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CHILDHOOD’S END: The death of a dream!

Posted by Hyuuga Cutezz On 5:45 AM 0 comments
MONDAY, APRIL 9, 2012

Part 1—Believing O’Donnell: For decades, we liberals had it good in the tribal wars of self-esteem.

In 1988, Rush Limbaugh’s radio show went nationwide. From that point forward, we liberals could hear Limbaugh’s clownish misstatements as they aired coast to coast.

We also could hear conservative listeners speaking to Rush, declaring themselves “ditto-heads.” Following Limbaugh’s groaning misstatements, we could hear reflexive affirmation from millions of gullible followers.

Among liberals, this produced the widely-voiced belief that we were the smart ones, the “nuanced” observers, the people who play the game straight. Our self-esteem soared in the Limbaugh/Fox years, even as we took a series of painful political hits.

These were the happy years. We got to believe that we were smart—that their side featured the very dumb players. We got to believe that our leaders are honest—that their side is run by dissemblers.

We often blamed our political failures on the dishonesty of their side’s leaders, matched with the dumbness of their followers. Even as we lost political ground, this view of the world was extremely good for liberal self-esteem.

Except among the proudly deluded, that era has come to an end. Increasingly, we liberals are creating a world which crawls with disingenuous leaders—and with highly gullible followers, our own liberal ditto-heads.

Limbaugh pioneered this culture, but this is how our own world works at this point. For one small example, consider a segment from last Thursday evening’s Last Word.

Three days earlier, President Obama had made a peculiar statement concerning the Supreme Court’s review of the health care law. Almost everyone saw the strangeness in what the president said:
OBAMA (4/2/12): With respect to health care, I'm actually—continue to be confident that the Supreme Court will uphold the law. And the reason is, because in accordance with precedent out there, it's constitutional. That's not just my opinion, by the way. That's the opinion of legal experts across the ideological spectrum, including two very conservative appellate court justices that said this wasn't even a close case.

[...]

Ultimately, I'm confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.

And I'd just remind conservative commentators that, for years, what we've heard is the biggest problem on the bench was judicial activism or a lack of judicial restraint, that an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law. Well, this is a good example. And I'm pretty confident that this—this court will recognize that and not take that step.
Say what? Almost everyone saw the oddness in Obama’s formulation. Whatever he might have meant, Obama had said that it would be “unprecedented” to “overturn a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.”

In fact, the health care law had passed the House by a narrow, seven-vote margin. But however strong a congressional majority may be, everyone knows that the court has the power—indeed, the duty—to overturn a law if fails to pass constitutional muster.

Beyond that, everyone knows that this wouldn’t be an “unprecedented” act by the court. In context, the use of the term “unelected” only seemed to add to the oddness of Obama’s remarks.

Whatever Obama might have meant, he had actually said an odd thing—and virtually everyone knew it. Lawrence Tribe, dean of liberal law professors, said that his former student “obviously misspoke.” Obama began to walk back his own statement one day after he made it.

Obama made a peculiar statement. Unless you were watching Lawrence O’Donnell’s cable “news” program last Thursday night.

O’Donnell’s show airs on MSNBC, a corporate-run “news channel” aimed at liberals—a channel which has increasingly been aping the practices of Fox. In line with that emerging culture, O’Donnell seemed to suggest that criticism of Obama’s statement had been—what else?—a form of Republican hypocrisy.

That’s hard to do if you actually quote the relevant part of Obama’s statement. So O’Donnell took a different approach.

As he introduced Thursday night’s segment, O’Donnell quoted a different part of Obama’s statement—a single sentence which, standing alone, actually makes perfect sense. He then pretended that this was the part of Obama’s statement which had been disputed. (To watch the whole segment, click here.)

This is the way the segment began. O’Donnell’s conduct represents the end of an era—the end of a childish dream:
O’DONNELL (4/5/12): So Republicans and the noise machine at Fox News think it’s perfectly OK to say this:

GEORGE W. BUSH (videotape): It’s the only branch that’s unelected and whose officers serve for life. Unfortunately, some judges give in to temptation and make law instead of interpreting it. Such judicial lawlessness is a threat to our democracy and it needs to stop.

