Friday, October 29, 2010

Of Ladybugs and Hypocrisy

Yesterday afternoon, the gossip website Gawker posted a rather tawdry, crude and tasteless account of an evening that a shamless sleazebag of a man spent with Christine O'Donnell, the current GOP candidate for U.S. Senator from Delaware. And while the story does reveal a certain hypocrisy on O'Donnell's part when it comes to the issue of sexual morality, on the whole it says much more about the writer's low ethical standards and classless conduct than it does about Ms. O'Donnell. And I say this as no fan of the dangerously unqualified and recklessly incompetent Pepublican Senate candidate.
Yet with all that, it took the O'Donnell campaign very little time to respond to the story in such a fashion as to erase any sympathy I might have developed for her in the course of these sadly uneccesary events:

Wilmington, DE – Communications Director Doug Sachtleben stated in response to the universal condoning of the Gawker story:
"This story is just another example of the sexism and slander that female candidates are forced to deal with. From Secretary Clinton, to Governor Palin, to soon-to-be Governor Haley, Christine's political opponents have been willing to engage in appalling and baseless attacks — all with the aim of distracting the press from covering the real issues in this race. Even the National Organization for Women gets it, but Christine's opponent disturbingly does not. As Chris Coons said on September 16th he would not condone personal attacks against Christine. Classless Coons goons have proven yet again to have no sense of common decency or common sense with their desperate attacks to get another rubber stamp for the Obama-Pelosi-Reid agenda. Such attacks are truly shameful, but they will not distract us from making our case to Delaware voters — and keeping the focus on Chris Coons' record of higher taxes, increased spending, and as he has done again here, breaking his promises to the voters."
The National Organization for Women (NOW) on Thursday condemned the tabloid website Gawker for publishing an anonymous account: NOW issued a statement late Thursday stating that "sexist, misogynist attacks against women have no place in the electoral process, regardless of a particular candidate's political ideology."
"NOW repudiates Gawker's decision to run this piece. It operates as public sexual harassment. And like all sexual harassment, it targets not only O'Donnell, but all women contemplating stepping into the public sphere," said NOW president Terry O'Neill.

And so with this statement Christine O'Donnell continues in the great tradition of Repubilcan hypocrites who spend careers savaging civil rights and civil liberties organizations such as the National Organization for Women, but then embrace these groups when doing so suits their immediate purposes. Anyone remember Oliver North, the darling of the crypto-fascist Right and current Fox News "analyst", who nonetheless gladly accepted the help of the ACLU lawyers who helped overturn his perjury convictions in the Iran Contra affair? And one sees echoes of Sarah Palin's hypocritical play for female votes in O'Donnell's sisterly embrace of Hillary Clinton. One recalls that in Palin's case, the former half-term Alaska governor first criticized Clinton for her feminist "whining" until she was tapped as John McCain's running mate and decided to make a play for disaffected Hillary Clinton voters. From then on (and once it became clear that Barack Obama was to be the Democratic nominee for president) Palin spoke of Clinton as a fellow traveller unjustly slandered by a sexist press establishment.

And finally there is the purely political attempt by the O'Donnell campaign to turn the episode around and use it to attack Chris Coons by baselessly suggeting that the Coons campaign was somehow behind the story. Not only does O'Donnell provide no proof of these allegations, but Coons was running 20 points ahead of O'Donnell long before the story surfaced. He gains nothing from promoting these tawdry revelations, and indeed and would risk turning off women voters by doing so.

I don't want to suggest that this episode is a case of the chickens somehow coming home to roost, but the fact is that Ms. O'Donnell's private behavior is far more responsible for this episode than anything Chris Coons appears to have done.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

All The News That's Fit To Print (And More!)

