Well, if all these headlines aren't enough of a clue, Chris Christie's bridge controversy is getting enormous media attention.
If my next guest is right, so much attention, just consider this. The big three networks alone devoted 17 times more coverage to this story in one day, one day, than they devoted to the IRS scandal in six months.
- Neil Cavuto, Fox News Personality, January 10, 2014
Neil Cavuto was introducing Brent Bozell from Media Research Center. Media Research Center had conducted a study, performing a raw comparison of network coverage of the IRS scandal against the closing of targeted lanes onto the busiest bridge in the world.
The allegation in the IRS scandal was that the Obama administration had used the IRS to question the tax exempt status of conservative activist groups.
The allegation in the Bridge lane blocks was that the Christie administration had caused a traffic backup everyday for 4 days. The backup lasted each day for several hours.
The Media Research Center later expanded its comparison. They had originally contrasted 24 hours that contained massive Christie coverage with 6 months that contained itsy bitsy coverage of the IRS scandal. They have since sort of doubled down. Instead of 24 hours, they now look at 48 hours of lane closure news. They compare that with 6 months of IRS news. So the insane ratio has gone from 17 to 1 all the way up to 44 to 1.
Comparing the two allegations seems a little like contrasting a boulder to a grain of sand. When Nixon aides wrote memos formulating plans to use the IRS and law enforcement against political enemies, they were laying the foundation for what later became an important part of the Watergate scandal.
This memorandum addresses the matter of how we can maximize the fact of our incumbency in dealing with persons known to be active in their opposition to our Administration; stated a bit more bluntly—how we can use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.
- Memorandum of Inquiry
To: Assistant White House Chief of Staff, Lawrence Higby
From White House Counsel, John Dean
August 16, 1971
So we're talking about pretty serous news when we look at manipulation of the IRS. Doesn't that deserve at least as much network coverage as some traffic jam in New Jersey?
But there is another problem with that 44 to 1 comparison.
The Media Research Center is kind of comparing cotton with cotton candy. The IRS story had been brewing for a while. It hit the news in May, 2013, with the release of an Inspector General report. There was lots of coverage.
The Media Research Center kind of ignores that. They begin their six months of IRS coverage in July, 2013, two months later, after the story kind of petered out.
The 6 months being compared comes after it was discovered that the IRS was not only targeting conservative groups, but liberal groups as well. The IRS was following a law from the Eisenhower era that said no political activity was allowed for that particular exemption. The order to follow that law came from a Bush appointee, a life-long Republican.
July was also a little after it had become very clear that Republicans were selectively releasing testimony to make it seem like only conservative groups were targeted and that the White House was involved. They were holding back secret information that made it clear there was no White House involvement and no selective targeting.
The blanket Christie coverage that the center compared begins at the very minute emails came to light in which top Christie administration officials ordered the traffic tie up, then wrote triumphant observations about the consequences. News of the hours that little children had to wait on school buses in traffic was greeted by Christie officials with particular glee.
The study was a comparison of 6 months of almost zero news with 24, then 48, hours of news that simply could not be ignored. Laughing at little kids stranded in traffic? Really?
The Media Research Center was established a few years ago by conservative political activists with funding from various conservative groups, including the famed Koch brothers. The purpose was not to study media news coverage. It was to discover and publicize cases of perceived liberal bias.
Since this study was published it has been picked up by the usual suspects, conservative polemicists and, of course Fox News. You can find it pretty much anywhere on the net where is a conservative political site.
News media did indeed devote lots more coverage over 2 days to the little traffic jam in New Jersey than they did to the huge, huge IRS scandal over the previous 6 months. I suppose we could also note that other hugely important stories were ignored during those six months, including the burning of the White House by British troops, the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Empire of Japan, and the entire Korean War.
Talk about bias!
In fairness, we should let conservative activist and founder of Media research Center L. Brent Bozell have the last word. He speaks on Fox News, having just been introduced by Neil Cavuto.
But you look at the IRS scandal and you see that since, since July of 2013, there has been a total of two minutes and 38 seconds devoted to the scandal, with one development after another after another on this, which is completely untouched by the same media who believed they need to spend two days worth of non-stop coverage on Chris Christie.
Oh NOooo! This is bad. The Heathen Republican, who curtailed his thoughtful conservative contributions to internet writing, will be deleting the website. We all have 30 days to find and copy favorite posts. Better get digging.
Another week, another killing in a movie theatre. This time the victim is a guy in Florida texting his little girl during previews, before the movie itself. The perpetrator says existing stand your ground law entitled him to use deadly force. Meanwhile, expand those very laws.