O’DONNELL: And Republicans and Fox News world think it is a high crime to say this:
OBAMA (videotape): I just remind conservative commentators that for years what we’ve heard is the biggest problem on the bench was judicial activism or a lack of judicial restraint, that an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law.

O’DONNELL: Joining me now is Politico’s chief White House correspondent Mike Allen [and] Salon.com senior writer and MSNBC political analyst, Steve Kornacki.
Quoted on its own, that part of Obama’s statement is perfectly accurate. But that isn’t the part of the president’s statement which has been widely critqued.

Soon, O’Donnell offered the nugget around which his segment would turn. On his worst day, Limbaugh himself couldn’t have played the game better:
O’DONNELL: Mike, tell us what’s going on here? They are suddenly very, very upset that a president, actually quoting Republicans, not saying they’re— He was using the Republican phrase about them being unelected saying, “This is what you guys used to say.” And they can’t take it when he says that.
It’s true. Down through the years, Republicans have often referred to judges as being “unelected.” But that wasn’t the part of Obama’s remarks which has been widely critiqued.

O’Donnell’s segment proceeded as planned thanks to the help of a couple of friends. Surely, Allen and Kornacki each understood that O’Donnell was working a bit of a scam—that he wasn’t quoting the part of the statement which had been so widely discussed.

But so what? Each pundit politely played along, as their counterparts frequently do on Fox. The result?

Everyone else in America knows what Obama was criticized for. But if you relied on O’Donnell last week, you still have no idea.

O’Donnell’s segment was one small part of last week’s programming on MSNBC. But the silly deception involved in this segment typifies the larger drift now on display at this “liberal” “news channel.” Most remarkably, MSNBC has run a remarkable series of scams in recent weeks concerning the killing of Trayvon Martin. In the course of its many deceptions and misstatements, an era has come to an end.

For decades, we liberals got to think that we are the smart and honest players. We got to believe that our leaders are honest. We got to believe that liberal voters are too smart, too nuanced, too intellectually honest to accept a ditto-head role.

No one watching MSNBC can continue to hold such a childish belief. In endless ways, this channel’s recent conduct—and the conduct of its viewers—has represented a type of “childhood’s end.”

Tomorrow: Our own ditto-heads

But why would Obama do that: On Thursday evening, there was one small break from the pretense that Obama had said nothing wrong. Responding to the question we’ve cited above, Mike Allen—and O’Donnell himself—made these peculiar remarks:
O’DONNELL: Mike, tell us, what’s going on here? They are suddenly very, very upset that a president, actually quoting Republicans, not saying they’re— He was using the Republican phrase about them being unelected saying, “This is what you guys used to say.” And they can’t take it when he says that.

ALLEN: Well, both sides here are working the refs, the ultimate—the ultimate swing vote. Here you just have one vote on the margins.

I think the president also would take back some of what he said. There’s going to be plenty of time in—

O’DONNELL: He marched it back a little bit.

ALLEN: Yes, every day, he has.
But why in the world would Obama do that? Why would he “march it back a little bit?” Why would he do that “every day?” Unless you already knew, O’Donnell gave you no way to know why Obama would so such a thing. A similar scam occurred Wednesday night, with Van Jones and Richard Wolffe cast in the role of dissembling helpmates.

(To watch that segment, click this. In that case, you do see the tape of Obama’s peculiar remarks. The misdirection proceeds from there.)

This is how Limbaugh has always treated his gullible conservative listeners. As liberal viewers start accepting this treatment, a childish dream, of three decades’ duration, has finally come to an end.

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How much should a mind-reader cost!

Posted by Hyuuga Cutezz On 7:00 AM 0 comments
MONDAY, APRIL 9, 2012

O’Brien got hers for free: How much should a mind-reader cost?

At a conference in Las Vegas, the GSA paid $3200 for such a performance. For the New York Times’ account of this matter, go ahead—just click here.

How much should a mind-reader cost? We’d say the GSA overpaid. On March 30, CNN got its mind-readers for free!

On that evening, CNN broadcast an hour-long special about the death of Trayvon Martin. The program was called, “Beyond Trayvon: Race and Justice in America.”

The program was hosted by Soledad O’Brien. She spoke to several skilled mind-readers, none of whom (we’re assuming) was paid.