Are PBS characters Ernie and Bert gay lovers? That's the pressing question that Fox is pursuing on the FoxNews website today. Their evidence:

On June 11, the famous puppet tweeted about the recent "A-Team" remake by comparing himself to A-Team star Mr-T, saying, "Ever notice how similar my hair is to Mr. T's? The only difference is mine is a little more 'mo,' a little less 'hawk.'"
To some the comment was just a cute quip about hairstyles, but to others, "mo" was short for "homo" and this was Bert's way of coming out at the perfect time.

Typical Fox News petty vindictiveness in the wake of the Juan Williams termination. Ooooh, PBS (and by extension NPR) are secretly trying to gay your kids!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

More on WIlliams

James Fallows has a long post on the Juan Williams affair in which he outlines objections to Williams' association with NPR while working for Fox that are simliar to the ones I voiced earlier on this blog:

I care about NPR not because of my minor role as a contributor but because of their major role in the American journalistic landscape. To hear the Fox/DeMint attack machine over the past week, NPR is simply a liberal counterpart to Fox -- a politically minded and opinion-driven organization that is only secondarily interested in gathering news. I believe that the mischaracterization is deliberate, and I know it is destructive and wrong.Fox is unmatched at what it does, which is to apply a unified political-cultural world view to the unfolding events of the day. To appreciate its impact, you just have to think about how much more effective it is than the various liberal counterparts -- the now-departed Air America, the Olbermann-Maddow bloc on MSNBC. Rush Limbaugh isn't on Fox, but he showed them how it's done. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are technically as effective as Fox, but they are nowhere near as reliably pro-Democratic as Fox is pro-Republican. And they're only on for one hour total a day, weekdays only, rather than 24/7 for Fox."News" in the normal sense is a means for Fox's personalities, not an end in itself. It provides occasions for the ongoing development of its political narrative -- the war on American values, the out-of-touchness of Democrats -- much as current events give preachers material for sermons.

Fallows also adds some interesting historical tidbits, such as the fact that the Bush Whitehouse was fond of Williams as an interviewer because of his softball questioning of the president:

The only interview George W Bush gave to NPR while in office was with Juan Williams in 2007. It is general political-world knowledge that the White House's condition of the interview was that Williams conduct it... later in 2007 the White House offered NPR another interview with Bush, but only if Juan Williams would again do it. NPR said No, we won't take it on those terms; we want to choose the interviewer. Williams did it instead for Fox. Story here.

It's interesting to add that the narrative coming out of Fox is that Juan Williams was fired from NPR for being a "Bill Cosby Liberal," by which Fox means a Liberal who departs from common Liberal shibboleth on cultural issues. Of course another way of putting it is that Williams is a Liberal who is useful to Fox insofar as he puts up only weak and half-hearted defenses of Liberal opinions and positions and can just as often be counted on to attack the left for its supposed ideological intransigence and extremism. In other words, Williams is the only kind of Liberal allowed on Fox: the kind that furthers the station's dishonest ideological narrative. But the most important point to take away from the reaction from Roger Ailes' lackeys is that for Fox, Juan Williams was clearly the token Liberal, and he was presented as such in discussion panels. For NPR, which employed Williams as a correspodent, and not as an opinion journalist, this was simply unacceptable. One cannot imagine ABC, CBS or NBC in their heyday tolerating Dan Rather, Peter Jennings or Tom Brokaw doing ideological driven political commentary on the side? NPR is no different in this respect, because they truly value impartiality.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Chinese Imports as a Percentage of the Total

A very interesting analysis courtesy of Matthew Yglesias: for all the worry about Chinese imports, the fact is that combined imports from Canada and Mexico are nearly 1 1/2 times as large. Yglesias wonders why China gets so much media coverage.

...I’d say following the news probably leads to a mistake overestimation of how important China is to the US economy. I’d say China accounts for much more than 20 percent of total trade-related media coverage, even though the PRC is just 18.5 percent of our imports and less than 17 percent of our total trade.

