Saturday, July 31, 2010

12 Tips for a Happy Marriage

Go Retro: 12 Tips for a Happy Marriage
Tried-and-true strategies you can borrow from your parents' marriage to enhance your own. By Suzanne Wright WebMD Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Would you take relationship tips from your grandfather or your mom to make your marriage happier?

Modern married couples just might do well to emulate some of the successful strategies of their happily married parents and grandparents -- from sleeping in separate beds to maintaining same-sex friends.

Two newly reissued books originally published in 1913, Don'ts for Husbands and Don'ts for Wives, contain hundreds of tried-and-true tips for a happy marriage. Advice for wives includes such tidbits as "don't let him have to search the house for you after his day's work. Listen for his latch-key and meet him on the threshold," and "don't bother your husband with chatter if he is tired." And for husbands, "don't hesitate to mention the fact when you think that your wife looks exceptionally nice," and "don't scowl or look severe; cultivate a pleasant expression."

"Baby boomers got sold by psychology on the idea of being 'authentic,'" says Terrence Real, therapist, founder of the Relational Life Institute, and co-author of Wonderful Marriage: A Guide to Building a Great Relationship That Will Last a Lifetime. "It's given us permission to treat and speak to each other horribly. Our grandparents knew better."

Could "old-fashioned" practices offer greater longevity, stability, and pleasure to your marriage? Yes, say the relationship experts WebMD spoke to. Read on for ways to incorporate these retro practices into your own relationship.

(What relationship habits (good and bad) did you learn from your parents? Join the discussion on WebMD's Couples Coping: Support Group board.)

Retro Relationship Tip No. 1: Reinstate Civility
"Please," "thank you," "pardon me" and "may I" are phrases that seemed to have all but disappeared from present-day vocabularies, especially with our loved ones.

After spending time with Wonderful Marriage co-authors Lilo and Gerard Leeds, married for more than 50 years, Real believes you should extend your partner the same courtesy you would a stranger. "When speaking to your spouse, don't be rude, be respectful. Use a combination of old-school civility and modern frankness." Additionally, he suggests trying more sweetness and tenderness by saying things more lovingly.

Psychotherapist and author Tina Tessina, PhD, concurs. "Politeness is like a lubricant for your daily interactions; it makes everything go more smoothly."

Joyce Morley-Ball, EdD, a counselor in Decatur, Ga., adds some specifics. "Show her that chivalry is not dead: Pull out her chair, open the door for her, help her over a puddle, give her your coat when it is cold outside, help her to put on her coat. This act of affection shows that she is important and there is a level of respect for her."

Retro Relationship Tip No. 2: Put Pen to Paper
Back before cell phones and instant messaging, people wrote letters of affection to each other, often waiting weeks to receive them.

Retro Relationship Tip No. 2: Put Pen to Paper continued...
Lilia Fallgatter, author of The Most Important Letter You Will Ever Write: How to Tell Loved Ones How You Feel Before It's Too Late, advocates reviving the lost art of letter-writing to increase intimacy in a relationship.

"Love letters exchanged between a couple can strengthen their relationship by helping them to connect to one another on a deeper level," she says via email. "These letters may also become treasured keepsakes that can be revisited and experienced anew each time they are read." You'll reap bonus points if you hand write it on beautiful paper and enclose a cherished memento such as a photograph or ticket stub from a movie you saw together.

Retro Relationship Tip No. 3: Sleep As Singles
It was TV censors who kept sitcom couples in separate beds, but maybe there was wisdom to catching your ZZZs in your own bed.

When one partner snores or is a night owl, tensions can mount in the marital bed, experts say. It may seem like a throwback a la Ricky and Lucy Ricardo, but many couples happily sleep in separate beds; some even maintain separate bedrooms and eliminate tossing and turning and fights over the blanket.

And many couples who are secure enough to seek satisfying slumber on their own report using the regained energy for more ... loving pursuits.

Retro Relationship Tip No. 4: Maintain Same-Sex Friends -- and Interests
Don't for Wives instructs women not to "try to regulate your husband's pleasures and don't be jealous if they don't include you."

It's only been during the past couple of decades that couples expected to share a bulk of their free time together. Retro couples didn't necessarily want to participate in each others hobbies.

Charlotte, N.C., relationship expert Kathy Stafford recommends that couples keep close ties with their same-sex friends throughout marriage. "My parents had separate interests. Dad belonged to a men's club, and Mom belonged to a ladies-only club. This gave them both time to cultivate their own interests, and they weren't totally reliant on each other for their entertainment."

Retro Relationship Tip No. 5: Look Sharp
How did June Cleaver do it? She always looked impeccable when serving dinner to Ward and the kids.

Les Parrott, PhD, and professor of psychology at Seattle Pacific University, says you can inspire romance by dressing up for the occasion. "With our hectic schedules, it's tempting to resort to sweatpants all weekend or immediately changing into a ratty T-shirt after work. Instead, dress up the next time you and your spouse have dinner or plan a night out. Wearing a beautiful dress or a button-down shirt and slacks will be unexpected and make your partner feel special that you took the extra time to look nice. Taking time with your appearance inspires romance and shows your partner you care."

Rhonda Fine, PhD, a board-certified sexologist at the MIAMI Institute, agrees. She tells WebMD via email, "Never let yourself go. Look your best as often as possible -- it will make your partner feel loved and proud."

Retro Relationship Tip No. 6: Don't Go to Bed Angry
Jackie Gleason may have wanted to "send Alice to the moon," but the Honeymooners settled their quarrels before turning in for the night.

The long-married Leeds are proponents of this wisdom. Even if you can't resolve a disagreement before you hit the sheets, you can agree to let the anger go for the night. Remind each other how lucky you are -- even as you disagree -- to have each other to disagree with.

"From the very beginning we decided that we didn't want to go to bed angry," Gerard Leeds writes. "And we seldom go to sleep without kissing each other good night."

Retro Relationship Tip No. 7: Hit the Dance Floor
Ever notice how blissful couples look as they are twirling across the dance floor, entwined in each other's arms like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers?

There is a language of leading and yielding that dance teaches. Paul Bolotovsky is the owner of the Manhattan-based Nightclub Dance Series, an instructional dance series that teaches men and women how to dance in nightclubs. He says that putting on your dancing shoes can put the sizzle back into a relationship that has fizzled.

"The old days of ballroom dancing and swing have a lot to offer today's couples," he tells WebMD in an email interview. "The touch, teamwork, energy, music, anticipation, and companionship are all wonderful byproducts after a night of dancing." Don't fret if you have two left feet; even "contemporary" dancing" is a way to spend fun time together.

Retro Relationship Tip No. 8: Have Couples Fun
Bridge and pinochle were common activities shared by our parents and their friends. So was cocktail hour and formal anniversary celebrations with like-minded couples.

Fine says, "Play board games with other couples! It's fun and a great way to be social with others and playful with one another."

Parrott says it is important to identify friends who are healthy additions to your social circle. "Your goal is to become close with other couples with similar standards and interests who have positive attitudes about marriage and family life. Gravitate toward fun couples who make you feel supported and enhance your active, healthy lifestyle. Friends like these are good for your marriage and overall well-being."

Retro Relationship Tip No. 9: Give Compliments
To give a compliment, you've got to pay attention -- really notice something about someone. Remember how Carol and Mike Brady, the happily married matriarch and patriarch of The Brady Bunch, lavished them on each other?

If it's been a while since you've doled out flattering praise, try it.

Tessina notes that it costs nothing to say, "You look good," "You did a great job," or "I like your shirt." Yet compliments can really reassure and pump up your spouse.

Retro Relationship Tip No. 10: Hold Hands
Back in our parents' time, hand-holding and discreet pecks on the cheek were the tasteful, chaste displays of affection.

Although anything goes these days, Morley-Ball encourages couples to simply hold hands in public. "[It] affirms to everyone your undying affection and love for each other. [It] shows everyone that you are proud to be with each other and you want everyone to know it."

Tessina echoes this sweet sentiment. "There's an actual electrical connection that passes between us when we touch. You can use that electrical connection to provide juice in your marriage. Give each other little pats and gentle touches and hold hands frequently when you're walking or driving and you'll keep the energy -- and the sweetness -- flowing between you."

Retro Relationship Tip No. 11: Cut Back on Complaints
Yesteryear's couples had a comic reputation for nagging -- think of The Dick Van Dyke Show -- yet, in truth, many partners often held their tongues.

Real thinks a stumbling block in modern marriages is a constant soundtrack of discord. "Our generation thinks that closeness comes from sharing everything, letting each other know how miserable you are. But it doesn't motivate me to treat you better."

He says that relaying every annoyance is a bad idea. Instead, he recommends you pick your battles. "Not everything needs to be addressed."

Retro Relationship Tip No. 12: Try Thoughtful Little Acts
Back in the day, with fewer stresses, limited technology and less multitasking, couples were more "present" in their relationships.

"The presence of little, daily thoughtful acts showed caring and appreciation for one another," says licensed clinical social worker Toni Coleman. "Things like making breakfast for your spouse or packing their lunch, bringing them coffee in the morning or a drink or glass of wine at the end of the day, warming up their car or putting their keys and other personal effects on the hall table, ready to go."