The GSA paid $3200 for its mind-reader. Curtis Sliwa performs this service for free. For unknown reasons, CNN invited Sliwa to be one of the stars of its hour-long special. Before too long, this very dumb TV performer was mind-reading in this manner:
O'BRIEN (3/30/12): Let's begin with you, Mr. Sliwa. You obviously founded the Guardian Angels. And I think your name, it's fair to say, is synonymous with civilian patrols. What did George Zimmerman do wrong, and is there anything he did right that night?

SLIWA: He did nothing right, except wake up early that day and begin to stalk people through his paranoia he thought were looking to commit crime on his compound. A self-appointed watchman.

[...]

In the streets we call it mad dogs. He was on a mission. He was solo. He had all the furniture upstairs and rearranged in the wrong rooms.

I know everyone is fixated on hoodies. But I know a bunch of young men who wore different colors passed by with hoodies. He fixed on Trayvon. In his mind Trayvon was a hood, a hoodlum, an enemy of society. He has Skittles and iced tea going home. The guy felt it. Because you know, when you are in the street, you feel the instinct. Somebody is stalking you. Somebody is on your back. And Trayvon probably at a certain point just decided to stand his ground.
The GSA overpaid.

In this absurd and disgraceful performance, Sliwa did a brilliant job reading the minds of Zimmerman and Martin. He knew what Zimmerman woke up thinking; he knew what Zimmerman thought about Martin when he saw him that night. He also knew what Martin “felt” as events transpired that evening.

(For the record, Sliwa displayed a second type of clairvoyance, saying he knew that “a bunch of young [white] men” also “passed by with hoodies” that evening. How could be possibly know that?)

On a journalistic basis, Sliwa’s presentation was a disgrace. A journalist should have challenged what he said—but O'Brien simply posed a question to a different guest.

Sliwa’s mind-reading went unchallenged. Before the program ended, he showcased his skill once again:
SLIWA: Why are we fixated on the hoodie? Because it's thug-like. If you wear a hoodie like a thug, you suck in your bottom hip like you've got your trousers down to your butt. And all of a sudden, you're acting big and bad. Well, then you're acting like a thug.

No one is suggesting that Trayvon Martin was acting that way. There was a sea of hoodies that day. No, no, Zimmerman, he locked on Trayvon because he was on a mission. Trayvon didn't have to have a hoodie. He was going to take out Trayvon. It had nothing at all to do with the hoodie.
Contradicting much conventional wisdom, Sliwa said that Zimmerman didn’t react to Martin’s hoodie. But how could he be so sure of that? O’Brien never asked.

O’Brien let Sliwa’s mind-reading go. But then, she also accepted a piece of mind-reading by Harvard professor Charles Ogletree.

Ogletree may have been sharp at one time; we’ve been struck in recent years by the weakness of his presentations. At any rate, consider what happened when O’Brien asked him to comment on one part of Zimmerman’s 911 call on the night Martin died.

O’Brien played one specific part of the tape, then asked the professor to comment. We’ll include her introduction, where she promoted Ogletree’s recent book:
O’BRIEN: Joining me this evening is Harvard Law School professor Charles Ogletree. He's in Boston. His book, Presumption of Guilt, is about the wrongful arrest of another Harvard professor, Henry Louis Gates.

[...]

I want to focus on the 911 calls. The call lasts a little over four minutes, but it's going to be something that everybody is focusing on in this case. Let's play a little bit of the call between George Zimmerman and the dispatcher.

ZIMMERMAN (audiotape): This guy looks like he's up to no good or he's on drugs or something. It's raining and he's just walking around looking about.
O'BRIEN: Professor Ogletree, I'll start with you. To me, at the end of the day, the most important question seems to be what was it that made Trayvon Martin suspicious to George Zimmerman, correct?
In truth, that is an important question. Why did Zimmerman call police when he saw Martin that evening? To use O’Brien’s language, what made Martin seem “suspicious?”

Question: Is it possible that Martin was behaving strangely this night, as Zimmerman told the dispatcher? Could that be what made him seem “suspicious” to Zimmerman? Like you, we have no way of knowing—and Ogletree doesn't know either. But O’Brien had played the part of the tape where Zimmerman said that Martin was behaving oddly.