PZ Myers, writing for Pharyngula, reports a different angle of the recent massive West Virginia chemical spill. Seems the company will dodge financial accountability for the damage by filing for a limited bankruptcy. As Mitt Romney and the Supreme Court reminds us, the company is a person.
James Wigderson considers character over party in endorsing one of three candidates for City Attorney of Waukesha, WI. A partisan Democrat is rejected because he signed an anti-Governor Walker petition. The Republican is rejected for helping destroy evidence on behalf of a Republican ally of the same Governor.
- Vincent at A wayfarer’s notes sees life as moments. He sees lost moments as a source of human tragedy. He sees slavery as stolen time, and so stolen life. He celebrates freedom.
That was his anti-gun legislation, which he had promised not to do, but then he had a little convenient massacre that went on in Newtown, Connecticut, and all of a sudden there was an opportunity for him.
- Fred Dicker, NY Post Columnist, January 13, 2014
It is not difficult for anyone in the public eye to occasionally exhibit insensitivity. Sometimes it happens in the heat of debate. Sometimes it happens when a point is being made with a little too much enthusiasm.
In this case, conservative Fred Dicker was making the point. Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York had promised not to propose restrictions on firearms, yet, after the killings of little children in Newtown, Connecticut, he reversed himself and did just that.
Dicker could have been a little more circumspect. "Horrible as the inexcusable murders were," says the more rational Fred Dicker who lives in a parallel universe, "I think many people will agree with me that Governor Cuomo should have stayed with his solemn pledge."
But, when making a point, you don't always say what you later wish you had said. So you clarify and apologize and move on. "It was a dumb and hurtful thing to say. It is not what I believe. I'm sorry I said it. What I wanted to say was that ..." and then you make your point in as low key a way as you can.
Back in 2009, a conservative Republican Congressman from Georgia, Nathan Deal made an anti-immigrant proposal. Anyone who needed medical treatment would be required to show proof of American citizenship first. I suppose international visitors would be well advised to be really careful while crossing American streets if anything like that bill passes.
Representative Deal acknowledged difficulties, but his concern was more domestic. What about those citizens who legitimately do not carry identification? Deal strained for an example.
We got all the complaints of the ghetto grandmothers who didn’t have birth certificates and all that. We wrote some very liberal language as to how you can verify it.
- Nathan Deal, October 3, 2009
Generally, you don't want to refer to even a demographic subsection of an ethnic group as "ghetto grandmothers." Representative Deal had a well known political philosophy that was somewhere to the right of Attila the Hun. Still, I defended him at the time on the basis that the point he was attempting to make was benign.
Deal himself said, simply, "I regret my choice of words and in no way meant to offend anyone." A couple of years later, Representative Nathan Deal became Georgia Governor Nathan Deal.
Republican apologies are issued so often, since Barack Obama became President, they no longer make the news. They often involve statements or email messages that are made public by others. The apologies that follow expressions of racism are often hilarious. The sorry-if-anyone-misunderstood variety is a whole separate brand of weak tea.
Slips of the tongue strike me as more innocent, and the subsequent public regret seems more genuine.
The classiest I'm-very-sorry that I've seen came from a New Jersey politician. Carl Lewis, the Olympic Gold Medal Carl Lewis, had some thought about running for office in New Jersey a couple of years back. State officials ordered his name removed from the ballot, using the fiction that he was not a genuine New Jersey guy. A court ruled that they had to let him run. The Republican state Assemblyman in the district where Carl Lewis lived may not have been happy about such a famous opponent. His wife was a little too publicly expressive.
Imagine having dark skin and name recognition and the nerve to think that equalled (sic) knowing something about politics.
The Assemblyman followed up with a public statement of his own.
I am deeply disappointed in my wife's decision to send that email to Mr. Lewis' campaign; it does not reflect my personal beliefs whatsoever. In an attempt to repair the serious damage this has caused to our marriage, and to protect our kids from public humiliation, I decided to leave public life. On behalf of my family, we sincerely apologize to Mr. Lewis for any pain this caused him.
I have hoped that this one Republican return to public life. So far, he has not re-emerged from oblivion.
Fred Dicker, the conservative columnist who thinks of the killing of children as "a little convenient massacre" is a little less regretful. After parents of slain children reacted with some sorrow and anger of their own, he fought back against them.
This group clearly doesn’t understand, or doesn’t want to understand, my point, which is a sarcastic reference to the governor latching on to an horrendous out-of-state mass killing to advance a political agenda that had nothing to do with the problem of gun-related crime in New York.
