Ramirez Cartoon: The Latest Benghazi Victim
Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.
View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.
Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.
View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.
I’ll have more to say shortly about the broader topic of the nomination of Chuck Hagel to be Defense Secretary and about the use of the filibuster to stop him. But for now, this is really important: Daniel Halper of The Weekly Standard has been denied access to records of Hagel that are intended to be public, that will be public in the long run (within about 2 1/2 years) anyway, and that therefore obviously contain no information that Hagel himself intended to be kept private.
For the good of the public, on such an important nomination, these records should be made available now, before any final vote on Hagel’s nomination. It’s not even a close call. Nobody can claim that these records are either irrelevant or of either a classified nature or of a too-personal nature — because Hagel himself donated them to a university for the purpose of public records.
Even the New York Times should be compelled to support any request to delay the vote on Hagel until Senators can review the records.
This is the opening salvo, predictably enough from the New York Times. This is by a constitutional law professor who argues that some provisions of the Constitution are downright “evil.” He says we should just scrap the whole thing. I think this view is far more common on the Left, and in the White House and upper echelons of the Justice Department, than the liberals will yet publicly admit. But expect this meme to grow. This is dangerous. These people are dangerous. They must be argued down, with energy and right reason.
A remarkable exchange took place at the New York Times over the weekend. First, there was Arthur Brisbane, writing his farewell column as the Times‘ public editor (a position that is supposed to function as the in-house voice of journalistic conscience), which contained this telling passage:
I … noted two years ago that I had taken up the public editor duties believing “there is no conspiracy” and that The Times’s output was too vast and complex to be dictated by any Wizard of Oz-like individual or cabal. I still believe that, but also see that the hive on Eighth Avenue is powerfully shaped by a culture of like minds — a phenomenon, I believe, that is more easily recognized from without than from within.
When The Times covers a national presidential campaign, I have found that the lead editors and reporters are disciplined about enforcing fairness and balance, and usually succeed in doing so. Across the paper’s many departments, though, so many share a kind of political and cultural progressivism — for lack of a better term — that this worldview virtually bleeds through the fabric of The Times.
As a result, developments like the Occupy movement and gay marriage seem almost to erupt in The Times, overloved and undermanaged, more like causes than news subjects.
This truth, plain to even the most pedestrian observer of the Times, was too much for Executive Editor Jill Abramson to stomach, which led her to go crying to Politico’s Dylan Beyers:
“In our newsroom we are always conscious that the way we view an issue in New York is not necessarily the way it is viewed in the rest of the country or world. I disagree with Mr. Brisbane’s sweeping conclusions,” Abramson told POLITICO Saturday night.
“I agree with another past public editor, Dan Okrent, and my predecessor as executive editor, Bill Keller, that in covering some social and cultural issues, the Times sometimes reflects its urban and cosmopolitan base,” she continued.
There you have it. Journalism defined: “speaking truth to those who agree with you.”
The New York Times is a publication that believes that what constitutes balanced coverage hinges on what ZIP code you’re in. They’re entitled to that belief. But they’re not entitled to a readership outside of the five boroughs — a fact that is only going to become more apparent to them with time.
A piece by Amy Chozick in the New York Times this week has to be read to be believed (ok, you’ll read it and you still won’t believe it). Proving that there is absolutely nothing for the media to do in August, Chozick was commissioned to write a piece on President Obama’s relationship with the press, including the Commander-in-Chief’s critical exegesis of the fourth estate. The results are predictably hilarious:
The news media have played a crucial role in Mr. Obama’s career, helping to make him a national star not long after he had been an anonymous state legislator. As president, however, he has come to believe the news media have had a role in frustrating his ambitions to change the terms of the country’s political discussion. He particularly believes that Democrats do not receive enough credit for their willingness to accept cuts in Medicare and Social Security, while Republicans oppose almost any tax increase to reduce the deficit.
Privately and publicly, Mr. Obama has articulated what he sees as two overarching problems: coverage that focuses on political winners and losers rather than substance; and a “false balance,” in which two opposing sides are given equal weight regardless of the facts.