Could something like that explain the initial phone call? In his response, Ogletree completely ignored what Zimmerman said on the part of the tape he had just heard. Instead, he did some inventive mind-reading. We’re working from the official CNN transcript:
OGLETREE (continuing directly): He was black, and he was a male, and Zimmerman saw him. This is what the book is all about, as you know, Soledad. It's not about Henry Gates. It's about the presumption of guilt. You look at someone's skin, you look at what they're wearing.

And when I talk in the book, I talked about the Trayvons of the world. And he has now become a legend. Every parent, every relative, every sibling, every stranger is going to say, "What do I do about my son or my daughter, what they wear, where they go?" It's going to change America's behavior.

And this was—in a sense, this was a presumption of guilt. He looked at his face, they saw him dressed, and they said, "That guy is up to no good." He did nothing wrong, but they said he was a man who did something wrong and now he's dead.
Ogletree couldn’t possibly know whether those highlighted statements are accurate. (They could be accurate, of course.) But so what? He got in several plugs for his book as he recited a novelized claim about the thoughts in Zimmerman’s head.

Presumably, this mind-reading came free of charge. At any rate, O’Brien never asked Ogletree how he could possibly know such things.

As we watched this CNN broadcast, we were struck by O’Brien’s almost total lack of journalistic instincts this night. No matter how foolish her pundit guests were, she made no attempt to challenge their statements. Jane Velez-Mitchell, a Headline News star, is one of cable’s Nancy Grace-style former prosecutors.

How dumb can these very dumb people get? At one point, Velez-Mitchell asked the world's dumbest known question:
O'BRIEN: Many of the conversations have moved from the facts of the case to race and racial profiling and conversations about George Zimmerman's ethnicity and also Trayvon Martin's race. Why is race such a big issue in this?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, it shouldn't be, in the sense that we as a culture need to start moving beyond describing people just in terms of their race. And so I think this is an opportunity for us to really look at what do police departments do. Why do they always ask somebody who is reporting something suspicious is the person black, white or Hispanic?

What's interesting is in the police report, the victim, Trayvon Martin is described five times as a black male in one paragraph in the police report. Now, why are they constantly focusing on the victim being a black male? Is that sort of subliminal racism right there?
Why do police departments ask about race (and gender) in such circumstances? Could anyone but a cable “news” star be dumb enough to ask?

Back to the price of mind-reading: Did the GSA pay too much? O”Brien’s program was called “Beyond Trayvon,” but she devoted her opening segment to an interview with Benjamin Crump, the Martin family’s attorney.

(No one from Zimmerman’s camp appeared, nor did O’Brien explain this imbalance. Perhaps the Zimmerman camp declined an invitation. O’Brien didn't say.)

Did the GSA pay too much? When O’Brien spoke with Crump, he did some aggressive mind-reading too. More specifically, he put some very ugly thoughts in the mind of some unspecified persons (plural):
CRUMP: I have to say this very quick, because this is troubling. They ran a background check on Trayvon, who is dead on the ground. They don't run a background check on the guy who just shot and killed the kid in cold blood. In essence, what they did, they said that, “Zimmerman, your word is more credible, and we're going to accept that, just like you profiled him in that 911 tape, this is a little thug on the ground, and he really doesn't deserve a fair and impartial investigation.”
Wow. It isn’t entirely clear what Crump meant when he said that “they” ran no “background check” on Zimmerman—and O’Brien didn’t ask him to explain. But in that highlighted statement, Crump drew a very ugly portrait of what “they” said on the night of Martin’s death—and he didn’t say who he meant.

Who said that Trayvon Martin was just “a little thug on the ground?” That is a very ugly portrait—but of whom is this portrait true?

An actual journalist would have asked. O’Brien stared into air.

Crump mind-read in an ugly way. Presumably, he did so for free. Plainly, the GSA did overpay at its convention. But then, so did CNN if it hired O’Brien expecting journalistic behavior.

What went through Zimmerman’s mind that night? Like these TV stars, we have no real idea. How could we possibly know such a thing? How could these TV performers?

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Terrible state of the public schools watch!

Posted by Hyuuga Cutezz On 7:23 AM 0 comments
TUESDAY, APRIL 10, 2012

Paul Krugman messes with Texas: Yesterday, the New York Times ran a news report about funding cuts to the Texas schools. Click here.