Real writes that sustaining a happy relationship, such as the Leeds', requires careful thought, a generous spirit and hard work.

"There's a lot of wisdom [to be gained] from our parents or grandparents, he says."They had companionship marriage, but we've raised the bar -- we want romance, great sex, and more intimacy. We can reconcile these two approaches. With some of the gentleness and graciousness of previous generations with the technology and savvy of today's marriages."

Rice ditches Christianity

Novelist Anne Rice ditches Christianity for Christ

Rice says she's quit being a Christian but she's hanging on to Christ.
She's just fed up with his followers.

The author, whose vampire books (i.e. Interview with a Vampire) were huge sellers long before Twilight and whose return to her childhood Catholicism dominated her more recent works, posted a series of comments on Facebook (confirmed by her publisher as authentic, according to Associated Press).

For those who care, and I understand if you don't: Today I quit being a Christian. I'm out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being "Christian" or to being part of Christianity. It's simply impossible for me to "belong" to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I've tried. I've failed. I'm an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.

The mother of novelist Christopher Rice, who is gay, goes on to say:

I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.

In a USA TODAY profile of Anne and Christopher, Rice talked about growing up Catholic, drifting away as a teen and marrying an atheist. After the death of a young daughter, she began writing her vampire books,

...about lost souls looking for answers, so in a sense I was always on this journey back. I do get people saying, "How can you be such a fool to believe in God?" I sense many are young Goth kids who feel abandoned. I just say, look, you're looking for the same things that I was, transcendence and redemption. I found what my characters were looking for.

Even now, as she tosses off organized religion, Rice posts that she's still

... an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God ... Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been, or might become.


Reaction from religion commentators is all over the blogosphere since Rice's Facebook blast at Catholicism. Here's just a sampling:

The United Church of Christ rushed up with a Facebook page of its own, telling Rice all the ways "You'd like the UCC." The Rev. Geoffrey Black, the UCC's general minister and president, says,

Many in the United Church of Christ can understand and appreciate her insistence that she must follow a God of love, justice and inclusion.

And Elizabeth Scalia, blogging as The Anchoress at the Catholic journal First Things, does a point by point post refuting Rice's jabs at the Catholicism. Scalia writes:

Anne Rice wants to do the Life-in-Christ on her own, while saying "Yes" to the worldly world and its values. She seems not to realize that far from being an Institution of No, the church is a giant and eternal urging toward "Yes," that being a "yes" toward God -- whose ways are not our ways, and who draws all to Himself, in the fullness of time -- rather than a "yes" to ourselves.

Can you reject religion and hang on to God?

BIG AL cleared by the massage hag!

AL GORE CASE “closed” by district attorney in Portland, Ore., and ruled “not appropriate for criminal prosecution”-- “Deficiencies in the case … Forensic testing of pants retained by [Molly] Hagerty as possible evidence are negative for the presence of seminal fluid … Ms. Hagerty has not provided as repeatedly requested medical records she claims are related to the case … Ms. Hagerty failed a polygraph examination … It appears Ms. Hagerty was paid by the National Enquirer for her story … When asked by detectives if she was paid by the Enquirer for her story Ms. Hagerty refused to answer the question. Ms. Hagerty's entertainment/media lawyer [Kohel] Haver also refused to answer any questions about payment … Mr. Gore voluntarily met with detectives and denied all of the allegations.”

Friday, July 30, 2010


Rep. Weiner Gone Wild On House Floor

Much of the debate on the floor of the House of Representatives is about as lively and entertaining as watching paint dry, but the blistering rant by Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-NY, on Thursday night was one of the most animated diatribes seen and heard on Capitol Hill in recent years.

As the clock ticked towards 9pm, Weiner launched into a furious spiel directed at Republicans who moments earlier had shot down a bill that would have provided health care benefits for first responders and workers at Ground Zero following the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

“Great courage to wait until all members have already spoken and then stand up and wrap your arms around procedure,” Weiner said sarcastically, mocking GOP lawmakers before he let loose on them. “We see it in the United States Senate every single day where members say, ‘We want amendments, we want debate, we want amendments, but we’re still a no.’ And then we stand up and say, ‘If only we had a different process, we’d vote yes.’”

“You vote yes if you believe yes!” Weiner roared. “You vote in favor of something if you believe it's the right thing! If you believe it's the wrong thing, you vote no!”

The congressman was then interrupted by Rep. Peter King, a Republican from New York, drawing a swift and scathing rebuke from Weiner.

“I will not yield to the gentleman and the gentleman will observe regular order,” he screamed at King. “The gentleman will observe regular order!”

“The gentleman thinks if he gets up and yells he’s going to intimidate people into believing he’s right,” Weiner yelled. “He is wrong. The gentleman is wrong! The gentleman is providing cover for his colleagues rather than doing the right thing.”

“It's Republicans wrapping their arms around Republicans rather than doing the right thing on behalf of the heroes. It is a shame, a shame! If you believe this is a bad idea to provide health care, then vote no. But don't give me the cowardly view that if only it was a different procedure…”

Weiner was then interrupted a second time by King.

“The gentleman will observe regular order and sit down,” demanded Weiner, pointing and gesturing at King. “I will not – the gentleman will sit! The gentleman is correct in sitting.”

“I will not, I will not stand here and listen to my colleagues and say, ‘If only I had a different procedure that allows us to stall, stall, and then vote no.’ Instead of standing up and defending your colleagues and voting no on this humane bill, you should urge them to vote yes, something the gentleman has not done,” Weiner concluded, pounding on the podium as he wrapped up his outraged rant.

And with that, Democrats in the chamber delivered a round of applause for their fired-up colleague.


Media Matters: Conservatives' perpetual dishonesty machine

Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh regularly tout their supposed accuracy and often claim their critics never prove them wrong. Fittingly, this in itself is a complete falsehood. Limbaugh and Beck are wrong for a living, but have been rewarded for their perpetual wrongness by assuming the role of the two most important cogs in the conservative media.

Every day, the conservative noise machine -- Fox News, Beck, Limbaugh, and other prominent conservative talk radio hosts and bloggers -- hurl false accusations with the hopes of damaging the Obama administration, Democrats, and progressives politically. Make no mistake: this is the primary motivation for the majority of the stories they promote. Pesky things like "facts" and "reality" are, at best, a trivial concern.

Often, these attacks are baseless, easily debunked, and laughably absurd -- yet conservative media outlets rarely (if ever) offer corrections when they are proven wrong. Instead they either double down on their attacks or simply ignore that they were wrong in the first place and move on to the next overhyped bit of nonsense.

While it may seem like a minor story in the grand scheme of things, one example from this week perfectly exemplifies the utter lack of journalistic standards endemic to conservative media.

Early this week, conservatives were in their usual panic mode over what they claimed was evidence that the Obama administration "backed" or "preferred" the release of Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the terrorist better known as the Lockerbie bomber. As we pointed out, reports -- often the same reports these conservatives were linking to in order to make their arguments -- indicated that the administration wanted Megrahi to remain imprisoned, with the stipulation that if he were to be released, he should remain in Scotland rather than risk him receiving an "extremely inappropriate" "welcoming reception" upon being transferred to Libya.

Fox News twisted reality to claim that the "U.S. Backed Freedom, Not Prison, for Bomber." Matt Drudge splashed a huge headline across his website announcing that the "White House Backed Release Of Lockerbie Bomber." Pam Geller -- whose deranged rantings have earned her frequent appearances on Fox News and bylines on Andrew Breitbart's "Big" websites, Tucker Carlson's Daily Caller, and the American Thinker -- called for a "special investigation" and a "charge of treason" for Obama.

Rush Limbaugh -- while bragging, as he often does, that he was "executing assigned host duties flawlessly" with "zero mistakes" --claimed that Obama "backed the release" of the Lockerbie bomber because he wanted to "make nice with the Muslim world."

Late Monday, when the State Department released the administration's correspondence with the Scottish Ministry of Justice, it confirmed in unambiguous terms that the administration was "not prepared to support Megrahi's release on compassionate release or bail," and that "it would be most appropriate for Megrahi to remain imprisoned for the entirety of his sentence."

So, after this story completely fell apart, did conservative media figures correct the record and let their readers/listeners/viewers know that the administration did not "support" or "prefer" the release of the Lockerbie bomber?

Of course not.

Conservative blogger Jim Hoft -- whose ongoing popularity and influence in conservative media says a lot about their complete indifference to accuracy and credibility -- linked to the letter and proclaimed that the administration "preferred" his release. This was akin to pointing at the ground and saying "this is the sky."

Fox Nation, almost 48 hours after the story had completely fallen apart, still had the following headline and image on their front page: checj their site.

And you can be sure that in a few months, whenever Sean Hannity or anyone else in the noise machine decides to twist a news story to claim that the Obama administration is "weak on terror," they'll point to the time the administration supposedly "preferred the release of the Lockerbie bomber" in order to buttress their point.

It's a perpetual dishonesty machine.

If this were an isolated incident, perhaps it would be possible to (partially) excuse conservative media outlets for their shameless performance "covering" this story. But as we detailed this week, the right-wing media routinely promote fake stories (for example, the epic freak-out over the imaginary Obama proposal to "ban sport fishing.")