Mr. Obama’s assessments overlap with common critiques from academics and journalism pundits, but when coming from a sitting president the appraisal is hardly objective, the experts say.
Basically, you can close your eyes, point to any sentence at random, and prepare to guffaw.
There’s a lot of awfully stupid analysis here (both the Times and Obama’s). Maybe one of the reasons, for instance, that Democrats’ supposed willingness to rein in entitlements goes unpraised is because there have been some tells that it’s less than sincere — like the occasional fit of the vapors that finds liberals essentially accusing Paul Ryan of going from hospital to hospital unplugging life support machines.
There’s also the Times’ eager embrace of the unquestioned wisdom of (unnamed) “academics and journalism pundits” (FYI, that last one’s not a real job), a not-too-subtle hint that Obama’s frustration, poor soul, is shared by Really Smart People everywhere.
The aspect that I find most telling, however, is the president’s frustration with “false balance,” which it’s hard to interpret any other way than an irritation that the press doesn’t accept his side of the argument as gospel. This is of a piece with what he told the American Society of News Editors at a speech back in April:
“As all of you are doing your reporting, I think it’s important to remember that the positions that I am taking now on the budget and a host of other issues — if we had been having this discussion 20 years ago or even 15 years ago — would’ve been considered squarely centrist positions,” he said in response to a question about Republicans’ criticisms of his spending priorities. “What’s changed is the center of the Republican party and that’s certainly true with the budget.”
“This bears on your reporting,” he said Tuesday. “I think that there is oftentimes the impulse to suggest that if the two parties are disagreeing, then they’re equally at fault and the truth lies somewhere in the middle. And an equivalence is presented, which I think reinforces peoples’ cynicism about Washington in general. This is not one of those situations where there’s an equivalency.”
For what it’s worth, I actually agree with Obama on “the truth lies in the middle” trope. There are occasions when that’s true, but most times that you hear someone express that sentiment it’s a sign that they’ve put their brain on cruise control and resigned themselves to communicating exclusively through cliches. What’s the midpoint between the death penalty being legal or illegal? What’s the midpoint between going to war with Iran or not going to war with Iran? No one actually lives by “moderation in all things” (”So it’s okay if I just participate in occasional arson?”), but everyone talks that way. That mindset creates especially acute problems in public policy, where splitting the baby almost always yields bad results.
There are two problems, though, with Obama’s analysis. The first is that the only corrective for “false equivalence” is a more ideological press, which presents issues from unapologetic (and admitted) liberal and conservative viewpoints. That’s where we are today and, while there’s plenty of chaff as a result, I’m inclined to think it’s far preferable to an overwhelmingly liberal media trying to create the illusion of objectivity. But that’s not what Obama wants. He’s clearly longing for the days when ‘media’ was a de facto singular noun and those who disagreed with him would have been pilloried as unreasonable without much push back.
The second problem is that Obama himself ascended to office on the basis of little more than ‘false equivalance’. If you’d like to give your brain the equivalent of diabetic shock, go back and read his treacly 2006 best-seller, “The Audacity of Hope,” where nearly every issue discussed is framed with a “on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand” device (he’s sandbagging you, of course — every question is resolved, ostensibly by inches, in favor of liberalism.)
So do I think Barack Obama knows bad writing? Yes. Because he’s practiced it.
I have a working theory to explain the existence of pundits like the New York Times’ Gail Collins, self-parodists who find themselves incapable of escaping the intellectual shallows of liberalism: they must all be secretly financed by a group of wealthy conservatives who regard providing endless fodder for bloggers on the right to be a form of public service.
In Collins’ newest dispatch from the outskirts of sentience, she travels to Williston, North Dakota, a sort of 21st century boomtown where unemployment hovers around one percent thanks to the huge oil reserves now accessible from the Bakken formation.