This is true, but it seems to me that it's the imbalance going the other way that is most worrisome, and likely accounts for much of the media's focus. While we maintain slight trade imbalances with Mexico and Canda, we, in fact, import about 4x as much from China as we export to China.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Juan Williams

An e-mail I sent to Andrew Sullivan's blog that pretty much sums up my feeling on the Juan Williams affair:

In discussions of the Juan Williams/NPR dust-up I think one of the big issues is being missed here. Williams' omnipresence on Fox was a concern for his employer for reasons that go well beyond Williams' expressed opinions in one show. Fox News is a propaganda outlet moreso than a proper news organization and one of its primary missions is to discredit objective reporting in order to tilt the country's political discussion to the right. It does this by propagating the myth that mainstream media organizations like CNN and NPR tilt to the left, whereas Fox is neutral in its coverage of the news. And one of the many ways that Fox spreads this distortion is by holding roundtable discussions featuring right-wing partisan political hacks on one side of the table (Wm. Kristal, Charles Krauthammer) and mainstream media journalists on the other. Rarely will you find the editor of the Weekly Standard debating the editor of the Nation on Fox. You are much more likely to see Kristol facing off against Wiliams or Cookie Roberts of NPR. And this very format produces two fundamentally dishonest, desired results for Fox: (1) the disingenuous right-wing propaganda of Kristol et al. is countered by milquetoast commentary from mainstream journalists who don't want to come off as partisans defending left-wing positions (2) the mainstream journalists and their primary employers nonetheless do come off as "liberally biased" because the physical and ideological context demands it: they have been set up to counter the assertions of right-wing partisans.

Mainstream media organizations like NPR fiercely protect their reputation for balance and objectivity. A couple of weeks ago NPR sent out a missive to all of its employees warning them against attending John Stewart and Stephen Colbert's upcoing rally on the mall. This contrasts noticeably with Fox News reporters who can be seen egging on crowds at Tea party rallies (the videos are all over YouTube).

So it's hardly surprising to me that NPR would take this opportunity to divorce itself of Williams. His presence on Fox does not project the image that the news organization wants to present to the public.

Pride (The Bad Kind)


Rick Hoskins told KFVS that he puts the decorations up every year as a sign of "white pride."
"There's been a bunch of people that's stopped by since I put them up," explained Hoskins. "Said they want to shake my hand. They said they're glad to see a little white pride is still left in this country."

The decorations in question? A Halloween display featuring figures depicting a KKK member lynching a black man.

(Wia: Wonkette)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Privatize Social Security?

Here's an eye opening statement that should trouble anyone who's contemplating a privatized Social Security System:

The decline has been painful for the Japanese, with companies and individuals like Masato having lost the equivalent of trillions of dollars in the stock market, which is now just a quarter of its value in 1989, and in real estate, where the average price of a home is the same as it was in 1983.

Imagine having to rely for your retirement on investment vehicles that are now only 25% as valuable as they were 11 years ago.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Tennets of Marxism

Here is a video of Christine O'Donnell stating that "raising taxes" and not eliminating estate taxes are "tennets of Marxism."

This would be comical if O'Donnell didn't actually believe it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Pure Genius

Add this one to the list of world's worst ideas. Apparently someone at a school district in Pennsyilvania thought it would be a fine and dandy idea to remotely monitor students who had been lent laptops by activating the integrated webcam and sending pictures back to the school servers. Students and their parents were understandably upset, and sued the district. Now the Lower Merion School District has been ordered to pay students $610,000.00 for invading their privacy. And quite honestly, that's a slap on the wrist compared to what they deserved. That no one ended up in jail, or at the very least on probation, for this is really quite amazing to me. This is the sort of thing sex offender registries were made for.
(Via: Engadget)

Blowing out the cobwebs

OK, it's been almost a year since I stopped blogging on Patriot's Quill. In that time I've contributed a few pieces to Stinque, but very little here. I think it's time to maybe blow out the cobwebs and ramp this blog up. Let's see how it goes over the next few days.