It’s Tough Out Here For The Squirrels

Just when I thought that Barry O’Connell had returned to this planet from his extended stay “elsewhere,” he goes and says this. I had such hopes that he’d find some more nuts. Alas.

The article Barry links to is all about Cummings not running. There is no discussion, none, about who, if anyone, Cummings might endorse if he doesn’t run. So yes, neither Cummings nor Edwards makes any  comments about an issue they weren’t asked about.

Well, shit, if that’s how it goes, I’ve got one too:

“Neither Cummings nor Edwards had any comment about reports that aliens looking just like Barry O’Connell have landed on earth with the mission to make nonsensical blog posts regarding issues the candidates weren’t asked about, thus confusing readers and causing general chaos, in hopes of destabilizing the planet for the imminent invasion of an army of O’Connells.”

At least mine has a better basis in reality than Barry’s. His streak of nut finding is over at one.

Another Blind Squirrel - And A Hatchet

First, Fred Hiatt raked Mitch McDonnell over the coals on climate change. Then, before the day is over, Barry Rascovar writes a bad, sexist, racist and condescending article about EMILY’s List and Donna Edwards - and my buddy Barry O’Connell takes Rascovar to task for it. O’Connell, usually a practitioner of bizarre “I know you are but what am I?” analysis, gets something right. First time for everything.

First, Rascovar. He’s upset at EMILY’s List for spending $1 million on ads supporting Edwards. Incensed, in fact. So much so that he adopts his best Don Draper mentality and goes to town on those stupid women.

What in the world was Emily’s List thinking when it threw $1 million into the Maryland Senate primary race for a candidate who could be an easy mark for Republicans next November?

Why would the women’s political empowerment group try to defeat a much stronger Democratic candidate who has an unblemished pro-choice record and strong support from elected female leaders in Maryland and women’s rights advocates?
It’s a baffling call, especially in an election season where a $1 million advertising blitz could make a huge difference in a number of pivotal general election Senate races around the country involving other Democratic, pro-choice, female candidates.

It’s really not hard to get it, Barry. They endorsed Donna Edwards early, she needs help now, so they did what they always do - spend money on ads for their preferred candidates. And I’m for the othe guy - so if I can understand, so can you. What this appears to be is a fit of pique - Rascovar is upset that the ladies won’t just settle for the perfectly good guy running against Edwards. That’s not how it works, sir - EMILY’s List only supports women. Like it or don’t in any give case, it’s their prerogative.

It gets worse, though:

It’s an independent expenditure committee ad campaign, which by law means Emily’s List cannot coordinate its activities with the Edwards camp. But the obvious similarities of Edwards’ campaign pitch and the Emily’s List ad is striking and raises concerns.

Even more troubling is Emily’s List’s attempt to target its ad to an African-American audience, with an obvious African-American narrator proclaiming Edwards will “work for us.”
If the same language had been used in support of a white candidate, there would be hell to pay – and rightly so.

Did you ever think that maybe “us” means “women”? EMILY’s List is a women’s organization, after all, dedicated to electing pro-choice Democratic women. Not men who might do just as well. Trust me, I get it - I have as good a track record on women’s issues as anyone, but they wouldn’t endorse me last year because I’m not a woman. And even if it means African-American women, why is that so bad?

Next, we’re told that Edwards isn’t as good a general election candidate as Van Hollen. That might be true - I certainly think so - but Rascovar does it by comparing her to Anthony Brown. Hmmmmmm.

Republicans are hoping for a repeat of Larry Hogan’s upset win in the governor’s race last year. He defeated Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who lacked broad statewide support among Democrats, independents and elected officials.

If either of the two GOP front-runners, Del. Kathy Szeliga or Harford County Executive Barry Glassman is nominated, they could duplicate Hogan’s success if Edwards is the Senate opponent.
Both are good campaigners who want to come across as smiling, Hogan-esque figures.
Edwards, on the other hand, is a lightning rod for controversy. Her hard-edge political approach is far to the left of the Democratic center, she does not work well with her fellow politicians and she often has forgotten to tend to the services demanded by constituents.