The reality of the economic dynamism in Williston is so painfully clear that Collins is forced to present it in a fairly positive light, though that doesn’t keep her from some of the reflexive sneering of a Manhattan imperialist (she sniffs that there’s a Wal-Mart instead of an adequate mall and that “The most ambitious restaurants would be classified under the heading of ‘casual dining.’).
Because Williston’s success is fueled by conventional (read: useable) energy, however, the gravitational pull of Collins’ liberalism kicks in when, in the second half of the article, she sets out to expose the unseemly side of Williston’s growth. The results are pathetic.
First, Collins takes a swing at fracking so half-hearted that she doesn’t even seem to have bothered indulging her reflexive impulse to crib some talking points from a Huffington Post op-ed by Alec Baldwin (lest you think I’m joking, it’s here). Her devastating critique includes the fact that the process “uses a lot of water” and makes the town dustier. Well.
Where she really goes off the rails, however, is in her attempt to portray the local economy as a thing of horror:
… Right now … there’s no place to live. Honestly, no place. To house its teachers, the school district has already purchased two apartment buildings, which have long since been filled even though the residents are all required to share their homes with another teacher. Superintendent Viola LaFontaine has taken to the radio airwaves, urging citizens to come up with places for the new faculty to stay.
“We’ve been getting good applicants,” LaFontaine said. “But they’ll make $31,500. When they find out an apartment is $2-3,000 a month, they say they can’t pay that.”
Yes! Housing costs in Williston, N.D., are approaching those in New York City. Many of the oil workers stash their families back wherever they came from, and live in “man camps,” some of which resemble giant stretches of storage units.
If the place you love can’t quite climb out of the recession, think of this as consolation. At least you’re not living in a man camp and waiting half an hour in line for a Big Mac.
Ms. Collins, meet supply and demand. Supply and demand, meet Ms. Collins.
What our fearless columnist is describing is the typical trajectory of boomtowns. The sudden surge of demand sends prices skyrocketing. But if her view extended beyond the tip of her nose, Collins might realize that this is the predicate for a second round of employment growth and a general lowering of prices. When demand is so high that a remote region of North Dakota can charge rents rivaling those of the beating heart of New York City, it’s an open invitation for developers to make their way to Williston, relieve the housing shortfall, and get rich in the process. Ditto the overcrowded restaurants. That means new jobs created. And the increased supply means lowered prices.
One final note: it’s telling that teachers are Collins’ go-to example. Reading her column, one could reasonably wonder how Williston’s housing stock could be both (a) so expensive that it’s prohibitive for many potential tenants and (b) filled to the gills. The answer: private-sector workers are making more than enough to meet the demands of the city’s rent. Only in the public sector, where wages are set by government diktat instead of the market, are crucial employees priced out of a place to live. That’s a real shame for the teachers of North Dakota. If the school system was privatized, they’d all be getting rich now too.
Last weekend, the New York Times ran a must-read piece on the city of Sandy Springs, Georgia, an Atlanta suburb of nearly 100,000 residents that has managed to privatize the overwhelming majority of local government services — and is reaping incredible benefits as a result (another city with similar policies — Weston, Florida — was recently profiled in Governing).
Sandy Springs doesn’t have to worry about out of control public pensions, spiraling debt, or restive unions. The reason? It doesn’t have any of them.
Of course, this being the New York Times, their reporter, David Segal, might as well have been dispatched to the surface of Mars. Failing to find much in the way of practical drawbacks, he grasps for a moral failing, resulting in this unintentionally hilarious passage:
Hovering around the debate about privatization is a basic question: What is local government for? For years, one answer, at least implicitly, was “to provide steady jobs with good wages.” But that answer is losing its political tenability, says John D. Donahue of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. “A lot of jobs in government are middle-class jobs that in the private sector are not middle-class jobs,” he says. “People aren’t willing to support conditions for public workers that they themselves no longer enjoy.”
In a way, what Sandy Springs and other newly incorporated towns have done harks back to a 19th-century notion of taxation, which was much less about cross-subsidies and much more about fee for service.