Fred Dicker went on to helpfully explain to the parents the definition of "massacre."
I wasn’t minimizing the horror at all, just the opposite. I used the word "massacre" intentionally because it refers, by definition, to a horrendous large-scale killing, which of course the Newtown horror was.
In all fairness, family members of the 20 children and 6 adults killed in Newtown should express gratitude.
They are better prepared for life's little surprises, now that Mr. Dicker has made them aware of what a massacre actually means.
Sent by alert reader DSA with this comment -
"I did enjoy reading this one"
New Jersey’s vindictive governor may have grabbed all the headlines this week, but that doesn't mean other right-wingers failed to dish up their usual combo of inane and offensive statements.
1. Ohio politician not sorry at all for sending out racist email.
Apologies can be so very lame. It’s true. And they have such a variety of ways of being lame. There’s the non-apology apology, aka the faux-pology, which often starts something like, “I’m sorry if I offended you....” There’s the apology that has to be pried out of someone under duress, a last-ditch effort to salvage a situation that has gone very public and very south — witness Governor Christie this week. (He seemed much sorrier that he was caught or supposedly lied to than he was that millions were inconvenienced and possibly endangered.) Then there is the apologist who apologizes so easily and readily that the apologies are meaningless. To them we say, don’t apologize, just stop doing the wrong thing. Stop being an a**hole.
And then there’s the flat-out refusal to apologize, even when an apology is so clearly in order. That was the situation in Ohio this week. Bob Carleton, a 71-year-old city councilman from Norwalk, OH, fully admited he sent out a, shall we say, totally questionable holiday email in December. This week, the Toledo Blade brought that email to light, and when Carleton was asked about it, he said he just thought it was funny. That’s all.
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Albert Einstein proposed his new theory, special relativity, in 1905 and quickly became famous. It was a strange and exotic set of propositions. The follow up general theory of relativity really shook things up. It was pretty much accepted in physics within a few years.
You might say that Einstein generated a big bang of his own. There followed an explosion of sorts. The merging of time into spacial dimensions brought forth variations. Elementary particles begat lesser particles, then sub-sub-particles. Those particles were just theoretical, explained by strange twists of quantum mechanics in which opposite, mutually exclusive, states of existence could simultaneously be true.
Some scientists felt compelled to assure the public that the wonderfully bizarre reality that operated on a sub-atomic level had no relationship to the world we experience every day. One skeptic, physicist Erwin Schrödinger, proposed a thought experiment to demonstrate the absurdity of the only-true-for-submicroscopic-reality postulate. He suggested a set up involving a Geiger counter and a radioactive substance, a bottle of arsenic, and a cat, all in a closed box.
A random subatomic event might or might not trigger the Geiger counter which might or might not break open the arsenic which might or might not kill the cat. If the prevailing new theories were right, the cat would be both dead and alive until the box was opened and the state of the cat was settled.
As scientists predicted new particles and states of reality, math began to run ahead of experimentation. Little in science is truly static. Settled fact can become open to contradiction as new evidence is uncovered. In fact, mainstream science holds statements to be meaningless unless they are both falsifiable and verifiable by some path of evidence.
The laptop computer, the cell phone, the television, the nuclear bomb all depend on absurd, largely theoretical, operations of the subatomic universe. Many of the ever new particles that scientists visualize in the complexities of their advanced mathematics can only be inferred. There is hope that, one day, advances in measurement will combine with future epiphany to provide at least some tenuous proof of what will never be seen directly.
In the meantime, the theories work. All things wonderfully electronic and modern come from the counter-intuitive, often unproven, theoretical world of exotic subatomic physics. Who needs Schrödinger's cat when we have cable television?
I had just microwaved dinner and was watching a broadcast on the device Isaac Newton would have dismissed, when I came across a political story that reminded me of the wonderful world of unproven particle theory that nonetheless works.
It has been documented past the point of redundancy that voter fraud is a rare, rare event. It most often happens when some public official wants to declare residency in order to run for office from a pretend residence. In one case it happened when a woman seeking to hide from an abusive ex-spouse tried to disguise her residence.
What doesn't happen is individual voters trying to influence an election by voting illegally. That is true for three main reasons.
It's amazingly easy to get caught.
Penalties against those who are caught are extreme. Fines and prison time can haunt a citizen for a long, long time after the debt to society is paid.
- Backroom tinkering with results is a lot safer, a lot more effective, and therefore a lot more common than any voter fraud.