No polls, no data, just an assumption that Edwards - who happens to be black - won’t be the favorite in a general election against either of two white opponents, in an election with a much larger electorate than 2014. I’ve got a big problem with that “analysis,” in terms of both substance and tone - not to mention implication.

Barry O’Connell, on Facebook, looks at this and concludes as follows:

I am not supporting either candidate in the MD Senate race. But the Barry Rascovar hatchet job on [Donna F. Edwards]is really uncomfortable. If it were anyone else i would think Unfair, Untrue, and Racist.

Well said. The only thing I’d add is “sexist” and “condescending.”

You Know You’re In Trouble When . . .

Fred Hiatt criticizes your position on climate change. But Mitch McConnell and the GOP have managed this feat. Blind squirrels and nuts and all that.

A genuine conservative, as Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state George P. Shultz has written, would acknowledge uncertainties in climate science but look for rational, market-based policies to lessen the risk without slowing economic growth. A revenue-neutral carbon tax, as in a bill Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) has introduced, fits the description precisely.

What then explains the know-nothingism of today’s Republicans? Some of them see scientists as part of a left-wing cabal; many of them doubt government’s ability to do anything, let alone something as big as redirecting the economy’s energy use. Almost all of them, along with quite a few Democrats, would rather not tell voters that energy prices need to rise for the sake of the environment.

Hiatt manages in the same breath to both shout out our own Chris Van Hollen and to engage in the journalistic sham of Both Sides Do It. Quite a feat. But give the devil his due - at least Hiatt seems to actually believe in the urgent need for action on climate change.

Fact Check Thursday

In her story on the SEIU endorsement last night, Arelis Hernandez wrote: “Local 1199, the largest SEIU chapter in Maryland, which has about 9,000 members.” That would be news to SEIU Local 500 in Gaithersburg, which has twice the number of members as Local 1199, around 18,000. Whoops.

I also believe that the harsh comments about Donna Edwards in Hernandez’s article from Local 1199 - “We feel like she has turned her back toward labor” - do not reflect the views of the entire spectrum of SEIU opinion. From my own history with her, as well as my own interactions with SEIU - particularly Local 500 - I know there was and is a lot of good will towards Edwards within the union.

Going for the sexiest quote is all well and good, but did Hernandez run that comment by any of the other locals or the state council to see if there was broad agreement on those feelings? I bet the answer is no - she had a hot take from what she thought was the largest local, so she went with it.

Bad facts, combined with a failure to cross check an explosive quote, leads to the substantially inaccurate impression that all of SEIU agrees with a statement that I strongly suspect they do not.

The Post fact checker uses pinocchios to rate bad factual statements. Me being me, I’m going to use broken eggs. The scale is 1 to 4 eggs.

Verdict: 4 broken eggs. Cleanup in the Metro section, please.

Rules Of Engagement

As a blogger, I have allowed others to post here. Sometimes I agree with the thoughts expressed here, sometimes not, or not completely. If I was ever asked to publish a response to one of my guest blogs, I’d feel pretty strongly that I should do it, if for no other reason than basic fairness.

Publishing a lengthy screed (two parts, no less) by Delegate Ben Kramer calling supporters of the BDS movement anti-Semitic, and then refusing to allow a response from the BDS folks? That is way out of bounds. But prince of the undisclosed conflict of interest David Lublin is fine with it. Yes, it’s your blog, David, but fair is fair. Or maybe not. Here’s the exchange of tweets.


For those who may not recall, Lublin acted the same way during the Rockville elections. He printed demonstrably false information, and when he was asked to print a response his answer was “well, I’d have to verify it. Too much work.”

Accusations of anti-Semitism and political cronyism are serious matters. If you’re going to publish them you’d better have your facts straight and you’d best be prepared to publish a response if asked. Petulant, dismissive and flippant responses like Lublin’s hackery are grossly inappropriate. 