For another good example of how the perpetual dishonesty machine works, have a look at this segment from Tuesday's Fox & Friends. In it, Glenn Beck, Steve Doocy, and Peter Johnson Jr. seized on reports of the U.K. supposedly "admit[ting] its socialized health care is a mess" in order to attack health care reform. They rehashed some old favorites from conservatives' misinformation campaign about health care reform, claiming that we "modeled" reform on the British system and fear mongered about imaginary "death panels." Neither of these attacks were true when they appeared last year, they weren't true this week, and they won't be true the next time Fox's hosts bring them up.

This pattern is undeniable, and at this point is just expected behavior for the conservative media. The larger problem is that "mainstream" outlets still frequently treat garbage from conservative media figures as newsworthy, and ombudsmen at major newspapers like The Washington Post regularly chastise their colleagues for not seizing on conservative nonsense faster.

It says a lot about the state of the media when Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Matt Drudge, and other prominent media conservatives can be caught pushing a blatantly false story, offer no correction, and have their behavior met with a collective shrug. Conservative media outlets retain their unfortunate power and influence over the public discourse because they are able to lie largely without consequence.

They did it all this week, they did it all last week, and they'll do it again next week.

Dishonest damage control: Shirley Sherrod edition
Though conservative media outlets mostly avoid accountability for their shameless dishonesty, occasionally, one of their overhyped "scandals" blows up in such epic fashion that they are forced to publicly defend themselves. Fittingly, their defenses often rest on provable falsehoods.

In the wake of Shirley Sherrod's firing and (attempted) rehiring, Fox News, Andrew Breitbart, and conservative media figures have transitioned into damage control mode, a large, shameful part of which entails attacking Sherrod as a radical Marxist race-baiter.

While Breitbart (whom Sherrod announced plans to sue this week) deserves a hefty dose of criticism for revealing yet again that he is a dishonest hack, it's worth taking a closer look at Fox News' role in this story.

Fox originally defended their journalistic integrity by unequivocally stating that they did not cover the story prior to Sherrod's resignation. Among the Fox personalities making this argument were Dana Perino, Steve Doocy, Glenn Beck, and James Rosen. As we pointed out repeatedly, Fox News did cover the story prior to her resignation on both and, and Bill O'Reilly taped his segment calling for Sherrod's resignation before she stepped down.

Fox News VP Michael Clemente eventually conceded to Politico that Fox had covered the story online before Sherrod resigned, which he blamed on a "breakdown in the system." Give me a break -- Fox should not get a pass on this one. How low a bar has Fox set in terms of journalistic responsibility that they think a legitimate defense for their behavior is saying "well, only two of our websites and our top-rated TV host planned to run with this story before we got the facts straight, so we mostly did a good job." Really?

The fact that Sherrod happened to resign before O'Reilly's segment aired has absolutely no bearing on the lack of journalisticresponsibility inherent in O'Reilly's segment in the first place. And Fox's online coverage of the story, coupled with their past transgressions, seem to indicate not that there was a "breakdown in the system," but that the "system" doesn't even exist.

Glenn Beck's dangerous game
On July 18, an apparently deranged ex-convict named Byron Williams packed his truck with guns and allegedly set out to kill employees at both the ACLU and the Tides Foundation in the hopes that his actions would "start a revolution." Williams' mother indicated that her son was angry because of his unemployment and "what's happening to our country." According to her, Williams watched television news and was upset by "the way Congress was railroading through all these left-wing agenda items." Sound familiar?

While the ACLU has long been a bogeyman for conservatives, the Tides Foundation is far more obscure and hasn't earned nearly as much attention from the right-wing media. There is, however, one media figure who has made the little-known Tides Foundation a focal point of his attacks: Fox News' Glenn Beck.

As we detailed, Beck has repeatedly demonized the Tides Foundation on his Fox News program - referencing the organization at least thirty times by our count. Beck often includes Tides in his bizarre conspiracy theories, and has referred to them as a "shady organization" that is a "major source of revenue for some of the most extreme groups on the left" and wants to "warp your children's brains."

In the wake of the attempted attack, Beck has stood by his attacks on Tides, going so far as to brag about "turning the light of day" on Tides while also pointing to their inclusion on his blackboard as "the first time that I really realized its success."

Beck's denial of any responsibility for this incident is complicated by his almost-daily use of overtly violent rhetoric. Among many, many other examples, Beck has:

Suggested Obama is pushing America toward civil war and deliberately "trying to destroy the country."
Capped two weeks of violent fear mongering about progressives by warning that when their attempts at a "soft revolution" fail, eventually progressives "just start shooting people."
Said the "people around the president" support "armed insurrection" and "bombing."
Repeatedly insinuated that the Obama administration will kill him.
Used a quote from Jefferson to launch into a warning about coming "rivers of blood."
Compared himself to "Israeli Nazi hunters" and announced that "to the day I die, I am going to be a progressive hunter."
Included in his advice to Liberty University grads that they should "shoot to kill," and that graduates "have a responsibility" tospeak out, or "blood...will be on our hands."
Informed viewers that the "world is on edge" and said that "those who survive" will "stand in the truth" and "listen."
Said that some progressive groups don't have "a problem with blood in the streets."
And just today, Beck claimed the present day will seem like good times "when we're behind barbed wire and just eating rock soup."

Despite the fact that he routinely suggests progressives are going to kill or imprison his viewers and listeners, Beck tries to thread the needle by urging his followers not to resort to violence.

As Media Matters' Matt McLaughlin asked this week, what does it say about Beck's rhetoric and his audience that he feels it necessary to tell his followers not to kill people?

This weekly wrap-up was compiled by Media Matters' Ben Dimiero

Thursday, July 29, 2010

In American politics, stupidity is the name of the game

E.J. Dionne Jr. Washington Post

Can a nation remain a superpower if its internal politics are incorrigibly stupid?

Start with taxes. In every other serious democracy, conservative political parties feel at least some obligation to match their tax policies with their spending plans. David Cameron, the new Conservative prime minister in Britain, is a leading example.

He recently offered a rather brutal budget that includes severe cutbacks. I have doubts about some of them, but at least Cameron cared enough about reducing his country's deficit that alongside the cuts he also proposed an increase in the value-added tax, from 17.5 percent to 20 percent. Imagine: a fiscal conservative who really is a fiscal conservative.

That could never happen here because the fairy tale of supply-side economics insists that taxes are always too high, especially on the rich.

This is why Democrats will be fools if they don't try to turn the Republicans' refusal to raise taxes on families earning more than $250,000 a year into an election issue. If Democrats go into a headlong retreat on this, they will have no standing to govern.

The simple truth is that the wealthy in the United States -- the people who have made almost all the income gains in recent years -- are undertaxed compared with everyone else.

Consider two reports from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. One, issued last month, highlighted findings from the Congressional Budget Office showing that "the gaps in after-tax income between the richest 1 percent of Americans and the middle and poorest fifths of the country more than tripled between 1979 and 2007."

The other, from February, used Internal Revenue Service data to show that the effective federal income tax rate for the 400 taxpayers with the very highest incomes declined by nearly half in just over a decade, even as their pre-tax incomes have grown five times larger.

The study found that the top 400 households "paid 16.6 percent of their income in federal individual income taxes in 2007, down from 30 percent in 1995." We are talking here about truly rich people. Using 2007 dollars, it took an adjusted gross income of at least $35 million to make the top 400 in 1992, and $139 million in 2007.

The notion that when we are fighting two wars, we're not supposed to consider raising taxes on such Americans is one sign of a country that's no longer serious. Why do so few foreign policy hawks acknowledge that if they lack the gumption to ask taxpayers to finance the projection of American military power, we won't be able to project it in the long run?

And if we are unwilling to have a full-scale debate over whether nation-building abroad is getting in the way of nation-building at home, we will accomplish neither.

Our discussion of the economic stimulus is another symptom of political irrationality. It's entirely true that the $787 billion recovery package passed last year was not big enough to keep unemployment from rising above 9 percent.

But this is not actually an argument against the stimulus. On the contrary, studies showing that the stimulus created or saved as many as 3 million jobs are very hard to refute. It's much easier to pretend that all this money was wasted, although the evidence is overwhelming that we should have stimulated more.

Then there's the structure of our government. Does any other democracy have a powerful legislative branch as undemocratic as the U.S. Senate?

When our republic was created, the population ratio between the largest and smallest state was 13 to 1. Now, it's 68 to 1. Because of the abuse of the filibuster, 41 senators representing less than 11 percent of the nation's population can, in principle, block action supported by 59 senators representing more than 89 percent of our population. And you wonder why it's so hard to get anything done in Washington?

I'm a chronic optimist about America. But we are letting stupid politics, irrational ideas on fiscal policy and an antiquated political structure undermine our power.

We need a new conservatism in our country that is worthy of the name. We need liberals willing to speak out on the threat our daft politics poses to our influence in the world. We need moderates who do more than stick their fingers in the wind to calculate the halfway point between two political poles.

And, yes, we need to reform a Senate that has become an embarrassment to our democratic claims.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

This why we need(?) more guns in the USA!?