To which I say “it’s about damn time.” If local government was ever about “steady jobs with good wages,” it was a mistake. The purpose of government is to provide vital services to the citizenry that aren’t produced by a free market. That may produce “steady jobs with good wages,” but that’s an effect of the endeavor, not a cause for it. If public service isn’t the goal, then the whole project is simply a racket to employ one group of people at another group’s expense.
What has the New York Times and the Harvard faculty aghast is the notion that government ought to serve some useful purpose for the taxpayers and that its value is measured only by the extent to which it fills that charge. That the citizenry of places like Sandy Springs and Weston are beginning to realize that is a real source of optimism for the future of local government.
New York Times columnist Anand Giridharadas did today what precious few liberal commentators would: give Sarah Palin a fair hearing. “Confessing” a knee-jerk reaction to Palin that writes-off the former Alaska governor before she speaks, Giridharadas nonetheless noted Palin’s striking analysis of the current political scene from a recent speech in Iowa:
She made three interlocking points. First, that the United States is now governed by a “permanent political class,” drawn from both parties, that is increasingly cut off from the concerns of regular people. Second, that these Republicans and Democrats have allied with big business to mutual advantage to create what she called “corporate crony capitalism.” Third, that the real political divide in the United States may no longer be between friends and foes of Big Government, but between friends and foes of vast, remote, unaccountable institutions (both public and private).
This is the kind of anti-establishment populism that Palin articulated to victory against incumbent Republicans in Alaska (first, fellow members of the state’s Oil & Gas Conservation Commission, then the sitting governor). Indeed, one of the main reasons John “Maverick” McCain chose Palin as his vice presidential running mate was because of her willingness to buck the system in favor of her principles.
As just what might those principles be as president? Giridharadas says:
Ms. Palin may be hinting at a new political alignment that would pit a vigorous localism against a kind of national-global institutionalism.
On one side would be those Americans who believe in the power of vast, well-developed institutions like Goldman Sachs, the Teamsters Union, General Electric, Google and the U.S. Department of Education to make the world better. On the other side would be people who believe that power, whether public or private, becomes corrupt and unresponsive the more remote and more anonymous it becomes; they would press to live in self-contained, self-governing enclaves that bear the burden of their own prosperity.
No one knows yet whether Ms. Palin will actually run for president. But she did just get more interesting.
From today’s iteration of the inimitable (thank God) Dr. Krugman’s column in the New York Times:
… what’s happening in Wisconsin isn’t about the state budget, despite Mr. Walker’s pretense that he’s just trying to be fiscally responsible. It is, instead, about power. What Mr. Walker and his backers are trying to do is to make Wisconsin — and eventually, America — less of a functioning democracy and more of a third-world-style oligarchy.
If this is what makes it to print, one wonders what function it is exactly that Dr. Krugman’s ‘editor’ serves. The Grey Lady is on life support.
With the Ground Zero Mosque raising the hackles of some of the loudest and most cloying voices on both sides of the political aisle, it’s becoming increasingly rare to find a pundit of any ideological persuasion who can put together a reasoned position on the proposed house of worship.
A glaring exception comes courtesy of Christoper Hitchens’ piece on Slate today, where he highlights some of the darker views of Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, the head of the group looking to build the mosque. Foremost among them is Rauf’s unapologetic embrace of the radical regime in Iran — a position that Hitchens rightly notes can’t be squared with any authentic belief in democracy or liberalism.
That’s particularly ironic when you consider how much Rauf and company have wrapped themselves in the flag of tolerance as they push forward on the mosque project, a tactic brilliantly dissected by Hitchens:
Emboldened by the crass nature of the opposition to the center, its defenders have started to talk as if it represented no problem at all and as if the question were solely one of religious tolerance. It would be nice if this were true. But tolerance is one of the first and most awkward questions raised by any examination of Islamism. We are wrong to talk as if the only subject was that of terrorism. As Western Europe has already found to its cost, local Muslim leaders have a habit, once they feel strong enough, of making demands of the most intolerant kind. Sometimes it will be calls for censorship of anything “offensive” to Islam. Sometimes it will be demands for sexual segregation in schools and swimming pools. The script is becoming a very familiar one. And those who make such demands are of course usually quite careful to avoid any association with violence. They merely hint that, if their demands are not taken seriously, there just might be a teeny smidgeon of violence from some other unnamed quarter …
In recent days, many critics of the mosque have been tarred by liberals who use the most extreme examples of opposition to Rauf’s plans to indict the nearly2/3 of the public who are opposed to it (see Frank Rich’s column in the New York Times this weekend for an example). With spokespeople as eloquent as Hitchens, however, that line of attack will ultimately prove fruitless.
