House Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) is looking to crank up the Benghazi scandal machine again. With hearings to explore Benghazi's "unanswered questions" scheduled for September 19, the Republicans on the committee published this morning a report on the "deficiencies" in the independent inquiry conducted by the State Department's Accountability Review Board. Issa and his colleagues clearly want to create buzz among the partisan and DC media (before its public release the report was leaked to Fox News, the Washington Post, and the Daily Beast), and they know that one proven tactic for piquing reporters' interest is to take a shot at Hillary Clinton, which this report does. Feebly.
The previous House Republican report on Benghazi made a big splash with its claim that a cable bearing the former Secretary of State's signature indicated that she had personally denied requests for increased security in Benghazi -- an absurd allegation given that all such messages from the State Department to overseas diplomatic facilities bear the secretary's "signature." The new report's attempt at snaring Clinton is less dramatic: "E-mails reviewed by the Committee," the report states on page 65, "show it is likely that Secretary Clinton's views played some role in the decision making on the future of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi."
The report's Clinton inclusion is already having the intended effect. Fox News noted that the report says "it is likely, based on email evidence, that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's views played a role in the decision-making." CNN wrote that the "report is the closest congressional investigators have come to tying Clinton to aspects of planning for the Benghazi mission before the attack."
But how close is it? The committee's Republicans aren't alleging that Clinton had a role in the decision making process; they suspect her views, as interpreted by subordinates, came into play. And not her views on the security situation in Benghazi, but on the issue of whether to keep the Benghazi outpost operational a year before the attack took place. And they're not 100-percent sure -- it is "likely" that this happened. That language is so carefully hedged that one suspects Issa wanted to avoid a repeat of the "signed cable" fiasco.
Prison can be a magical place for transgender people, especially once you get over the whole "rape" thing. That's according to an op-ed in The Daily Beast which suggests that Chelsea Manning - formerly known as Bradley Manning - might be treated like "royalty" as a transgender inmate in an all-male prison. The op-ed has already drawn criticism, prompting an editor's note in which The Daily Beast acknowledged the existence of prison rape but continued to ignore the horrific conditions experienced by transgender inmates in particular.
On August 22, The Daily Beast published an op-ed by columnist Mansfield Frazier titled, "How Will Chelsea Manning Be Treated In Prison?" The op-ed sought to downplay concerns that Bradley Manning - who recently announced her desire to be identified as a female named Chelsea - might be subject to violence and abuse once she begins her prison sentence for leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks.
According to Frazier - who bases his claims on his own experience in prison - the astronomical rates of rape and sexual assault against transgender prison inmates are overblown and exaggerated. In fact, in the original version of the piece, Frazier suggested most inmates who claim to be raped secretly want it:
[L]ife in prison is more complex than many statistics suggest. When I was in the joint, rape wasn't just something you could let happen to you.
Indeed, the vast majority of experienced convicts know that "true" rape is not a common occurrence in prison. That doesn't mean that homosexual sex doesn't occur--it certainly does. But it's really not that unusual for a new prisoner to show up on the compound and begin walking around the yard in pants far too tight. Before long they drop the soap in the shower, get a little close to another naked man, and then-- simply because they've never been able to come to terms with their own sexuality--tell anyone who will listen (but, interestingly enough, they usually never complain to the guards) that they were "raped." And a week or two later it could happen again, and then again.
To further prove his point, Frazier states - without citing a shred of evidence - that the desire to have gay sex and claim it was rape is why many prisoners choose to go back to prison once they've been released:
Quiet as it's kept, this is one reason for high recidivism rates. In prison, closeted homosexuals can receive what they desire but are able to maintain to the world they really find such behavior disgusting; in this manner they don't have to take responsibility for what happened to them.
Daily Beast contributor Niall Ferguson has offered an "unqualified apology" for suggesting that John Maynard Keynes, the British economist whose theories are the basis of macroeconomics and the foundation of progressive economic policy, was unconcerned with future generations because he was gay and childless.
