palin rally who shouted, “Terrorist!” at the mention of Obama’s name.

Here is something with which we (hopefully) can console ourselves:  if and when John McCain loses this election, he will have not a friend left in the whole world (except for Joe Lieberman, who will join him in blessed isolation).  Republicans, who have always hated McCain, will blame him for their abysmal failure at the polls this year.  (Though the entire party is responsible for the destruction of the GOP “brand,” McCain’s campaign and the candidate’s performance have been particularly inept.)  Liberals and moderates, who were once beguiled by the old maverick, have been permanently alienated by the country-last cynicism of this truly despicable man.  And his bare-knuckled rage at the media has lost him that contingent as well.

After all this, I wouldn’t be surprised if Cindy leaves him.  Rarely has any individual so deserved the opprobrium that awaits.

©2008 Keith Berner