On his blog, Paul Krugman praised the Times report, then messed with Texas—bad:
KRUGMAN (4/9/12): A good article in the Times about the terrible state of Texas schools—followed by a truly awful comment thread, in which many readers rush to blame, you guessed it, teachers’ unions.

Folks, this isn’t an article about New York, where three-quarters of public-sector workers are unionized. It’s about Texas, where only one in five public workers belongs to a union. Blaming unions for the problems of Texas is like, well, blaming Jews for the problems of Japan: there aren’t enough of them to matter.

Sigh.
At THE HOWLER, we sighed too!

First, a matter of opinion: That was not a “good article.” It was journalistically weak in many ways. In our view, it was massively underfed work.

(Earth to the Times: That high school kid walking a mile to school was not an impressive focus.)

Having said that, let us also say this: Few comments in the Times comment thread “rushed to blame, you guessed it, teachers’ unions.” (At least as far as we could stand reading.) Many of the comments were uninformed, as comments about poublic schools always are. But what comments was Krugman reading?

We have no idea.

That said, the most significant comment in Krugman’s post would be his instant, extremely vague jibe about “the terrible state of Texas schools.”

Liberals enjoy reading such things about Texas, as can be seen from some of Krugman’s commenters. But how terrible are the Texas schools? A commenter, writing from London, reacted to Krugman’s post exactly as we had:
COMMENTER: As bad as Texas schools may be, it's interesting to note that white students in Texas outperform white students in Wisconsin on standardized tests, black students in Texas outperform black students in Wisconsin, and Hispanic students in Texas outperform Hispanic students in Wisconsin. Overall Texas comes out lower because it has many more Hispanic students, who perform worse for whatever reasons (language?).
“As bad as Texas schools may be?” Judging from years of scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, Texas schools don’t seem to be “bad” at all.

Last year, we discussed this topic in some detail. To see NAEP scores from Texas compared with those from a half dozen other states, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/25/11. For a simpler assessment of this general point, see Matt Yglesias’ short but accurate post in yesterday’s Slate.

In the Texas public schools, all three major demographic groups have tended to outscore their peers from around the nation. It may be that funding cuts will harm this statewide performance. But in recent years, there have been large funding cuts to public schools in other states too. In our view, the failure to compare the size of the Texas cuts to those in other states was one of the obvious, groaning flaws with yesterday’s news report.

Bottom line: Conservatives do enjoy blaming the unions. Liberals like to mess with Texas.

We live in highly tribal times. Such times may tend to lower comprehension among even the brightest players.

Final question, for extra credit: Do the lives of American children matter? Or are school children useful props for enjoyable upper-class war games?

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The biggest test for the modern liberal!

Posted by Hyuuga Cutezz On 12:06 PM 0 comments
TUESDAY, APRIL 10, 2012

Can you quit E. J. Dionne: For the modern liberal, it’s the biggest test of your ability to resist the tribal imperative.

Here’s the test: Can you quit E. J. Dionne?

He seems so rational, so decent, so good—so well-intentioned, so palpably honest! But here’s what Dionne said again last night, guesting on The Last Word:
DIONNE (4/9/12): You know, if I could just say something about all that stuff you ran before. I think there are Velcro candidates and there are Teflon candidates. Teflon candidates like Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, where nothing sticks, and then Velcro candidates like—Al Gore never even said that "I invented the Internet," and yet that stuck to him.

And Romney, from the ease with which you can play those reels, you know, “two Cadillacs,” you know, “the trees are the right height” and all of that, he is looking more and more like a Velcro candidate. And that I think is his core problem.
To gain the full effect of this dog-and-pony show, you have to watch the tape. Listen to the heartfelt concern with which Dionne expresses his point:

Al Gore never said, “I invented the Internet!” And yet, the bullshit stuck!

Of course, Dionne knows why the bullshit stuck. It stuck because people like O’Donnell kept saying such things during Campaign 2000—even as people like Dionne kept refusing to challenge their conduct.

Al Gore said he invented the Internet! The mainstream press corps pimped that tale for twenty months, from March 1999 through November 2000. And according to Nexis, Dionne never spoke up, not even once, to challenge this twenty-month war. The bullshit stuck because the “good people” did nothing while the very bad people—the folk like O’Donnell—conducted their twenty-month war.

We researched this matter in 2010, when Dionne first made this statement about Gore and the Internet in a column (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/27/10). We found no sign that Dionne ever spoke up.