Ferguson, a Harvard history professor who has issued flawed denunciations of President Obama's economic policies, made his original comments during a May 2 speech. According to a May 3report by Financial Advisor magazine (emphasis added):
Speaking at the Tenth Annual Altegris Conference in Carlsbad, Calif., in front of a group of more than 500 financial advisors and investors, Ferguson responded to a question about Keynes' famous philosophy of self-interest versus the economic philosophy of Edmund Burke, who believed there was a social contract among the living, as well as the dead.Ferguson asked the audience how many children Keynes had. He explained that Keynes had none because he was a homosexual and was married to a ballerina, with whom he likely talked of "poetry" rather than procreated. The audience went quiet at the remark. Some attendees later said they found the remarks offensive.
It gets worse.
Ferguson, who is the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University, and author of The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die, says it's only logical that Keynes would take this selfish worldview because he was an "effete" member of society. Apparently, in Ferguson's world, if you are gay or childless, you cannot care about future generations nor society.
Ferguson quickly came under fire following the publication of the Financial Advisor piece. On May 4, he acknowledged on his website that his comments were "as stupid as they were insensitive." He wrote:
But I should not have suggested - in an off-the-cuff response that was not part of my presentation - that Keynes was indifferent to the long run because he had no children, nor that he had no children because he was gay. This was doubly stupid. First, it is obvious that people who do not have children also care about future generations. Second, I had forgotten that Keynes's wife Lydia miscarried.
Ferguson further stated that he "detest[s] all prejudice, sexual or otherwise," but that his colleagues, students, and friends "have every right to be disappointed in me, as I am in myself." He concluded: "To them, and to everyone who heard my remarks at the conference or has read them since, I deeply and unreservedly apologize."
This is not the first time Ferguson has been the subject of scrutiny following an offensive comment. He was harshly criticized for a 2009 column in which he compared Obama to the cartoon character Felix the Cat, writing that Obama was "not only black" but "also very, very lucky." More recently he claimed that New York Times columnist and Princeton economist Paul Krugman's supposed "inability to debate a question without insulting his opponent suggests some kind of deep insecurity perhaps the result of a childhood trauma."
In a National Review Online post, author Charlotte Allen followed the lead of other right-wing media figures by suggesting that the deaths at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut were the result of a "feminized setting" in which "helpless passivity is the norm."
Similarly, Newsweek and Daily Beast special correspondent Megan McArdle wrote that people, even children, should be trained to "gang rush" active shooters, in contradiction to expert opinion on how best to handle such situations.
And Washington Times columnist Ted Nugent wrote that the allegedly "embarrassing, politically correct culture" of the U.S. that "mocks traditional societal values" helped lead to the shooting. Nugent also told Newsmax that "political correctness and the sheep like behavior that goes with it" could be cured by arming teachers.
Daily Beast correspondent Megan McArdle attacked the concept of an assault weapons ban by falsely suggesting that there are no functional differences between such weapons and other firearms.
In her November 21 article, McArdle wrote that the differences between assault weapons and other firearms are "largely cosmetic rather than functional," a claim also pushed by the National Rifle Association. In fact, assault weapons, like the military weapons on which they are based, have functional differences from other guns that increase their lethality.
McArdle's assessment was based on an image that purports to show two nearly identical weapons with only one being regulated under an assault weapons ban.
The image was created by a blogger who used it to argue in favor of the ban, writing that "If you can buy the gun on the top, but can't buy the bottom gun, who cares? You still have a gun." McArdle responded that "if it makes no difference, than why have the law?" and argued that "'assault weapon' is a largely cosmetic rather than functional description."
In fact, the lower pictured weapon, a Mossberg 500 Tactical Persuader, has a number of features that increase its lethality compared to the top pictured shotgun. Contrary to what the graphic suggests, the only difference between the two weapons is not just the pistol grip featured on the Tactical Persuader. The Tactical Persuader also has an adjustable stock that can be removed from the firearm completely, which allows the gun length to be shortened for increased concealability. Furthermore, when combined with a pistol grip, the firearm can be more easily maneuvered, allowing the shooter to fire from the hip and more easily use the weapon from vehicles and in other close quarters situations.
President Obama's policy to ensure that women have access to insurance coverage for birth control has garnered support from Catholic hospitals, Catholic universities, Catholic Charities USA, other religious leaders, and Catholic voters. Ignoring this widespread support, right-wing media have claimed that Obama is engaged in a "war on religion" because of this policy.