I Need A Break

Normally about now, I’d be thinking about what would make for an interesting blog post or two for the rest of the evening. But tonight, for the first time, I’m too angry and depressed with the government of this country for what is happening about seven miles down the road.

Sometimes it’s amusing to make fun of the Republicans and their bizarre behavior and their casual hypocrisy, bigotry and stupidity. I fear right now that with all of the fun and the media’s persistence in perpetuating the Both Sides Do It false equivalence, we are missing the point that this country is becoming something other than what it was, and 100% what it out not to be: a scared, bullying, sneering, ignorant mob of peasants with pitchforks and torches, simultaneously talking tough to the world while flinching from any sign of real danger and real engagement. Special thanks to the 47 Democrats who joined the mob today. Love ya.

I need a break for the rest of the night. I’m going to read a book and binge watch TV and forget that I ever read Chris Cillizza today. His cheerleading for the “we’re tough but we’re scared” GOP atrocities today makes me think, really, that if we ever come to our senses, that he ought to be the first one in the dock for aiding and abetting crimes against humanity and against what this country stands for.

And if we don’t come to our senses, and it all goes to shit, I hope that Cillizza’s house is the first one the mob ransacks and he is the first one the zombies eat, all the while muttering “smart politics, smart politics.” He disgusts me, with his preening and his swaggering sense of his own importance. People are dying out there by the tens of thousands and all you want to talk about are polls? The fact that there are others like you in our media is cause for utter hopelessness and despair. Most of them don’t usually flaunt their amorality quite so proudly as Cillizza does.

Not that he cares, but Cillizza needs to be force fed a healthy dose of Edmund Burke, the original modern Tory conservative, who believed (as I do) that our representatives are elected not to conduct a poll every time a decision needs to be made, but to always do the right thing and if the voters don’t like it, they can vote him out at the next election. Cillizza prefers mob rule as an excuse to avoid the moral consequences of the decisions we make. Smug bastards like him don’t seem to understand that the mob eventually is coming for him too, that his nation job at the Washington Post won’t save him when the rough beast comes slouching toward Bethlehem.

I will not give in to despair, not now and not ever, but like I said, I need a break, a large dose of bad TV and some baked ziti, which will be done right . . . now. The oven timer just beeped. Time to eat. Good  night, and good luck.

Both Sides Don’t Do It

As the Republican Party has shifted dramatically rightward over the past two decades, journalists have been presented with a dilemna which has reached a breaking point in the insane shitshow we call the GOP 2016 primary process, now being dominated by a narcissist and a grifter. On the one hand, journalists value accuracy. On the other hand, there is the “cherished trope of balance.” Which often is described with the cliched “both sides do it.”

But what if they don’t? What if, as is more clear in 2016 than ever before, the prion disease eating away at one of this country’s two major political party has reached a critical stage? I’m a partisan, but look at the conversations being had in the two primary races. Think about what happened Friday night - a series of more or less rational and intelligent conversations with the candidates. You think that’s what you’re going to see tonight? Good luck finding that.

So journalists have a problem. They can’t accurately describe the insanity of the GOP process - where Trump and Carson now rule like feral children - without pairing it with some similar lunacy in the Democratic primaries. Because everyone knows that Both Sides Do It.

But they don’t - it’s one party that has lost its mind, not both. It’s one set of candidates that lies, and then looks the media in the eye and says “I never said that.” And then attacks the biased media for asking unfair questions. As in any at all.

Accuracy and balance can only both be accommodated when there is some rough agreement on the parameters of acceptable behavior by the two parties. When that consensus breaks down, and one party collectively loses its mind, journalists have to choose. Accuracy or balance? This isn’t a hard question, but the media can’t seem to figure that out.

Hence, articles like this one on the front page of the New York Times, in which all the recent GOP whoppers are on one side, and on the other is Hillary Clinton’s claim - since corrected - that all of her grandparents were immigrants. Turns out one grandfather was born here. Michael Barabaro’s conclusion: “The tendency to bend facts is bipartisan.”