Brothers Aged 12 and 10 Found Dead in Possible Murder-Suicide
Cops Say The Boys' Father Was the Owner of the Gun Used in the Shootings

July 28, 2010 —

The backyard shooting deaths of two young brothers, only 10 and 12 years old, are believed to have been the result of a double suicide or a murder-suicide, according to police.

The apparent weapon that was used was a handgun that belonged to their father.

A family member discovered Bryan Gonzalez, 12, and his younger brother Christian, 10, just after noon on Tuesday, according to San Bernardino County sheriff's spokeswoman Cindy Bachman.

Bachman said that the boys were pronounced dead on the scene. An official autopsy report is expected later this week.

"It remains to be a death investigation and the investigators have assured us that they're not looking for any suspects," said Bachman. "They said it's very likely that this incident involved only the two boys."

"However, the investigators want to take the time with the case and they have not completely ruled out the possibility of foul play, but they have assured us they aren't looking for any suspects," said Bachman.

The boys were found in a ravine on the Chino Hills, Calif., ranch where their family lived in a double mobile home, according to Bachman. A handgun that was found at the scene is confirmed to have belonged to their father.

It was not immediately clear whether the gun had been locked up or where it was usually stored, she said.

"I've never heard of anything like this," said Bachman. "It's unusual to say the least. It's very disturbing."

"I mean, they were just 10 and 12. We don't even think of children at this age of [being capable] of hurting themselves," she said. "They were in elementary school."

The brothers were students at Butterfield Ranch Elementary school, located just a mile from where they lived. On Tuesday night, classmates and friends constructed a makeshift memorial for the boys .

Why Do Young Kids Kill?
"It's heartbreaking," Cameron Rogers, a classmate who had traveled to Disneyland with the older of the two brothers last month, told ABC's Los Angeles affiliate KABC . "But he's in a better place right now."

Authorities said that the two boys had lived at the mobile home with their mother and father. There is no number listed for the home.

Forensic psychologist N.G. Berrill, who has not treated the Gonzalez family, told ABC News that he wonders what was going on inside the home to make these young boy feel so helpless.

"When you get kids who are feeling that overwhelmed at that age and resort to such graphically violent means to kill themselves or one another, it raises a lot of very serious questions," said Berrill.

"Whatever was going on was sufficient to literally overwhelm two siblings and have them reach the decision of killing themselves," he said. "That is such an enormous decision for a kid, but it's particularly sad because we know that they don't understand the full scope or ramifications of what they're doing."

Berrill said that unlike adults, who can think about the future and might consider reasons why not to kill themselves, children focus primarily on present day.

"Adults have enough experience that they can say 'this is a terrible time but I have strengh to live through it and find remedies,'" said Berrill. "When you're a kid, you live a lot in the here and now."

"That's why I think that their circumstances had to be so desperate because they saw no alternative," he said.

"Their lack of maturity makes it that much more tragic."

Saturday, July 24, 2010

For Obama, race means repeated distractions

Essay: For Obama, race means repeated distractions
By STEVEN R. HURST Associated Press

Right when President Barack Obama should have been making political hay over big-deal legislative triumphs, race once again blew in with a storm of distraction.

Obama and his administration have proved to be one of the most deliberate, highly disciplined in recent history. Whether you approve or disapprove of his policies, political missteps have been rare.

Yet for a second time, a government led by America's first black president embarrassed itself with a hair-trigger reaction on race.

In the grand sweep of presidential history, both cases probably will be lost. Still, they gnaw, unseen, like termites on the foundation of Obama's administration.

As hard as the president has tried to downplay race, he knows he's under special scrutiny for just that reason, a lingering social hangover from this country's profoundly troubling history of enslaving, then segregating blacks.

In the latest incident, a right-wing blogger posted a truncated video of a black woman who worked at the Department of Agriculture in Georgia and was speaking to a meeting of the NAACP.

In the edited portion of the video that was first available, Shirley Sherrod seemed to have been endorsing get-even discrimination against whites. Fox News jumped on the story, which also got wide distribution on other cable outlets.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack ordered Sherrod fired. The NAACP condemned her comments.

But it wasn't long before the entirety of Sherrod's message got out. She was speaking of her own mistake, of having learned a lesson of redemption.

The White House apologized. Vilsack said he was sorry and offered Sherrod a new job. Obama called Sherrod on Thursday to express his regret.

He said he ordered "my team" to make sure "that we're focusing on doing the right thing instead of what looks to be politically necessary at that very moment."

Had the administration waited a day, it could have avoided all the embarrassment and apologizing. In fact the attack on Sherrod would have turned back on those behind it, seen as an example of nasty extremism.

The White House, however, didn't wait. So the storm engulfed the better part of a work week that otherwise might have focused on celebrating Obama's most recent legislative victory — financial regulatory reform — and his party's defeat of a Senate GOP filibuster that delayed additional payments for the jobless.

It took time away from Obama's efforts to revive the economy and reduce the near-10 percent unemployment rate.

Nearly a year ago to the day, Obama also tripped up on the race issue. That stumble, seven months into his presidency, distracted the White House when time might have better been spent pushing for Obama's health care overhaul.

Within the next month, opponents had managed, inaccurately, to convey the impression that his plan included death panels for the old and sick, amounted to socialist redistribution of wealth and rationed health care.

While Obama managed to stand slightly aside from the Sherrod case, he was at the center of last summer's brouhaha over the arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr., a black professor at Harvard University, by Sgt. James Crowley, a white police sergeant in Cambridge, Mass.

Crowley was sent to investigate a possible burglary at Gates' home. Although he determined Gates was in his own home and not a burglar, he arrested Gates anyway after their encounter grew heated.

The charges were quickly dropped, but Obama's remarks at a news conference — he said the police had "acted stupidly" in arresting Gates — inflamed the debate. The president later said he should have expressed his concerns with different language.

That's when he invited Crowley, who steadfastly denied race was a factor in the arrest, and Gates, a friend of Obama's, to the White House to thrash things out — face to face — over a beer.

Conservative media outlets and bloggers also have tried to win points against Obama with complaints about the Justice Department's handling of two New Black Panther Party members who allegedly threatened voters at a Philadelphia polling place on the day Obama was elected.

A criminal investigation into the episode was dropped by the Bush administration, but the Obama Justice Department obtained a narrower civil court order against the conduct than Bush officials had sought.

The issue of racism and right-wing attacks dogged Obama through his historic run for the presidency, especially his relations with Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the pastor of Obama's Chicago church.

Obama finally cut ties with Wright, but he stood fast with his preacher for a long time.

That was Obama the candidate, before he became a president ensnared in a political climate of extreme partisanship and a news cycle that moves at nearly warp-speed.

That explains why Vilsack "jumped the gun," Obama said, "partly because we now live in this media culture where something goes up on YouTube or a blog and everybody scrambles."

It's time for everyone to take a deep breath, the president said, "to take our time and think these issues through."

Friday, July 23, 2010

Media Matters: "Context is everything"

Media Matters: "Context is everything":
Why you should (still) never trust Andrew Breitbart

Don't trust Andrew Breitbart.

It's a phrase Media Matters has been repeating ever since the conservative web publisher burst onto the national stage by coordinating the release of deceptively edited tapes purporting to show "illegal activities" and criminality by ACORN employees.

Breitbart's ACORN claims fell apart: after the media firestorm died down, multiple investigations found no evidence of criminality in the "severely edited" ACORN tapes. In other words, countless hours of hysterical news coverage did little more than promote meaningless videos, while propping up Breitbart as the leader of conservative new media journalism.

A similar debacle played out again this week, as Breitbart released another bogus tape, this time smearing (then-) USDA official Shirley Sherrod. The video, Breitbart boasted in a Monday post on, showed "evidence of racism coming from a federal appointee and NAACP award recipient" "against a white farmer," and that Sherrod's "federal duties are managed through the prism of race and class distinctions." Breitbart opened his post: "Context is everything."

Fox News and the conservative media initially lauded Breitbart's "great work." Fox Business host David Asman hailed the video from "our friend" as the "triumph of Andrew Breitbart over the establishment." Unfortunately, even members of the Obama administration gave it credence and forced the resignation of Sherrod.

Breitbart's triumph, however, was short-lived. As conservative blogger Allahpundit wondered when the video was released, "Doesn't it sound like Sherrod was building to a 'but' before the clip cut out?" The alleged victims of Sherrod's racism, Roger and Eloise Spooner, told CNN that those who were smearing her as racist "don't know what they're talking about," and that Sherrod did "her level best" to help them successfully save their farm. And on Tuesday evening, the NAACP released the full video of Sherrod remarks, which exonerated her and showed that Breitbart's descriptions were false. Sherrod was speaking about her actions 24 years ago (not during the Obama administration), and was telling a tale about learning that she needed "to work to help poor people" regardless of whether they were black, white, or Hispanic.

Breitbart, apparently operating without having "slept in 40 hours," doubled down on his heavily edited clip and even bizarrely suggested that the farmer's wife was a plant. Breitbart also offered an avalanche of false claims about his original story, like his scoop wasn't actually "about Shirley Sherrod," and that the real story is racism in the NAACP, as evidenced by supposed "applauding as [Sherrod] described how she maltreated the white farmer." Throughout his flailings, Breitbart never offered an apology to Sherrod.

