I've been searching for a heart of gold (and I'm getting old)


So does the world really need a comment from yours truly about Spitzgergate? Well, first off, I'm ashamed on behalf of the Jewish people. Who the hell ever heard of paying $5,500 an hour for sex? And this guy thought he could be president? For shame, sir, for shame. But seriously, folks. I don't think prostitution is morally wrong, though I do think it a distasteful way to make a living. Irrespective of whether it's right or wrong, however, it's not going away. And it's a much more clear-cut case that it ought to be legalized -- taxed, policed and regulated for the protection of the prostitutes themselves and the good of the legal system and social peace. We pay a terrible price for turning people into criminals for something that they are going to do anyway, and it's a horrible waste of police resources, when we should be improving public health and offering these poor, exploited girls and boys health insurance and a road to a better way to make a living (if they want one).

But this story is about arrogance, not prostitution. And so Spitzer has to go. He's made himself an indefensible liability to all the causes about which he professes to care, including the party that nominated him. And if I were Hillary Clinton, I'd be on his ass to get out today, since this is going to remind everyone of one of the many reasons the Clintons can be such a trial for our political system and the indulgences they demand from their supporters. In the meantime, anyone who offers up a loud moral condemnation of Spitzer's sexual morality should be asked to sign a sworn deposition saying that they have never paid for sex ...

I've been thinking about the Maureen Dowd column to which I made reference last week. You know what? It's not merely indefensibly inaccurate, it's also racist. Dowd wrote: "With Obama saying the hour is upon us to elect a black man ... the Democratic primary has become the ultimate nightmare of liberal identity politics. All the victimizations go tripping over each other and colliding, a competition of historical guilts." But, of course, Obama has never said this; he has said just the opposite. Dowd doesn't care. To her, if a black man is running for president, the only thing he can be saying is "saying the hour is upon us to elect a black man." Otherwise, you would think she would at least bother to try to support her statement with some evidence. To her, however, it is apparently self-evident -- just by running, Obama is saying this. (If anyone can find any evidence that Obama has said that he should be elected BECAUSE he is black, I will, of course, apologize to Dowd.) If Dowd wants to pout over the historical guilt she feels, fine. But to put the words in Obama's mouth is morally and journalistically inexcusable. And by the way, it was also racist of Tim Russert to demand that Obama and Colin Powell speak to the words of Harry Belafonte. What the hell do Obama or Powell have to do with Belafonte? And why did Russert only ask this question of two people who happen to share Belefonte's skin color? I don't care if Dowd or Russert consider themselves "racist"; that kind of behavior is racist and needs to be condemned as such, even though I am generally one of the last people to speak in those terms, since I find it poisonous and I tend to feel that all of us harbor racist feelings and impulses in our psyches.*

* And note also that I've not made any mention whatever of the historic relationship of working-class Irish Catholics, or even ex-working-class Irish Catholics, to racism, and no implications whatever that this painful history may have for Russert or Dowd because I am not one to hold individuals responsible for the sins of their compatriots and co-religionists. (And I suppose there is no reason even to mention Geraldine Ferraro (thanks Petey) in this context.)

Hillary Clinton faces an insurmountable lead in the delegate count and is behind in the popular vote. How do her advisers expect her to catch and surpass Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination? Here's a clue: they don't. From this week's New Yorker: "[A] Clinton adviser was more candid about what lies ahead. 'Inside the campaign, people are not idiots,' she told me. 'Everyone can do the math. It isn't like the Obama campaign has some special abacus. We can do these calculations, too. Everyone recognizes how steep this hill is. But you gotta keep your game face on.' "

Email me, Ezra, don't call me.

From George Zornick: The Southern Policy Law Center is out with a new report documenting a rise in the number of hate groups over the past year. The Center notes that 300 anti-immigrant groups formed over the past three years, with about half being classified as "nativist extremist." The report lists a number of hate incidents against immigrants last year, from distributing fliers about "Operation Wetback" to lethal attacks on illegal immigrants.