No, it’s not. There’s not even a remotely similar amount of bullshit. But there is a perceived need for journalists to make the claim, because it inoculates them from criticism. But flinching at the prospect of a bully’s rage is not good journalism and it does a grave disservice to the public.

So I was pleased to see this thoughtful response to Barbaro from Nathan Pippenger of Democracy. After assessing the Barbaro article, he concludes:

The more obvious conclusion is that we are facing a particularly bold form of indifference to the truth, a surprising rejection of deference to the press’s traditional role, and an alarming acceptance of these trends among voters—and that these extreme trends are pretty much confined to the right. This point deserves to be repeated: The tactical and ideological extremism of the contemporary GOP is enabled by the media’s refusal to admit that this is not a bipartisan problem. The Republican Party has gotten away with its drift towards extremism in large part because political reporters are loath to admit that not all pathologies are bipartisan. In this case, the evidence’s stubborn refusal to fit that familiar trope should have been a signal that the old formula doesn’t apply here. You could call this a reluctance to admit the sad truth, but it actually reads more like a refusal—one born of a misguided worry that the appearance of one-sidedness represents a more dangerous threat to journalism than simple inaccuracy.

Journalists who persist with the Both Sides Do It trope are failing both their core mission of providing accurate information as well as the goal of creating an informed citizenry. Only one side benefits from this yawning information chasm - the newly insane and deranged Republican Party. This is neither good journalism nor balance.

Things You Won’t See In The American Media

One of the more interesting developments of the past few years is the increasing presence of foreign media reporting in the United States. As the range of “acceptable” coverage by the American media shrinks further and further, British and other media outlets have stepped up to fill the gaps.

For example, as we sit here today thinking about Ben Carson, it’s very clear that, whatever the particular issue being debated, the man has issues - with the truth, with his overblown rhetoric, with his messianic sense of self-pity and persecution, with his policies, with his very view of the world. There are times when - all politics aside - I really question his sanity.

There is now an increasing level of scrutiny on Ben Carson, and he’s not handling it well at all. But the American media scrutiny is all “gotcha” based - you lied, we can’t find any proof, etc. - that allows him to fall back on his “I’m being persecuted” lament. It would be nice if the media could find some better way to show Ben Carson in concrete fashion, something more revealing and interesting. But the gotcha frenzy is on, and all we’re going to hear about is stabbings and psychology exams and scholarships - all ultimately nonsense. We need something better.

Like this Guardian piece about the decor of Carson’s house. It’s a shrine, an ego overload, and it puts his weirdness and eccentricities in a context that we can understand. I’m no psychologist, but there is something fundamentally wrong about a guy who has a huge painting of himself with Jesus. I believe the term is narcissistic personality disorder.

I’m not a Christian, but my wife was raised in a very religious Southern Baptist family, so I know a little something about the issue, and that photo offends me, separate and apart from the politics. It reeks of idolatry and pride and superiority.

Now if a church leader has that picture, or an ordinary person, I’d say that’s between the church leader and his or her congregation, or between a religious person and his or her conscience. But Ben Carson wants to be President, and as a sign of his personality, his character and his worldview, his house being an overstuffed shrine to vanity, ego, and smugness is telling. And frightening.

No American media outlet would put this out because the religious right goon squad would be all over them like flying monkeys. Good for the Guardian for getting these photos and for having the guts to publish them. And heaven help us if Ben Carson ever gets within a mile of the Oval Office without an engraved invitation. 

Sunday Smackdown

Meet the Press on Sunday will have Maryland’s own Elijah Cummings, fresh off his triumphant performance yesterday, and Trey Gowdy, chair of the Benghazi committee. I might actually break my rule and watch MTP. What I’d really be hoping to see is Cummings and Gowdy teaming up to punch that bored smirk off Chuck Todd’s face. Now THAT would be some bipartisanship I could get behind.