Fox News similarly circled the wagons. On Tuesday, Special Report anchor Bret Baier absurdly claimed, "Fox News didn't even do the story" on Sherrod. On Thursday, Fox & Friends' Steve Doocy claimed that the "Fox News Channel" didn't touch the story "until she had actually quit." A Los Angeles Times article that day reported that Fox News senior vice president Michael Clemente defended the channel's coverage by claiming he "urged the staff to first get the facts and obtain comment from Sherrod before going on air." However, Fox News commentators ran with the story before getting all "the facts," and reporters for published a story based on the deceptively edited video before Sherrod resigned and without comment from her.

Even after the facts came out, Fox News personalities continued to attack Sherrod. Juliet Huddy claimed that Sherrod's "incriminating" "present tense" statements still "raise questions" about whether she should be federally employed. Glenn Beck said that Sherrod "obviously has some sort of Marxist or redistributionist qualities to her." Dick Morris said employing Sherrod is like "having Reverend Wright on staff." And Fox News contributor Monica Crowley suggested Sherrod may be among "radicals, racists, socialists" in Obama administration.

Glenn Beck, Michael Savage, and Rush Limbaugh even ludicrously speculated that Breitbart and the conservative media may have been the victim of a "set-up" "orchestrated" by the White House.

After Breitbart's implosion, some -- but certainly not all -- in the media correctly noted that the case illustrates that Breitbart has no credibility. MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell said, "I think [Breitbart] has lost his standing to present videos to the country at any time." CNN's Anderson Cooper said that Breitbart's actions are "a classic example of what is wrong with our national discourse." Politico's Ben Smith noted, "Breitbart's sites now have a growing credibility problem."

In the end, Breitbart is Breitbart. This was not his first dishonest video, and it won't be his last.

The question is whether Fox "friend" Breitbart's scoops about supposed misdeeds will still be given prominent news coverage, and taken as fact. As's First Read wrote, "you would have thought that all of us in the ACTUAL news business would have learned this lesson about Andrew Breitbart and his protégés: They're not out for the truth; they're out for scalps."

Fox News anchor Shep Smith, frequently the station's lone voice of reason, may have been speaking to his colleagues (once again) when he said on Wednesday that he declined to run the story "because of the history of videos on the site where it was posted. In short, we did not and do not trust the source."

The way to avoid another ACORN or Sherrod debacle is simple: Don't trust Andrew Breitbart.

Fox News' tea party boosterism backfires
Breitbart hasn't been the only Fox News friend to have a bad week.

On July 14, Tea Party Express spokesman Mark Williams wrote a "newly discovered letter" from NAACP president "Precious Ben Jealous" to Abraham Lincoln which portrayed blacks as lazy and Jealous as supporting the repeal of civil-rights laws so that "massa" would again take care of blacks. The letter was subsequently condemned by both Republicans and Democrats as offensive, and led to the expulsion of the TPE from the National Tea Party Federation. Today, Williams "completely cut his ties to the Tea Party Express" and resigned.

The uproar marks a low-point for the relatively new Tea Party Express after it shot onto the national stage thanks to Fox News (sound familiar?).

In August 2009, when the group kicked off its first tour, the TPE became the most visible tea party organization on Fox News, appearing on countless programs. Front and center was Mark Williams, then-chairman of the group. Fox News regularly gave viewers the dates and locations of rallies, with one reporter saying she wanted "to let folks know" their schedule so "they can be a part" of events. Another "reporter" was embedded on the group's bus and gave such fawning reports that a colleague called him a "Tea Party groupie." Fox News offered similarly positive coverage for the group's second and third tours in the fall and spring.

As Media Matters documented, Fox News has openly admitted being the voice of the opposition against the administration. It was natural, then, that Fox News fostered the tea party movement, and defended it from criticism for being pseudo-grassroots and pushing incendiary and racist rhetoric. But if Fox News' intention was to present the tea parties as an independent and reasonable voice for fiscal conservatism, they partnered with the wrong group.

Politico's Ken Vogel noted that the Tea Party Express was started by Republican operatives with the intent of cashing in on the tea party movement. Vogel also reported that "even before the Express launched, [Tea Party Express's coordinator Joe] Wierzbicki worried about having Williams -- along with another PAC figure, Deborah Johns -- as movement figureheads. 'Sure wish Mark and Deborah were just a bit more sophisticated and experienced and 'presentable,' Wierzbicki wrote to a colleague last summer."

Indeed, Williams appears to come from the Ann Coulter School of Punditry, where graduates are purposely controversial in order to garner publicity and money. In recent years, Williams has claimed: Presidents Obama and Carter are "Nazis"; the NAACP makes "more money off of race than any slave trader ever"; Allah is a "monkey god"; Obama is "Our Half White, Racist President"; Obama is an "Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug turned anointed"; Obama is "engaging in nothing different than did mass murders like Stalin and Pol Pot"; Obama's raping the country; Obama wants death panels like Nazi experiments; voting Democrat may result in a nuclear holocaust; President Carter is a "creepy little faggot"; and -- deep breath -- Obama lacks a valid birth certificate.

Williams, who's received tens of thousands of dollars in "consulting" fees from Our Country Deserves Better PAC, appears to enjoy the attention, telling Dave Weigel in April: "I'm accustomed to being a pin cushion and a lightning rod ... That's one of the things I bring to the table." (Spouting hateful remarks has also earned Williams frequent guest spots on CNN, where Williams has defended his indefensible remarks -- then been invited back anyway.)

Yet as indicated this week, other members of the tea party movement don't enjoy the attention -- especially in the wake of the NAACP resolution condemning racist elements within the tea parties. Ironically, the very spokesman propped up by Fox News to speak for the tea parties proved that the movement has racist elements within it.

It really hasn't been a good week for Fox News friends Mark Williams and Andrew Breitbart.

This weekly wrap-up was compiled by Media Matters research fellow Eric Hananoki.

The Age of Rage

POLITICO John F. Harris and Jim VandeHei

Here’s the optimistic case: The embarrassment of the Shirley Sherrod story — with its toxic convergence of partisan combat and media recklessness — will be a tipping point. It will remind journalists and politicians alike that personal reputations and professional credibility are at stake, and a bit more restraint and responsibility are in order.

Here’s the realistic case: Get ready for more of the same.

Every president since the first George Bush has delivered an inaugural address including as a main theme an appeal for more civility and less cynical conflict. Barack Obama is the fourth in a row to be thwarted in this mission — frustrated by forces that have grown far stronger over the past two decades and aren’t abating any time soon.

That is because there are two big incentives that drive behavior at the intersection where politics meets media. One is public attention. The other is money. Experience shows there’s a lot more of both to be had by engaging in extreme partisan behavior.

The Sherrod controversy is only a somewhat exaggerated version of the new normal. The usual signatures of this new breed of incentive-driven uproar were also on display in another of this week’s controversies, over JournoList, the defunct liberal listserv.

Both stories featured sharp personal attacks against political opponents. Both revolved around indignant claims from people claiming to be victims of bias and the corrupt ideological agendas of their opponents — all the while stoking and profiting from the bias and conspiratorial instincts of partisans on their own side.

Responsible people in power and in the mainstream media are only beginning to grapple with this new environment — in which facts hardly matter except as they can be used as weapon or shield in a nonstop ideological war. Do you dive into the next fact-lite partisan outrage — or do you stay out and risk looking slow, stupid or irrelevant? No one is close to figuring it out.

So, despite a new burst of hand-wringing and talk of “lessons learned,” many commentators predicted in interviews that the situation involving Shirley Sherrod would soon enough be regarded as merely another footnote in the Age of Rage.

Robert Thompson, a media analyst at Syracuse University, said the demands of a 24-7 news culture were the main engine of the Sherrod case. When conservative provocateur Andrew Breitbart posted a video of Sherrod seeming to engage in reverse racism, it was inevitable that other media would follow and politicians would react — never mind that the video soon turned out to be grossly misleading.

“I don’t think the fact that it unfolded in the way it did is going to make them gun-shy about it the next time,” Thompson said. “Their business is breaking news. You put news out as it is available. You don’t wait to contextualize it.”

Conservative commentator David Frum agreed: “I think everyone will for a little while be more cautious about thinly sourced material and clips that look edited,” he said. “The effect may even endure for some time. But beyond that, the imperatives that drive the modern media business are going to remain in place, and it’s hard to imagine that this incident — which after all has had no consequences for any of the people who are at fault — will persuade anyone that they need to do anything differently.”

And a more liberal voice, linguist and author Deborah Tannen, largely echoed this conclusion, though putting the emphasis on conservative ideological activists as much as on the new media environment.

“Why, exactly, did this relatively obscure speech surface in the first place?” Tannen asked. “Only because there is a cadre of people combing the Internet to uncover — or create — something that could damage the administration. This is one of the saddest aspects of the story. Even as we are busy mulling over this one, they've no doubt moved on, giddily seeking the next.”

Situations like the Sherrod case are sometimes explained with the voguish word “polarization.” But this alone doesn’t explain it. Divisions over race, class and war are nothing new in American history. Politics these days does not include riots or lynchings, as in the 1960s or 1930s, or canings on the Senate floor, as in the 19th century. What is different these days is the emergence of an industry — a political-media complex — for which ideological conflict is central to the business model.