This is the situation that should be considered when producers and editors allow right-wing personalities to make inflammatory remarks about illegal immigrants that are outside the bounds of civil discussion -- like when MSNBC analyst Pat Buchanan told Fox News viewers that America was "committing suicide" in part because of illegal immigration, or when Michael Savage says of pro-immigrant activists on a hunger strike, "[L]et them fast until they starve to death," or when Neal Boortz suggests gift boxes of "nuclear waste" for immigrants headed back to Mexico, or when Bill O'Reilly highlights acts of violence committed by illegal immigrants and warns about "more dead girls."

This is certainly not to say these commentators are responsible for the rising nativist movement -- there are a number of complex factors, economic and political -- but when they say these hateful things, it's not being broadcast into a vacuum.

Journalistic understatement of the month: "With cable news channels immersed in Mr. Spitzer's misfortunes, the governor suddenly had an image problem." -- "Spitzer Allegations Send Waves of Shock," New York Times.

The everything-is-beautiful approach to business reporting hasn't quite worked out for the Fox Business Channel -- we noted last month that it only has 6,000 viewers during the day -- so it's surprising to see the mother network keeping on with the same eternally optimistic approach. Friday, shortly before oil hit a record-high $109 a barrel, Kevin Kerr, a commenter on Neil Cavuto's Your World, said that the price of oil will drop $80 by May. Not drop to $80, but lower by $80. I wonder if he also invests in flying-pork futures ...

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Charles Troy Tripp
Hometown: Sandy Springs, GA

In your list of media outlets playing suck-up to John McCain, you can add the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which ran a supplement to the Sunday paper on March 9. Apart from a single-paragraph mention of the Keating Five scandal, it was an eight-page mash note written to the senator.

And this from a newspaper regularly accused of being a bastion of liberalism. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution promises to print a similar supplement on the Democratic nominee, when chosen; it will be interesting to see if it is as equally non-critical and vapid.

Name: Michael Green
Hometown: Las Vegas

Dr. A., I send my sympathies to Alabama, but you ought to check out Las Vegas. The Review-Journal, the main daily, is libertarian except when its own ox is gored. The reporting staff hasn't expanded while Las Vegas' population has more than doubled. And the publisher writes a nonsensical weekly column while the editor writes a weekly column, explaining objectivity and good journalism while attacking anyone to the left of him. Meanwhile, the Las Vegas Sun, which used to be a totally separate daily, then entered a JOA with the R-J, is now a section inside. It tries to do better but has limited space and other issues.

The problem here is that most newspaper publishers don't grasp what the publishers of The New York Times long ago understood: you can make money and do good journalism. They tend to worry only about the bottom line. That means catering to those with whom the publisher and editors associate, and they tend to be conservative, and having too few (or too few good) reporters, thereby making in-depth journalism difficult, if not impossible.

Name: Beth Harrison
Hometown: Arlington, VA

Eric, while I feel for Toni Locy, she was USED by the federal government in an attempt to smear an innocent man. She needs to fess up, and fast. I can tell the difference between protecting a whistleblower and this. Her case is more akin to Valerie Plame than an anonymous source exposing government wrongdoing. It is stuff like this that turns the public against journalists, who at times appear FAR TOO COZY with their sources.

Name: Dan Troy
Hometown: Davis


Since Hillary has been helpfully suggesting appropriate jobs for Obama (VP), maybe Obama could generously suggest she would make a great governor of the state of New York?

Name: Mrs. Tarquin Biscuitbarrel
Hometown: Washington, D.C.

When Frank Sinatra was performing to sold-out crowds at the Paramount Theater in New York City in the '40s, the original "swooners" weren't motivated strictly by emotion, if at all. George Evans, Sinatra's imaginative press agent, rounded up a bevy of teenage girls and paid them to scream, faint, and call out as Frank nuzzled the microphone.

How do I know? Hey, I'm no wingnut -- I researched the concept of paid concert swooning in a half-dozen Sinatra biographies. However, the idea of life without George W. Bush ... for that, I'll swoon for free. But in the privacy of my own home.

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