Well, last night, President Obama took out some of his frustration by criticizing the Supreme Court in front of a national audience. As the President, he has the power to trounce on judicial independence, but his display last night was historic.
According to the Legal Times, only once has a President publicly criticized the Supreme Court during a State of the Union address. Not surprisingly, it was President Franklin Roosevelt in 1937, and even FDR didn’t call for Congress to overturn the Court (thought the justices would eventually start to capitulate shortly after the address).
Here is FDR’s attempt at judicial intimidation:
The Judicial branch also is asked by the people to do its part in making democracy successful. We do not ask the Courts to call non-existent powers into being, but we have a right to expect that conceded powers or those legitimately implied shall be made effective instruments for the common good. The process of our democracy must not be imperiled by the denial of essential powers of free government.
Here is President Obama’s criticism:
Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections. Well I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and that’s why I’m urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong.
As Justice Alito gestured during the remarks, the Court did not reverse “a century of law” in its Citizens United decision. Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce was decided in 1990, not 1910. Linda Greenhouse over at the New York Times calls out the President on this as well.
As a former constitutional law professor, President Obama should either fire his speechwriters or hit the books.
Or at least that’s the conclusion one can take away from a recent New York Times article examining campaign finance reform laws across the globe.
The Times reported:
“There is no evidence that stricter campaign finance rules reduce corruption or raise positive assessments of government,” said Kenneth Mayer, a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “It seems like such an obvious relationship but it has proven impossible to prove.”
The article also notes that Australia imposes no restrictions on the amount of money corporations and individuals can give, yet Australia is hardly a failed state. In fact, according to the Heritage Foundation, Australians enjoy more economic freedom than Americans.
If the First Amendment doesn’t support opponents of free speech and neither does social science research, where else will they turn? Olbermann?
In today’s New York Times, economist Paul Krugman seems to think that along with propping up failed financial institutions and distorting the nation’s currency, the Federal Reserve should also play a part in creating jobs. Predictably, the answer is more government spending.
Mr. Bernanke has received a great deal of credit, and rightly so, for his use of unorthodox strategies to contain the damage after Lehman Brothers failed. But both the Fed’s actions, as measured by its expansion of credit, and Mr. Bernanke’s words suggest that the urgency of late 2008 and early 2009 has given way to a curious mix of complacency and fatalism — a sense that the Fed has done enough now that the financial system has stepped back from the brink, even though its own forecasts predict that unemployment will remain punishingly high for at least the next three years.
The most specific, persuasive case I’ve seen for more Fed action comes from Joseph Gagnon, a former Fed staffer now at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. Basing his analysis on the prior work of none other than Mr. Bernanke himself, in his previous incarnation as an economic researcher, Mr. Gagnon urges the Fed to expand credit by buying a further $2 trillion in assets. Such a program could do a lot to promote faster growth, while having hardly any downside.
But there is a downside, and it’s more than immediately exceeding the proposed raise in the national debt by $1.8 trillion. As astute observers of California politics say, the government doesn’t have a revenue problem – it has a spending problem. As I’ve mentioned before, the main impediment to private sector job creation is not access to credit: it’s uncertainty about what the government will regulate or tax next. Some form of human activity has to be taxed in order to pay for “stimulus” policies like the one Krugman supports. Business owners know this because they must identify income before they pay out for services, goods, and yes, people. Adding an employee to the payroll is a tremendously expensive decision that isn’t made easier just because the Federal Reserve makes it easier to get a company credit card. If Washington is serious about job creation it needs to stop spending and taxing other people’s money.