Fox News has soared on the strength of commentators like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, both of whom fanned the Sherrod story on the strength of the misleading Breitbart video. (A Fox senior executive, by contrast, urged the news side of the operation to get Sherrod’s response before going with the story, The Washington Post reported.) On the left, MSNBC is trying to emulate the success of primetime partisanship. Meanwhile, CNN, which has largely strived toward a neutral ideological posture, is battling steady relative declines in its audience.

If media executives hunger for ratings, politicians hunger for campaign cash and fame.

Obama put it best earlier this year, after Republican Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina shouted “you lie” during the president's State of the Union speech. "The easiest way to get on television right now is to be really rude,” the president told ABC News.

Indeed, at first Wilson seemed embarrassed and apologized for his outburst. But within days, Wilson and his opponent were both flooded with campaign contributions; Wilson took in more than $700,000 in the immediate aftermath of his outburst and was a guest of honor on Hannity’s show and Fox News Sunday.

It’s a well-traveled path: Flamethrowers Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) join Wilson on the list of Top 10 House fundraisers, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

At POLITICO, we have an unusual vantage point on this new reality. We are both an enabler (in the eyes of some critics) of the deterioration of political discourse, and a target of it (as we try to defend our values as neutral journalists amid constant criticism from activists who think we fail at neutrality or are disdainful of the goal in the first place).

There is some truth on both counts. Like all news sites, we are aware that conflict clicks. More traffic comes from an item on Sarah Palin’s “refudiation” faux pas than from our hundreds of stories on the complexities of health care reform or Wall Street regulation. We were slow to write about the initial charge of racism against Sherrod — but quick as anyone else to write about the political fallout. Over the past 36 hours, articles on Breitbart, Sherrod and Tucker Carlson (whose conservative Daily Caller broke the story about journalists taking partisan sides on JournoList) have shared space atop our site with more “substantive” stories on the failed climate bill and the charges against Charlie Rangel.

At the same time, as a nonpartisan news site, we face relentless attacks from the right and left, all looking for signs of bias. There is an entire industry dedicated to this hunt, including the liberal Media Matters, which is staffed like a midsized newsroom. We see almost every day how a small comment, often taken out of context, can toss a reporter or editor into the media.

In this environment, it is little surprise that — while almost everyone says there are lessons to be learned from the Sherrod fiasco — there is no agreement on what those lessons are.

“Well, there are a lot of people who screwed up, but the only folks who were eager to peddle that story was Fox News, and they showed themselves to be piggish character assassins that you'd come to expect,” Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.) told POLITICO. “It's an ideological hatchet machine and they should be ashamed for carrying that kind of crap without checking it out.”

Many Republicans reached the opposite conclusion. “Republicans and conservatives who make even the slightest politically incorrect comments, or take policy stances that are contrary to the left-leaning ethnic interest groups…should expect to be ‘Sherroded’ in pieces and branded racists,” says Cesar Conda, a former top adviser to Vice President Cheney.

A generation ago, a few networks and a handful of powerful newspapers set the agenda and tone for much coverage. This was a more insular and elitist arrangement, but also more restrained. The Sherrod uproar and the Obama administration’s jittery firing of Sherrod from her Agriculture Department job both flowed from the rapid spread of inflammatory but inaccurate information. That happened less in the old media order.

These days almost any news site or commentator is capable of driving the national political agenda on any given day — and a long roster of bloggers, bombastic talk show hosts and new online Web sites compete to do just this.

And the pace of change is breathtaking. Four years ago, there was no BigGovernment, no POLITICO, no Daily Caller, no Twitter — and The Huffington Post and YouTube were innocent newborns.

Most journalists couldn’t have cared less if their work appeared online — and political campaigns were waged on network TV and in the big newspapers. Only the Drudge Report had cracked the code for routinely pushing stories into mainstream circulation.

Now the Web dominates the debate, as a feeder for aggregators and cable. Traffic to ideological sites is exploding. The Huffington Post — the most influential site on the left — has seen its traffic nearly double over the past year and is now bigger than The Washington Post.

Right-wing sites are rising, too. No longer is Drudge the only influential conservative site. Breitbart, a disciple of Drudge, has built a string of fairly popular sites including one carrying his own name, as well as and These sites are often bitterly partisan — and highly effective at forcing obscure stories into the MSM bloodstream.

There is only a small market for moderation and reason. Tucker Carlson seems to be learning this with his site, the Daily Caller. He launched with dreams of offering readers conservative news without harsh tones. But his site didn’t take off until he started pounding the drums on immigration, Keith Olbermann and liberal journalists. Now it’s the toast of the right wing.

Even venerable straight-news organizations such as The Washington Post are getting lured down the partisan road, recruiting bloggers with explicit ideological agendas and giving them top billing online.

So what happens now?

One scenario is that the excesses of this new media order will in time lead to self correction.

Rem Rieder, the editor of the American Journalism Review, wrote on his site: “Not to go all Pollyanna on you, but this might be one of those episodes that — by highlighting (lowlighting?) just how absurd and untenable the current state of affairs has become — [could] have a beneficial impact.”

But history suggests that sentiment is indeed a bit Pollyanna-ish.

In 1989, George H. W. Bush promised a new era of bipartisanship, declaring: “This is the age of the offered hand.” Bill Clinton used his second inaugural in 1997 to promise citizens an “end to the politics of petty bickering and extreme partisanship they plainly deplore." George W. Bush campaigned in 2000 on “changing the tone” in Washington and pledged in his first inaugural to cultivate “harmony” instead of a “chorus of discordant voices.”

And it would be interesting to hear Obama reflect on this prediction, delivered at his inauguration in January 2009: "What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them, that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long, no longer apply."

Zachary Abrahamson, James Hohmann, Keach Hagey and Daniel Strauss contributed to this report.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Sherrod Case Shows Power of Conservative Media

NEW YORK (AP) -- A conservative blog posts 2 minutes, 38 seconds of video clips of a black federal agriculture official saying she didn't do everything she could to help a white farmer. The blogger labels it racism. Calls grow for the Obama administration to remove her. No one at the Agriculture Department or the White House checks further. The official is forced to resign.

Monday ends, but not the story.

A complete, 43-minute version of the video surfaces the next day, Tuesday, and casts a much different light on Shirley Sherrod's comments: They were part of an NAACP speech about how she overcame her racial prejudice to help the farmer, not about prejudice that stopped her from helping him.

Now, the administration is criticized for wronging her by rushing to judgment.

By Wednesday afternoon, Sherrod is sitting at a studio in CNN's Atlanta headquarters, watching on live television as White House press secretary Robert Gibbs apologizes to her.

She accepts and says: ''Being afraid of the machine that the right has put out there -- that's what's driving this.''

A split screen shows her face and Gibbs' in a surreal moment, concluding a whirlwind 48 hours in which conservative media had the Obama administration on the defensive.

Fox News Channel has been riding high in the ratings since Barack Obama became the nation's first black president a year and a half ago. Commentators Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly offer a favorite destination for many administration opponents.

The Sherrod story erupted after, a website run by conservative activist Andrew Breitbart, posted portions of her speech at an NAACP banquet in March.

Breitbart's story began: ''Context is everything.'' He said he offered ''video evidence of racism coming from a federal appointee,'' and followed with snippets of the speech.

On the video, Sherrod, hired last August as director of rural development for the U.S. Agriculture Department in Georgia, talked about her unwillingness to offer much help to a white farmer when she worked at a non-profit organization 24 years ago.

The story moved from the Internet to Fox News Channel on Monday night.

In seeking her resignation, Sherrod said, a USDA deputy undersecretary told her the story was going to appear on Beck's program late Monday afternoon. Instead, Beck didn't discuss it that day; it first appeared a few hours later on the top-rated prime-time show ''The O'Reilly Factor.''

Host Bill O'Reilly showed the brief portion of Sherrod's March speech where she explained that she didn't give the white farmer ''the full force of what I could do.''

''Wow!'' O'Reilly said after the clip aired. ''That is simply unacceptable, and Ms. Sherrod must resign. The federal government cannot have skin color deciding any assistance.''

As he talked, Fox flashed the news on the bottom of its screen that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack had accepted Sherrod's resignation.

Fox's Sean Hannity aired the same short snippet of Sherrod's speech shortly afterward.

''This was at an NAACP dinner, and this was racist,'' Hannity said.

CNN's Rick Sanchez said producers there were intrigued by's posting and immediately started reporting on it. But with all the questions involved -- Was this a fair characterization of Sherrod's full speech? Can she be reached to give her side of the story? -- they wouldn't be ready to discuss it on his afternoon show until Tuesday, he said.

By then, the story rushed by.

''As journalists, we have to protect ourselves the best we can,'' Sanchez said. ''It's easy for it to happen to anybody, by the way -- jump to a conclusion, get excited, look at the coverage. It's kind of like creating a bandwagon effect. Once you get on the bandwagon, you can't hit the brakes.''

By Tuesday morning, ''Fox & Friends'' headlined the story ''Racism Caught on Tape.''

Commentator Laura Ingraham talked about ''people who have burrowed their way into the Obama administration with radical outlooks, a radical agenda and, in this case, a racist sentiment. How many more like Ms. Sherrod exist in the Obama administration who weren't so stupid as she was to actually explicitly state her views on the issue of race?''