Now a right-wing media figure has finally admitted that Catholics don't think that Obama is at war with them. In a Daily Beast op-ed, National Review Online blogger and Judicial Crisis Network chief counsel Carrie Severino wrote: "Many Catholics, despite the overwhelming evidence, have convinced themselves that President Obama is good for them and for people of faith."
Sadly, rather than using this evidence to rethink her premise that Obama is bad for Catholics, Severino posited that it must be the majority of Catholics who have it wrong. Indeed -- in what we can only hope is an extremely poorly thought out attempt at humor -- Severino compared Catholics who support Obama to the victims of abusive relationships.
In her op-ed, headlined "Catholics, Get Real: President Obama Is Abusing You," Severino wrote:
Let's hope Americans who still care about freedom of religion -- particularly Catholics, who have experienced the brunt of Obama's abuse -- wise up soon and seek help. After all, as the Mayo Clinic reminds us, "It can be hard to recognize or admit that you're in an abusive relationship -- but help is available. Remember, no one deserves to be abused."
The National Rifle Association has long pushed the suggestion that their electoral efforts were responsible for both George W. Bush's victory in 2000 and Republicans winning control of Congress in 1994. As evidenced by NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre's recent speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, it's a key talking point cited as evidence that the NRA will be able to defeat President Obama in this year's presidential election as well as a cautionary tale for progressives not to push for gun violence prevention legislation.
Recently the narrative of the NRA's massive electoral power has extended beyond the usual gun lobby sounding boards. A recent article by UCLA constitutional law professor Adam Winkler in The Daily Beast that argued that the NRA's electoral strength would doom Obama should he propose even modest proposals and suggested the 1994 midterms elections were evidence that talking about gun violence prevention "will hurt Democrats all the way down the ballot."
A December Bloomberg News report chronicling the NRA's massive fundraising apparatus similarly noted the belief that the NRA hurt Al Gore in 2000. The narrative was also reflected in a report by Reuters that reported that passing gun violence prevention measures, such as the 1994 assault weapons ban, leads to "sharp backlashes" from voters.
However, a detailed new analysis suggests that the NRA's past electoral impact is massively overblown.
The most recent installment of a Think Progress series examining the electoral strength of the NRA by American Prospect contributing editor Paul Waldman (who previously worked for Media Matters) debunks the long running narrative that the NRA had a huge impact on the 1994 and 2000 elections, calling this a "mistaken reading of history." According to Waldman, "what the NRA claims credit for usually turns out upon closer examination to be nothing more than elections in which Republicans do well," while when Democrats win, as they did in 2006 and 2008, "the NRA is quiet."
Late last week, Fox morning man Steve Doocy hosted yet another segment where the Fox News wake-up team bashed teachers and expressed complete amazement that some of them earn high five-figure salaries.
Doocy turned his attention to a long-running contract dispute playing out in the suburban Philadelphia school district of Neshaminy, where teachers have been working without a contract since 2008. In this "terrible economy," Doocy couldn't believe overpaid teachers there aren't willing to drastically restructure their "rich deal" contract. After all, they work for the public! (Fox, in general, hates public school teachers.)
In terms of the numbers, Doocy, welcoming Neshaminy School Board president Ritchie Webb, told viewers teachers there earn $90,000, on average. Yet the Philadelphia Inquirer this year reported that for Neshaminy teachers, "Even after two years of a wage freeze, last fall their average salary of $77,165 was 15th highest in the state." (Webb today told me the $90,000 figure represents the median average for salaries, and the lower figure was based on the mean, and was "probably the fairest one to use.")
But more importantly, Doocy's overall message was unmistakable. Greedy teachers are taking advantage of taxpayers who simply cannot afford to pay inflated public employee salaries. Fox News has been hammering that anti-union message all year, that overpaid teachers are living a cushy life and doing it on the backs of struggling taxpayers.
Now note which story Doocy and friends did not address late last week. It was a report from The Daily Beast about how Fox News' Sixth Avenue headquarters in New York City receives free, 24-hour-a-day police protection, paid for by taxpayers; protection that likely costs the police department $500,000 annually in man hours.
The Daily Beast also reported none of the other network and cable news outlets that have headquarters in New York (ABC, CBS, CNN, or NBC), receive the same free protection, in the form of constant foot patrols outside the media headquarters or police cars stationed out front. Those news organizations pay their own security costs. It's only Fox News, which rails against the cost of public employee salaries, that receives NYPD protection at no cost.