On most days, the New York Times’ opinion page is a gallery of liberal stereotypes. There’s Maureen Dowd, whose “liberating” neo-feminism somehow renders her as joyless as a puritan schoolmarm; Frank Rich, the kind of “tolerant” liberal whose Cliff’s Notes understanding of history leaves with him only three totalitarian regimes to compare Republicans to; and then there’s Thomas Friedman…
Friedman is inarguably the Times’ greatest success story. His books are consistent best-sellers and he’s a regular fixture on television and the lecture circuit. This mostly owes to the fact that Friedman substitutes enthusiasm for erudition. He’s an emotive presenter, but his ideas usually center around haute couture social engineering (his affection for “the green economy”) or aging conventional wisdom (how “The World is Flat” became a hit over a decade after globalization was a household concept is beyond me).
I introduce these criticisms as penance for what I’m about to say: Thomas Friedman has gotten something completely and commendably right.
In his new column, “Call White House, Ask for Barack” (a title that owes to a wonderfully direct James Baker quote featured in the piece), Friedman argues that it’s time to throw up our hands and leave the Israeli-Palestinian peace process behind … at least until an outside factor motivates the parties towards substantive work. It’s a rare tour de force and an enticing look into what a significant public intellectual Friedman could be if he spent less time on fashionable shibboleths. Among the best passages:
It is obvious that this Israeli government believes it can have peace with the Palestinians and keep the West Bank, this Palestinian Authority still can’t decide whether to reconcile with the Jewish state or criminalize it and this Hamas leadership would rather let Palestinians live forever in the hellish squalor that is Gaza than give up its crazy fantasy of an Islamic Republic in Palestine.
A rare — but decisive — win. Here’s hoping to more like this from Friedman.
To be even relatively safe from vicious attack, virtually all current writing on public affairs must begin with caveats (such as “I am not a racist” or “I really do want peace on earth but…”)
Okay, then, here’s our caveat for this one. We absolutely love crime reporting. With particularly intriguing cases, we’ve been known to live for it. Crime reporting is part of the grand tradition of American journalism and even grander stories. The number of truly great reporters who started on the graveyard police shift is staggering.
But…(you knew there was one coming), we were considerably taken aback when New York Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt revealed yesterday that the paper had nine reporters covering the murder of Yale graduate student Annie Le. Nine reporters from one paper on one tragic but non-extraordinary murder?
Remember when part of the Times’ excuse for not originally covering the ACORN scandal was that the paper was overextended covering wars and famines and the natural disaster that is Congress? Maybe a few of the crime guys and gals could be reassigned. Just saying.
The House of Representatives protected one of its own today by voting only to refer Rep. Charles Rangel to the House Ethics Committee; he will remain the Chair of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.
Rangel, as the NY Times has revealed, has taken many liberties in his position of power. The Times discovered that Rangel has four rent-controlled apartments, and actually uses one as his campaign office, likely in violation of House rules. In addition, Rangel recently revealed that he failed to disclose assets from his swanky beach home in the Dominican Republic, leading to over $10,000 in back taxes.
Being an elected official has been prosperous for the New York Congressman, as Rangel lists his net worth in the millions. Apparently there are perks to writing the nation’s tax laws, and subsequently failing to follow them. His published ethical improprieties are just the tip of the iceberg, which is why newspapers across the country are calling for Rangel to step down. See here and here.
Today, Representative John Carter from Texas introduced a resolution that would have referred Rangel’s case to the House Ethics Committee and stripped Rangel of his Chairmanship. The vote failed 153-246, with six Republicans voting with Rangel (King (NY), Rohrabacher (CA), Paul (TX), Murphy (PA), Jones (NC) and Young (AK).
So, as of today the New York Times and the Washington Post are investigating Rangel but Congress is not. It looks like it will take an indictment or two to get things rolling in America’s most expensive sausage factory.