When the full tape became available later, it was clear that Sherrod said the case taught her a lesson about the importance of helping all those in need, regardless of race.

''What's happening here is that she's guilty until proven innocent,'' Beck said on his show. ''They fired her and now they are back-pedaling. There's no due process here. Doesn't an American have a right to a fair trial? They have politically assassinated this woman. No one has heard the case for or against her, they just took her out. When did we stop having the right to face our accusers?''

It's not clear when, or if, someone at Fox saw the full tape.

Fox spokeswoman Irena Briganti and David Tabacoff, executive producer of ''The O'Reilly Factor,'' did not immediately return calls for comment. Sherrod said that she wasn't contacted by anyone at Fox until Tuesday, when she refused their requests for an interview.

After a video of her full speech was posted online by the NAACP, the White House called the Agriculture Department on Tuesday night, and it was agreed that her ouster should be reviewed.

As more came out Tuesday about Sherrod's speech, Fox's focus shifted. ''Race Story Takes Strange Twist'' was Wednesday's headline on ''Fox & Friends.''

''They may have acted without knowing the whole story,'' co-host Brian Kilmeade said of the administration.

Breitbart did not immediately respond to an AP request for an interview.

But on ABC's ''Good Morning America'' Wednesday, he said his story ''was not about Shirley Sherrod.'' Instead, he said, the video provides evidence of Georgia NAACP members applauding or laughing at racist behavior, at the same time national NAACP figures are criticizing the tea party movement for having members that express racist sentiments.''

Breitbart's attracted attention last year for airing video of workers at the community group ACORN counseling actors posing as a prostitute and her boyfriend. This month, Fox News has aggressively reported the story about the U.S. Justice Department choosing not to pursue a voter intimidation cases involving the New Black Panther Party in Philadelphia.

Paul Levinson, a journalism professor at Fordham University, said those cases -- and the attention they received on Fox -- were likely on the mind of Obama administration officials when Breitbart's story on Sherrod first appeared.

''They panicked,'' Levinson said. ''They're giving the media far more power than they should have.''

In issuing his apology, Gibbs said the government, media and interest groups on all sides made quick determinations without knowing all the facts involved.

''One of the great lessons you take away from this is to ask all the questions first and come to a full understanding,'' he said.

AL say it's not so!!

AP Photo Police are investigating claims made by two more women that former Vice President Al Gore sexually abused them, the National Enquirer reports. The allegations come after massage therapist Molly Hagerty accused Gore of sexual assault during a massage in 2006 in Portland (she did not cooperate with police until recently). The new claims also come from massage therapists. One incident allegedly occurred in Beverly Hills in 2007, the other in 2008 in Tokyo. The National Enquirer’s source says that Gore stood naked in front of the therapist, then he “pointed at his erect penis and ordered her, 'Take care of this.'"

Monday, July 19, 2010

What goes around comes around!

ONE. Give people more than they expect and do it cheerfully.

TWO. Marry a man/woman you love to talk to. As you get older, their conversational skills will be as important as any other.

THREE. Don't believe all you hear, spend all you have or sleep all you want.

FOUR.. When you say, 'I love you,' mean it.

FIVE. When you say, 'I'm sorry,' look the person in the eye.

SIX. Be engaged at least six months before you get married.

SEVEN. Believe in love at first sight.

EIGHT. Never laugh at anyone's dreams. People who don't have dreams don't have much.

NINE. Love deeply and passionately. You might get hurt but it's the only way to live life completely..

TEN.. In disagreements, fight fairly. No name calling.

ELEVEN. Don't judge people by their relatives.

TWELVE. Talk slowly but think quickly.

THIRTEEN! ... When someone asks you a question you don't want to answer, smile and ask, 'Why do you want to know?'

FOURTEEN. Remember that great love and great achievements involve great risk.

FIFTEEN. Say 'bless you' when you hear someone sneeze.

SIXTEEN. When you lose, don't lose the lesson..

SEVENTEEN. Remember the three R's: Respect for self; Respect for others; and Responsibility for all your actions.

EIGHTEEN. Don't let a little dispute injure a great friendship.

NINETEEN. When you realize you've made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.

TWENTY. Smile when picking up the phone. The caller will hear it in your voice

TWENTY- ONE.. Spend some time alone.

Friday, July 16, 2010

RIGHT RAGE How far will go before it's exposed!

Media Matters: The right-wing rage machine unloads a frenzy of race-baiting

The summer months are typically when the quality of political discourse in this country reaches its yearly nadir. Washington tends to slow down from June to August, and people who hold moderate interest in the political process instead turn to barbecues and baseball games. As a consequence, the people who remain engaged are those who are more, let's say, passionate in their beliefs, and aren't going to let a little thing like "other things to do" get in the way of their political activism. Summer is also tough for political journalists who still have deadlines to meet, but much less material with which to work. As a consequence, we see stories that would ordinarily merit passing or no mention earn disproportionate coverage. Minor gaffes become "scandals," non-issues become "controversial," and the end result is that pretty much everyone gets angrier.

It's in this environment that the right-wing media thrive, practiced as they are in ginning up stories based on manufactured outrage and utter nonsense. And lately, they've all had one topic on their minds: race. Specifically the racism of black political figures, which they claim is nothing short of institutional policy in the Obama administration, and the racism of white tea partiers, which they claim doesn't exist.

And where else can one begin except with the ever-evolving, increasingly ridiculous New Black Panther Party "scandal," which revolves around the allegation -- and it's hard to believe that right-wingers actually profess to believe this -- that the Obama Justice Department dropped voter intimidation charges against members of this fringe hate group due to the administration's official policy of not pursuing cases in which the defendant is black and the victim is white. Is there evidence for any of this? No. Does the partisan GOP hack/former DOJ attorney making this allegation have any facts to support it? Not so much. But that's the story they're sticking to, and it has sparked a frenzy of race-baiting more explicit than any we've seen thus far during the Obama administration.

Fox News has, of course, been leading the charge, embarking on what Jonathan Chait calls "the most widespread and mainstream right-wing effort to exploit racial fears against Obama." Glenn Beck nonsensically claimed that the New Black Panthers "have ties to the White House" and flat-out accused the administration of tacitly endorsing the "race war" he sees coming down the pike. Perpetually outraged Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, the "straight news" driving force behind the bogus story, has been corrected on the facts more times than should be necessary, but continues to hype the story with wide-eyed indignation.

In some ways, that's to be expected from Fox News. The danger is that, with not much else going on and the right-wing rage machine operating at high speed, the bogus story starts bleeding into the mainstream press. Kelly herself boasted that Fox News "dragged the media kicking and screaming" to the New Black Panther story, and already there have been overly credulous treatments of the non-scandal on CNN and in the pages of The Washington Post.

The obverse to the right-wing media's fact-free claims of racism at the Justice Department are their assurances, contrary to the facts, that there exists no racism in the tea party movement. After the NAACP signaled its intention to pass a resolution condemning the "racist elements" within the tea party, conservatives went ballistic, claiming that the many, many, many, many, many examples of tea party racism and bigotry simply don't exist. And nothing will convince them otherwise -- not the many photographs of racist placards at tea party rallies (if Sean Hannity couldn't find them, they must not exist!), nor the word of civil rights legend Rep. John Lewis (he's a liar!).

Bigoted, racial attacks from conservatives against Obama aren't anything new. Hell, not even a week after he announced his intention to run for the presidency, they were excitedly spreading false rumors that he spent his childhood in a madrassa. But this past month has been something different. Gone are the code words, the winks and nods, and the dog whistles -- the conservative media are openly and aggressively trying to turn Obama's race into something threatening. You can chalk it up to the heat, the summer doldrums, or whatever. The fact is that they're going down roads from which there is no coming back, and it's only going to get worse as the summer rolls on.

Erick Erickson conjures Atwater's exorcised demons
In January 1991, Lee Atwater, the storied political strategist whose bare-knuckled tactics helped propel George H.W. Bush to the White House in 1988, issued a public apology to Bush's opponent, Michael Dukakis. Suffering from terminal brain cancer, Atwater disavowed the statements and tactics he employed against Dukakis, in particular his stated intentions to "strip the bark off the little bastard" and "make Willie Horton his running mate." According to Atwater: "I am sorry for both statements: the first for its naked cruelty, the second because it makes me sound racist, which I am not."

The shameful history of Willie Horton's role in the 1988 presidential campaign need not be recounted here -- what matters is that the man who gave Willie Horton that starring role came to realize afterward that he had crossed the line on racial fearmongering, and he sincerely regretted doing so.

CNN's Erick Erickson, however, wants to cross that line, and he wants to take the Republican Party with him.

"King Samir Shabazz Should Be 2010's Willie Horton," wrote Erickson on, referring to one of the New Black Panther Party members who was under investigation for voter intimidation. The New Black Panther story is a farce, and, as noted above, it is merely a vehicle for conservatives to race-bait against President Obama.