It’s how George Bush reached the White House.

Last night, Dionne seemed so good, so pure, so sincere. He was playing you, right to the core.

To this day, are you able to quit him?

What O'Donnell did: As the conversation continued, O’Donnell played the stupidity card, with Jonathan Capehart serving the crepes. Eventually, O’Donnell pimped some SNL jive concerning Candidate Gore.

Can you spot the flaw with O’Donnell’s story?
O’DONNELL (continuing directly): And, Jonathan Capehart, [Romney] spent Easter weekend at his southern California beach mansion, the place I guess where he’s trying to put in the elevator for the four cars. But he apparently did body surfing, which my guess is, that`s a less politically damaging than wind surfing was for John Kerry.

CAPEHART: Yes, because lots of people do body surfing. I've never done it, but I know people who have done it and I've seen people do it. It looks fun, but it's not for me.

O’DONNELL: And, Jonathan, to the SNL thing, I think E.J. raises an important point in that in 2000, Saturday Night Live did some penetrating stuff on Al Gore that I think gave the electorate a vocabulary in a certain sense for what made them uncomfortable about Al Gore. And it seems like they’ve zeroed in on the essential defect in the Romney candidacy, which is that pandering, which is that willingness to say anything...
When a person like O’Donnell talks about wind versus body surfing, he’s treating you like a low-IQ fool. Which is exactly what you are if you're willing to tolerate this in the name of tribal unity.

Regarding Gore, please understand:

O’Donnell refers to a SNL skit on the first weekend of October 2000, after the first Bush-Gore debate. At that point, Dionne’s colleagues had been pushing the “invented the Internet” tale for nineteen solid months, without a single word of rebuttal from Dionne, who feigns such concern today. And omigod:

That very same weekend, O’Donnell appeared on the McLaughlin Group where he pushed another bogus “lie” by Gore. Sitting in one of the program’s “liberal” chairs, he said the lie—which Gore never told—was “one of his most ridiculous and his most relevant untruths.”

To review O’Donnell’s disgraceful conduct, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/3/05. This is how Bush reached the White House.

Bad people then, awful people today! Dionne was playing you last night.

Lawrence O’Donnell? Much worse!

Regarding that SNL skit: In April 2003, we took part in a panel discussion of political humor at the University of Virginia.

Larry Sabato chaired the event. Also appearing was James Downey, kingpin of SNL.

At one point, Downey aired tape of that very skit, the one which featured the “penetrating stuff” about Candidate Gore. We expressed our views regarding its quality.

In our view, the young college kids got a lively discussion. To see what you think, just click this.

But just for the record:

Dionne had been refusing to speak for nineteen months by the time that worthless skit aired. That is how George Bush reached the White House, despite the things these very bad people tell you on TV today.

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CHILDHOOD’S END: MSNBC needs to explain!

Posted by Hyuuga Cutezz On 6:36 AM 0 comments
TUESDAY, APRIL 10, 2012

Part 2—Is someone doctoring photos: For decades, we liberals got to roll our eyes at those gullible ditto-heads.

They would phone Rush Limbaugh to state their full allegiance. When they did, they would recite the mélange of bogus, false and doctored facts El Rushbo had been spewing.

If we lower the tax rate, we get higher revenue! Global warming is all about sunspots! No claim was too bogus to be recited. If Rush said it, it was true!

It was good for liberal self-esteem to see these pitiful public displays. Surely, we liberals are the smart, “nuanced” people, we told ourselves down through the years.

Today, comment threads in liberaldom offer similar displays. Liberals burning with true belief recite the scripts they’ve been served by their own cable masters. One example:

Last Wednesday, Kevin Drum offered this perfectly sensible post about the George Zimmerman case. Drum’s view: Given the nature of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, it’s unlikely that Zimmerman will be convicted of a crime. Drum based his judgment on a report about the law in the Tampa Bay Times.

If Zimmerman is charged, will he be convicted? Should he be convicted under terms of that much-maligned law? In each case, we have no idea. But rather quickly, Drum’s comment thread spilled with tortured tribal reasoning—and with bogus facts. This comment came quite quickly:
COMMENTER (4/4/12): Where "near your size" is defined, from Trayon Martin's perspective, to be “100 lbs. heavier and chasing me in an SUV.”
Was Zimmerman 100 pounds heavier than Martin? The commenter was advancing a “fact” which had proved to be bogus. But so what? Soon, another commenter recited the same bogus claim. This commenter was armed with the modern-day liberal’s weapon of choice—a pleasing dollop of snark:
COMMENTER: Zimmerman weighs 250 lbs. Trayvon weighs 140.