So Fox News, which generated $1.5 billion in revenues last year, is getting free protection from the NYPD, while taxpayers foot the bill. But greedy school teachers in Pennsylvania are the real villains here?
That seems to be the case that Mark McKinnon makes in The Daily Beast today. The former Bush advisor insists the "mainlining media" relentlessly portray Michele Bachmann in an unflattering light:
Conservative women in politics run a punishing gauntlet. They endure psychological evaluations and near-gynecological exams their male and liberal counterparts do not.
McKinnon makes passing reference to just two media put-downs of Bachmann. The first is that she's been derided as a "delusional, paranoid zealot." McKinnon cites no source for the quote and Google and Nexis searches for that phrase come up empty, but I'm guessing he's referring to a recent, unflattering piece in Rolling Stone by columnist Matt Taibbi.
McKinnon's second example? Fox News' Chris Wallace, who over the weekend asked Bachmann if she's a "flake." (He quickly apologized.) That's right, Fox News is one of the two examples McKinnon offers as proof that the "mainstream press" is treating Bachmann and "conservative women in politics" very, very badly.
Does that mean that Wallace is now part of the despised liberal media?
CORRECTION: The Daily Beast poll did in fact compare Obama approval rating results from before and after the news of Osama bin Laden's death was announced. And the Daily Beast poll broke out those results separately. The premise of my post is therefore incorrect. I regret the error.
The Daily Beast is claiming that the president received no Osama bin Laden-related bounce in its new poll.
Here's the Daily Beast's summary [emphasis added]:
So readers assume that like the Washington Post, which turned around a new poll on Monday to gage public reaction to the bin Laden news, so too did the Daily Beast.
How much overall boost did President Obama get from the capture of Osama Bin Laden? None, according to an exclusive Newsweek / Daily Beast poll encompassing 1,200 American adults, conducted in the two days immediately before the president's Sunday announcement about the terrorist leader, and then the two days immediately after.
That doesn't make much sense. How could a poll partially conducted two days before the bin Laden announcement calculate how Americans felt about Obama in light of the news from Pakistan? (Time travel?)
Claiming that the president's post-bin Laden job approval rating has not changed, the Daily Beast relies on a poll in which half of the respondents were contacted before news of bin Laden's death was announced.
That seems quite odd.
When Fox News Washington managing editor Bill Sammon discussed with The Daily Beast's Howard Kurtz the leaked emails obtained by Media Matters in which Sammon sought to slant the network's coverage of health care reform to the right, he tipped his hand revealing his ultimate intention despite his protestations of journalistic integrity. Kurtz reported (emphasis added):
Sammon said in an interview that the term "public option" "is a vague, bland, undescriptive phrase," and that after all, "who would be against a public park?" The phrase "government-run plan," he said, is "a more neutral term," and was used just last week by a New York Times columnist.
"I have no idea what the Republicans were pushing or not. It's simply an accurate, fair, objective term."
As New York Magazine's Chris Rovzar wrote (emphasis added):
Sammon himself phrased the Fox attitude well when he spoke with Howard Kurtz about the memo: "Who would be against a 'public' park?" Indeed — who would? And why would you want them to be, again?
The Daily Beast published an article, titled "Al Gore's Weird Silence," which falsely claimed that Gore has only made one public statement on the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. In fact, Gore has made numerous public statements about the spill.
Daily Beast reporter Dayo Olopade writes that Al Gore's "only public statement has come in a short article for The New Republic's website comparing the oil gusher to CO2 emissions" and that Gore "has been largely silent during the worst environmental catastrophe in memory."
However, the article itself provides a quote from a Gore spokesman challenging the claim that Gore has only spoken once about the oil spill:
Kalee Kreider, a spokesperson for Gore's office in Nashville, said in a statement: "Former Vice President Gore has addressed the crisis in the Gulf in a major speech, an essay in The New Republic and through numerous postings on his Twitter and personal online journal on algore.com. He also works closely on the climate crisis, reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, and the oil spill through the philanthropy that he chairs, the Alliance for Climate Protection, based in Washington, DC."