There have been efforts to document voter fraud, the individual kind, not the backroom tally manipulation. In Pennsylvania, a city commissioner from Philadelphia found 700 cases of voter fraud over several years. When they were looked into, they pretty much turned out to be something else. The grand total was one.
In Colorado, the Secretary of State found 155 cases. Upon investigation, they were found to be legitimate voters. It seems the Secretary had included the names of immigrants who voted. He neglected to check, so he didn't know they had become citizens first. It turned out that citizens can legally vote.
During the George W. Bush administration, a nationwide search for voter fraud involved a detailed combing of records for every national, state, and local election over 7 years. It took five years to pour through every vote, then follow up in a search for voter fraud. They did find a handful of double registrations and fewer than ten actual fraudulent votes. That's nationwide over 7 years.
Around the country, voter ID laws have been carefully restrictive. Lots of minority voters and older folks and students just turned 18 don't drive. So traditional forms of identification have been discarded. These folks are now required to have drivers licenses or their equivalent to vote. And the equivalent have been made hard to get.
The number of voting booths have been reduced in minority areas. Voting locations have been moved to places that are hard to get to. Voting times have been reduced.
A recent study confirms what is apparent to most folks who have thought about it. The idea is to keep a lot of legitimate voters from voting. The state of Texas is even arguing that it is okay to attempt to discriminate against minority voters if, in their hearts, politicians are only motivated against voters who will support Democrats.
A few observers have labeled the new tactic James Crow, esquire, or Jim Crow, Jr. or Jimmy Crow. It isn't exactly the same as the poll taxes and literacy tests of old. The racial motivation is not always primary, but the target is largely the same.
The story in North Carolina's Raleigh News Observer was about voter suppression, moves against voter fraud that will only keep actual voters from voting, and voter fraud itself that is pretty much nonexistent. It seems Republicans are pushing local voting boards pretty hard to keep voters from voting, even when local officials know better.
The story begins this way:
RALEIGH — One of the longstanding arguments against voter ID laws has been that there is no history of significant elections fraud.
But advocates of North Carolina's new elections law have been making their way across the state to county elections boards to try to make the case that fraud has existed but has been inadequately investigated.
- Raleigh News Observer, January 12, 2014
That's what brought the higher mathematics of subatomic physics to mind. Illegal voters are like the newest class of particles.
Republicans are sure they exist. They simply haven't found any way to observe them.
But in the world of voter suppression, the theory works. Yes indeed, it does work.
In Response to comments by Jerry Critter regarding
Hawaii and What's Behind Genetic Modification
Ah, the old slippery slope argument.
- Jerry Critter, January 10, 2014
Where? I asked you a question: if more information is good, why not include even more information on the label? Why just stop at "GMO Food"? Surely there is more information that some people want to know.
The point is that, in the absence of both a *right* to know and a *legitimate reason* to know, there is no good reason for a business to label its food as GMO, given that some people will avoid it on that basis alone. And whether or not there should be a right to know should depend on whether or not there is a legitimate reason to know.
Too much information is bad...and who is to judge when there is too much information? You?
In the interest of maximizing information, please send me all of your bank account and credit card details. You see, I'm just better off knowing--and who are you to say no?
Actually people can eliminate or, at least, greatly reduce their consumption of GMO foods by eating organic foods.
I don't know why you brought this up. I didn't deny it.
They are preventing voluntary labeling! And you say that is not censorship?
You bring up a new issue--one I am only reading just now--and suggest that I support a ban on voluntary labeling on the basis of my previous comment, which concerned only involuntary labeling?
Here is my actual position:
Censorship is sometimes justified--think shouting "Fire!" in a theater--according to the harm that it prevents. We all disagree on the point at which censorship is appropriate, but we all seem to agree that it sometimes is, even in our government.
Accordingly, I can understand and sympathize with the reasoning behind the government's refusal to allow organic producers to label their food as GMO-free. However, since I suspect that allowing it would cause minimal harm, I don't support the government here.
Involuntary labeling is another matter because it involves forcing a business to likely lose money for no legitimate reason. Moreover, it seems more likely that people would *stop* eating foods newly labeled GMO than that they would *start* eating foods newly labeled non-GMO. So, I can reject the one (the original issue) and support the other (your article) without being inconsistent.
Ryan is a frequent and generous contributor. He also writes for his own site where truth is not modified, genetically or otherwise. Please visit Secular Ethics.
Jerry Critter's always pithy, usually witty, and frequently wise comments are always appreciated. He can be found, in pure organic form, at Critter's Crap.
Georgia NBC station WSAV 3 Exposes GOP Rep Jack Kingston's Taxpayer-Funded Lunches after he lectures poor children about accepting school meals.
RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – Apparently it’s a Virginia tradition.
On his way out of the door, the out-going governor pulls a prank on the incoming governor.
So for his prank, former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell left a very big surprise for newly-elected Governor Terry McAuliffe to find.
A giant stuffed black bear in his office bathroom.
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I made my mistakes, but in all of my years of public life, I have never profited, never profited from public service. I've earned every cent. And in all of my years of public life, I have never obstructed justice.
And I think, too, that I can say that, in my years of public life, that I welcome this kind of examination, because people have got to know whether or not their President is a crook. Well, I am not a crook. I've earned everything I've got.
- President Richard Nixon, November 17, 1973
Earned everything I've got.
It has always stuck me as a bit odd that President Nixon would focus on the lack of personal profit as exoneration for the crimes of Watergate. In fairness, this strange focus on the overriding importance of personal finance seemed to be shared by others. At least some of the questioning at the Nixon press conference in Orlando that day involved his income tax deductions. It was as if reporters, finding clear evidence of murder, might ask a prime suspect whether he had shot any ducks without a hunting license.
Yesterday, reporters speculated on whether the current travails of New Jersey's Governor Chris Christie will carry any impact with voters in other areas of the country. He is, or at least has been, a prime contender for the next Republican presidential nomination. Would the scandal resonate?
One reason Sunday morning gasbags found for damping down enthusiasm for the Bridge in Waiting Scandal was that previous scandals were so much bigger. With so many jurisdictions, some obscure, the opportunity for monetary corruption outweighed any other reason for seeking office.
The logic sort of grandfathered in for me. As a youngster I listened in awe to the ranted wisdom of my dad's dad. When not remarking calmly that he seemed to remember paying the paperboy multiple times each week, he would concentrate on politicians. They had to be corrupt, he reasoned. The pay for public service was so slight, bribery or theft or some other personal benefit had to be the motivation. I did love my grandfather, but the public good was not part of his landscape.
The logic of those who bring us the news brought back my grandfather to me. New Jersey is renowned for political corruption, and other scandals are so much more significant, a traffic jam would become a mere trifle: a molehill amid the mountains of Jersey Shore villainy.
There are two primary problems with this logic: traffic and money.
First, traffic is something easily grasped. Financial manipulation is often complex, involving maneuvers calculated to confuse and obscure. When my hero Marvin Mandel of Maryland took bribes in the 1970s, it was in the form of personal gifts. New suits through third parties, special discounts paid for under various tables, divorce representation that came amazingly cheap. He even vetoed one bit of legislation his benefactors wanted. The deal was in his subtle support for an override.
How do you track that? You can still find older voters in Maryland who speak of "the prosecution - I mean the persecution."
Traffic is easy to understand. Make me more than half an hour late to work and I'll have to work to maintain my extremely pleasant demeanor. Some colleagues don't appreciate the effort. Television personalities may not recall their pre-limo days when traffic mattered.
Then there is the petty nature of the cones of obstruction. You'll hold up ambulance rescue for additional valuable minutes? You'll keep school buses filled with little kids idling for hours on the first day of classes? You'll keep commuters in their cars for substantial portions of the workday?
The perpetrators would not have known that a guy who had looked for a job more than a year would finally find one and then would be made ridiculously late the very first day. But simple math would tell you that had to happen to someone. Same with a search for a missing child. Nor could they know which ambulance rescue would fail, that a victim would later die. Can anyone argue that they would have cared?
Those who live in the rarified atmosphere in which occasional Bernie Madoff ponzi screams are heard up close may regard the New Jersey Scandal of the Bridge as a minor wave between tsunamis. After all, the lack of personal financial benefit tells the story, doesn't it?
Well, actually, it does. What some in the televised eye do not see, and therefore do not report, is the view of those who do not dwell in the Olympian heights of the elite. They miss what Richard Nixon and a few of his inquisitors missed two decades ago.
The scandal, the inconvenience, the disruption of ordinary life, is not mitigated by the lack of personal gain. It is amplified.
Ordinary people can be tempted by finance. Bernie Madoff is not hard for most Americans to understand.
It takes a rare personality to rob so much time from so many random people, do it so gleefully, and do it for motives so petty a microscope is needed to find them.
This resonates beyond the vision of nationally broadcast pundits because it represents such a monstrous, bizarre, disproportionate pettiness. It's hard for ordinary mortals to avoid curiosity.
Ripples Could Join into Tsunami to Reverse Income Disparity (5:19) - Click for Podcast
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