The video shows NOT A MARK on Zimmermman. I've actually seen the REAL one.

Trayvon keeps getting bigger and uglier every time you losers post. First he was 6'; now he's 6'3"; what next? 9 feet? Keep your story straight, at least.
Within the context of the thread, this commenter seemed to think that conservative “losers” were embellishing Martin’s height to gain a tribal advantage. In fact, it was Charles Blow, seeming to cite Martin’s parents, who first said Martin was 6-foot-3. And no:

Zimmerman doesn’t weigh 250 pounds, a fact which was quite clear by last week. (For more information, see below.) But that was the “fact” we had been fed by our “liberal” post-journalistic machines. And alas:

As Limbaugh’s ditto-heads have done for decades, we liberals have been marching forth to repeat our own tribe’s bogus claims. We laughed at them when they played it this way.

Now, the ditto-heads are increasingly us.

In this case, Drum’s conservative commenters seemed better informed on the question of height and weight. His liberal commenters had cast themselves in the ditto-head role, faithfully repeating the bogus claim they had heard from people they trusted. Just a guess:

It may not have entered these commenters’ heads that they were possibly being played by the high-profile people they trusted. That Sharpton, O’Donnell and Schultz had been feeding them reams of bullroar—had perhaps been feeding them lies.

Alas! A stream of bogus factual claims has been advanced on MSNBC over the past three or four weeks. In some cases, the bogus claims were false; in other cases, the claims were unknown, unproven. But just as in the Limbaugh/Fox years, so too in this brave new corporate world: A steady stream of true believers have been prepared to repeat what they hear.

They’ve heard a lot of bogus claims—as in the Fox/Limbaugh years.

Last night, matters got worse. On Politics Nation, Al Sharpton was interviewing Kendall Coffey and Ken Padowitz, a pair of Florida “legal experts” who can be relied upon to echo Sharpton’s views and claims. As in the Fox/Limbaugh years, this leads to the state we liberals have mocked as “epistemic closure.”

As usual, Sharpton, Coffey and Padowitz were echoing each others’ views. To watch the full segment, click here.

For us, a rather shocking moment occurs around 11:45 on this tape.

At that point, without comment from Sharpton, new videotape of Zimmerman appears. It offers a very large close-up of the back of his head as he arrives at the Sanford police station on the night of the killing.

This close-up isn’t grainy. And wow! In this close-up image, the back of Zimmerman’s head seems to be completely pristine. There isn’t the slightest sign of any blemish or injury.

There isn’t a stub of a hair out of place. There is no sign of any injury. To judge from this new close-up view, Zimmerman didn’t suffer the slightest wound or abrasion on the night of the killing—just exactly as we libs have been told. (See the second comment to Drum, above.)

Does that close-up represent an accurate picture of Zimmerman’s head on the night of the killing? We have no idea. But this close-up photo is impossible to reconcile with two earlier close-up shots, including one close-up which was aired by MSNBC on March 29. That close-up seemed to show an obvious goose-egg on the back of Zimmerman’s head, crowned with an obvious abrasion.

Later, ABC produced another close-up of Zimmerman’s head. This close-up was grainer, and more distant, than the image aired by MSNBC. But it seemed to show two abrasions on the back of Zimmerman’s head.

Which of these three close-up views is not like the others? In fact, none of these images seems like the either one of others! But last night’s close-up completely contrasts with the close-up this same cable channel showed on March 29.

On March 29, Zimmerman had an obvious wound on the back of his head. Last evening, his head was pristine. (For a link to that earlier close-up, with viewing instruictions, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/4/12.)
http://dailyhowler.blogspot.com/2012/04/disappearing-trick-msnbcs-apparent.html

Question: What exactly does it mean when news orgs tell us that we’re looking at “enhanced” photos? We don’t know, but as non-experts, we would say this: One of the close-ups shown by MSNBC simply has to be doctored.

“Doctored.” Not enhanced.