It turns out that Gore's spokesperson is correct and Olopade's claim is meritless. The Knoxville News Sentinel reported that Gore addressed the oil spill in his commencement speech at the University of Tennessee. Gore's New Republic piece [subscription required] -- which Olopade describes as "short" -- is a 2000+ word essay dealing with the spill. He has repeatedly written about the spill on Twitter and on AlGore.com. KBSW also reported that he discussed the spill during the Panetta lecture series in California -- a video of which is embedded in Olopade's piece.
Various media figures have likened Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan to Harriet Miers, President Bush's failed nominee. However, legal experts -- including conservatives -- have rejected the comparison. Moreover, media conservatives previously smeared Sonia Sotomayor as "Obama's Harriet Miers."
The Daily Beast has unveiled its list of "The Left's Top 25 Journalists" -- with Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt coming in at number 5, despite the fact that "many on the left would question Hiatt's presence on this list" because "his near-neocon position on foreign policy enrages the left-wing blogosphere."
Seriously? The fifth-most influential liberal journalist in America is a neocon? Who came up with this list, Dick Cheney?
No, actually, it was Tunku Varadarajan, formerly op-ed editor for the Wall Street Journal (whose opinion pages are notoriously conservative) and currently a fellow at the right-wing Hoover Institution, where the fellows program is generously funded by Richard Mellon Scaife.
I know what you're thinking: If The Daily Beast turned to a Scaife-funded right-winger to pen its list of "The Left's Top 25 Journalists," it probably used a Soros-backed liberal to assess journalism's leading conservatives, right? Nope, that was Varadarajan, too.
Varadarajan also wrote Forbes magazine's recent list of "The 25 Most Influential Liberals In The U.S. Media." Fred Hiatt came in at number 3 on that list, with Clinton-hating, liberal-bashing Chris Matthews at number 12.
Meghan McCain writes about the sexist double-standards women in politics face:
The brutal criticism of Sarah Palin-which will only increase when her memoir comes out-is yet another example of the double standard and cruel treatment of women in politics. Sarah has been attacked for everything from her hair to her clothes to the number of children she gave birth to. Maureen Dowd even nicknamed her "Caribou Barbie." I can't even begin to think of what that kind of judgment-criticizing parts of your life that have nothing to do with what you stand for or want to accomplish politically-feels like.
Now, I'm not about to deny that women in politics often face double-standards and outright misogyny in the way the media treats them. They do, as I have often written. And that's something that should be addressed more frequently, so I'm glad McCain has done so.
But Maureen Dowd calling Sarah Palin "Caribou Barbie" isn't an example of a double-standard in which Dowd only makes such comments about women, it's an example of Dowd being a nasty and utterly pointless columnist who relentlessly mocks politicians -- male and female -- she dislikes, often focusing on their personal appearance or what she claims is their deviation from gender norms.
Dowd has called Barack Obama a "debutante" and a "pretty boy" and "effete" and compared him to Scarlett O'Hara. She repeatedly referred to John Edwards as "The Breck Girl" and a "Material Boy" and "Secretary of Hairdressing," and at least once dedicated an entire column to an Edwards hair cut. Dowd mocked Edwards for visiting "the Pink Sapphire spa in Manchester, which offers services for men that include the 'Touch of Youth' facial, as well as trips 'into the intriguing world of makeup.'" (Dowd remained silent about John McCain's own foray into the "intriguing world of makeup" at the Pink Sapphire.) And Dowd famously wrote that Al Gore was "so feminized ... he's practically lactating." (See, Gore wore a brown suit, and ... uh ... Well, actually, that was about it.)
Of course, all of these insults from Dowd are fundamentally sexist in nature. She belittles male politicians she doesn't like by, basically, calling them women. The obvious underlying assumption is that being feminine is a bad thing. So even when she obsesses over a male politician's personal characteristics, she often does so in a way that indirectly insults women.
But Dowd's reference to Sarah Palin as "Caribou Barbie" isn't an example of her singling out women for criticism over "parts of [their] life that have nothing to do with what [they] stand for or want to accomplish politically." It's an example of her behaving like a mean-spirited seventh-grader with little of substance to say.
And it's a reminder that it actually understates the misogyny in Dowd's columns to suggest that she critiques the physical appearance of only women in politics.