We could be wrong in that assessment. But the contrast between the two close-ups is remarkable. If you thought that “journalism” was still being practiced on our cable “news” channels, you might say the contrast was shocking.

In tribal times like these, people tend to extend true belief to their side’s tribal leaders. In the case of Limbaugh, the ditto-heads have done this for decades. As we form our own “news orgs,” we liberals are moving in this same direction.

It’s natural, if unwise, to place full faith in tribal leaders. But what the heck happened on Politics Nation last night?

Was the back of Zimmerman’s head injured that night? We have no first-hand knowledge. Last night’s close-up may be a faithful representation of the state of his head when he arrived at the police station that night. But if that is so, what explains the earlier close-up aired on this same cable channel?

And what explains Sharpton’s endless silence in the face of such contradictions? Our tribe’s true believers recite what he says.

Why won’t Sharpton explain?

Again, the tape of the tape: Regarding height and weight, the New York Times reported on April 2 that Zimmerman was 5-9, 170; Martin was 6-1, 150.

One day later, the Orlando Sentinel offered this fact-check:
STUTZMAN (4/3/12): Trayvon was trying to defend himself against a man who outweighed him by 100 pounds.

Outweighed, yes. By 100 pounds, no. George Zimmerman, the Neighborhood Watch volunteer who says he killed Trayvon in self-defense, outweighed him by 30 or 40 pounds, according to family members. A Sanford police incident report says Trayvon was 6 feet tall and weighed 160 pounds. A spokesman for the family's lawyers gave a slightly different set of numbers: 6 feet 1 and 150 pounds. Zimmerman is 5 feet 9 inches tall, according to the police report, but it is silent about his weight. A family member says he currently weighs about 190 pounds. Zimmerman used to be far heavier. A 2005 police report put his weight at 250 pounds, but security-camera video released last week by Sanford police show him to be much trimmer.
Obviously, we don't know the precise figures. In best New York Times fashion, the newspaper simply gave us our data, didn't say how it knew.

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Mike Wallace and a change in press culture!

Posted by Hyuuga Cutezz On 7:24 AM 0 comments
MONDAY, APRIL 9, 2012

Promoting the great Saint McCain: We have no overall view of the career of the late Mike Wallace.

Presumably, he did a lot of good work. Presumably, no one is perfect.

This morning, the New York Times presents a long history of his career. Since Wallace is thought of as an iconoclast, we thought it was worth recalling an instance in which he betrayed a different impulse.

By 1998, the upper-end press corps was increasingly becoming the equivalent of a small, upper-class social club—a wealthy fraternal/sororal order with shared views and rigid group narratives. By 1998, one such narrative involved the moral greatness of the great saint, Saint John McCain.

John McCain was morally great. Bill Clinton and Al Gore were not—were the opposite. Everyone voiced these standard group tales, including a famous iconoclast.

In June 1998, Howard Kurtz reported the swoon for the sainted McCain, a group phenomenon which would soon be known by that name:
KURTZ (6/8/98): The media's fascination with McCain transcends his maverick style. Nor can it be fully explained by his cheerful accessibility...

The plain truth is that a growing number of journalists want John McCain to run for president. The fact that he's just flirting with the idea makes him all the more desirable.

Mike Wallace, who turned down the chance to be Richard Nixon's press secretary, says of McCain: "I'm thinking I may quit my job if he gets the nomination. . . . I'm impressed by his independence, by his willingness to take on the tough ones. By his honesty about himself. As I look at the current crop, there's something authentic about this man."
Wow. Kurtz went on to quote other major press figures who were caught in the swoon. (“Al Hunt has written in his Wall Street Journal column that McCain ‘is the most courageous and one of the most admirable men I've ever known in American politics.’”) But Wallace had actually said that he might quit his job to work for McCain if he got the GOP nomination.

By 1998, the upper-end press corps had become a small, corrupt mafia—an inbred group which was devoted to its silly, novelized tales.

John McCain was the world's greatest saint. Starting in March 1999, Gore was the world's biggest liar.

The liberal world still won’t discuss most of this remarkable story. Darlings! Careers hang in the balance! Some things must be ignored!

But Wallace was pushing these fairy tales too. By now, at its upper ends, this was no longer an actual “press corps.”

What was it instead? We've reported for years. You decide!

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