But the naked political and racial callousness of Erickson's remarks put them in a class all their own. Erickson's desire to turn Shabazz into the next Willie Horton is shocking not just because he's advocating a return to the Southern Strategy-style politicking for which Republican leaders from Atwater to Ken Mehlman to Michael Steele have expressed regret. He also openly acknowledges the potential for racial divisiveness and dismisses it -- along with the support of black voters -- as irrelevant: "The Democrats will scream racism. Let them. Republicans are not going to pick up significant black support anyway."

It's an extremely warped and cynical view of the political landscape, and it really makes you wonder if CNN realizes what it's paying for.

Boss Limbaugh, The Boss, and the "death tax"
One does not have to be a Yankee fan (like me) to be affected by the passing of George Steinbrenner. In many ways, The Boss embodied everything that is great and terrible about baseball. Like a player who takes steroids to give himself a competitive edge, Steinbrenner's own relentless drive for victory frequently led him to act less than admirably. At the same time, it's hard to argue with results -- the seven championships and 11 pennants the Yankees won in the Steinbrenner era are almost as many as the rival Boston Red Sox have won in their entire existence.

Rush Limbaugh, however, is a football fan, so Steinbrenner's passing would obviously affect him differently, and he needed to find something to say about Steinbrenner that wasn't about baseball. He opted for his two trusty stand-bys -- offensive racial commentary and conservative economic dogma. "George Steinbrenner has passed away at age 80. That cracker made a lot of African-American millionaires," Rush observed in a statement that, to use a subject-appropriate cliché, came out of right field.

Obviously, most people have been focusing on the racial component of Limbaugh's remarks (Al Sharpton denounced them as "repugnant and offensive") but there was another remark in Limbaugh's ugly eulogy that deserves some attention: his statement that Steinbrenner "knew when to die," because the estate tax will be reinstated next year and Steinbrenner's considerable estate will avoid taxation as a consequence of his passing before 2011. That sentiment was echoed across the conservative media and even in the halls of Congress, where Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY), a Hall of Fame pitcher himself, said of Steinbrenner: "Because he was smart enough to die in 2010, there is zero tax liability on the estate tax."

In short, conservatives were very pleased that the ultra-rich Steinbrenner and his ultra-rich relatives were able to escape the tyranny of the so-called "death tax." This is amusing, because up to this point, these same conservatives were assuring us that the evil of the estate tax was that it wreaks havoc on family farms and small businesses. Of course, that isn't true -- just about every small business and family farm in the country escapes estate taxes.

Nevertheless, conservatives told us that in repealing the estate tax, we'd be acting in the interests of the little guy.The timing of George Steinbrenner's death, and the ensuing right-wing celebration of his already wealthy heirs' good fortune, should make clear whose interests they really have at heart.

Rest in peace, Big Stein.

The tea party makes trouble with a capital T

The tea party makes trouble with a capital T

By Dana Milbank

The peaceful hamlet of Mason City, Iowa, hasn't been in the headlines much since it served as the model for River City in Meredith Willson's "The Music Man." But this week, Mason City raised a real Fuhrer.

The geniuses of the North Iowa Tea Party erected a billboard in town depicting three leaders: Adolf Hitler (with swastika), Vladimir Lenin (with hammer and sickle) and Barack Obama (with 2008 campaign logo). Over Hitler were the words "National Socialism," over Lenin was "Marxist Socialism" and over Obama was "Democrat Socialism."

"Radical leaders prey on the fearful & naïve," the billboard informed passing motorists.

Folks, we've got trouble in River City.

The Tea Partyers eventually took the billboard down -- to hush the national uproar they provoked, not because they thought they had done something wrong. "There's going to be a lot of billboards just like this across the United States," the group's leader told the Des Moines Register.

He's probably right about that. The vile sign in Mason City was not a one-off by a fringe group. It was a logical expression of a message supported by conservative thought leaders and propagated by high-level Republican politicians.

Late last month, Thomas Sowell of the conservative Hoover Institution penned an irresponsible column likening Obama's presidency (particularly his pushing BP to set aside funds for oil-spill victims) to the rise of Hitler in Germany and Lenin in the Soviet Union.

After the column came out, Sarah Palin tweeted her followers with instructions to "Read Thomas Sowell's article." Sowell's theme -- that Obama, like Hitler and Lenin, exploits "useful idiots" who don't know much about politics -- was strikingly similar to what wound up on the Iowa billboard.

Sowell to Palin to Mason City: They spread Nazi labels as smoothly as Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance turned double plays. And let's not deny an assist to Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.), who went to the House floor to read aloud the Obama-Nazi comparison by the "brilliant" Sowell.

Twenty years ago, the dawn of the Internet Age gave us Godwin's Law: If an online argument goes on long enough, somebody will eventually invoke Hitler. When that happens, it's basically the end of the conversation, because all rational discussion ceases when one side calls the other Nazis.

These sentiments have long existed on the fringe and always will. The problem is that conservative leaders and Republican politicians, in their blind rage against Obama these last 18 months, invited the epithets of the fringe into the mainstream. Godwin's Law has spread from the chat rooms and now applies to cable news and even to the floor of the House of Representatives.

Consider these tallies from Glenn Beck's show on Fox News since Obama's inauguration: 202 mentions of Nazis or Nazism, according to transcripts, 147 mentions of Hitler, 193 mentions of fascism or fascist, and another 24 bonus mentions of Joseph Goebbels. Most of these were directed in some form at Obama -- as were the majority of the 802 mentions of socialist or socialism on Beck's nightly "report."

It's not strictly a phenomenon of the right. California's Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Jerry Brown, likened his opponent's tactics to those of the Nazis, while Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) talks blithely of a health care "holocaust" and an aide to Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) dubs the opposition "Brownshirts."

But at the moment, the anger pendulum has swung far in the conservative direction, and accusations that once were beyond the pale -- not just talk of Nazis and Marxists but intimations of tyranny, revolution and bloodshed -- are now routine.

A few from recent weeks: Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) comes out in favor of lawsuits alleging that Obama was not an American citizen at birth. Sharron Angle, the Republican candidate challenging Sen. Harry Reid in Nevada, speaks about the possible need for violence to overcome the "tyrannical" government. Gohmert, the Sowell admirer, says the children of illegal immigrants are going to return and "blow us up."

Isn't there a grown-up to rein in these backbenchers when they go over the top? Don't ask House Minority Leader John Boehner, the man who would replace Nancy Pelosi as speaker. He accuses the Democrats of "snuffing out the America that I grew up in" and predicts a rebellion unlike anything "since 1776." Boehner also said one Democratic lawmaker "may be a dead man" for his vote on health care and predicted that the bill would bring "Armageddon."

Recall, Mr. Leader, the wisdom of the Mason City billboard: "Radical leaders prey on the fearful & naïve."
US military deaths in Afghan region at 1,099

As of Friday, July 16, 2010, at least 1,099 members of the U.S. military had died in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan as a result of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001

Monday, July 12, 2010

FOX News still right and WRONG!

Hemmer plays center, show leans right By Howard Kurtz Washington Post

NEW YORK -- Bill Hemmer, a middle-of-the-road guy from the middle of the country, sees himself as the straightest of straight arrows when it comes to news.

"The opinion-makers on our channel have enormous talent," he says in his Fox News office in midtown. "I deal in facts. I deal in evidence. And opinion, frankly, is not my comfort zone. Opinion news is something I'm not good at. It is in the DNA of certain individuals. I'm not one of them."

As the co-anchor of "America's Newsroom," Hemmer is supposed to kick off the straight-news stretch of Fox's daytime schedule at 9 a.m. But the bookings on the two-hour program, and sometimes the story selection, tilt markedly to the right.

The first solo guest on every show but one, from June 1 through July 2, was a Republican or conservative -- including Karl Rove (twice), Steve Forbes (twice), House GOP leaders John A. Boehner (Ohio) and Eric Cantor (Va.), Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, economist Art Laffer and Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute officials. Conservative commentators such as John Fund and Steve Moore of the Wall Street Journal, and Byron York and Chris Stirewalt of the Washington Examiner, appeared by themselves. Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce, a Republican who is a leading opponent of illegal immigration, was on three times. By contrast, a relative handful of Democratic lawmakers were given solo spots, while Democratic strategists were generally paired in debates with Republican counterparts.

"If the booking leans one way, it's the responsibility and duty of me as the host, the presenter, the interviewer, to make sure the topic is evenly treated," Hemmer says.

Asked about Rove, a Fox contributor who was interviewed after major primaries, Hemmer says of the most recent appearance: "I would argue that was a segment shot right down the middle. I wanted to know his opinion, based on his eight years at the White House. Karl Rove is the type of guest that not just our audience, but any audience, wants to hear from. If Mike McCurry was available to us, I would put him on TV tomorrow."

Despite the guest lineup, Hemmer, 45, takes a generally balanced approach, a style he honed in his native Cincinnati and during 10 years at CNN. After joining Fox as a daytime anchor in 2005, he was paired in the morning with rising star Megyn Kelly; when Kelly got her own 1 p.m. show in February, Martha MacCallum became Hemmer's co-host.

To Hemmer, who recently signed a multi-year, multimillion-dollar contract that has not yet been announced, the secret of the morning show's success is the pacing. "At 9 we put the gas in the tank, floor that accelerator and drive toward the news of the day," he says. "A viewer needs to understand a story in a short period of time, otherwise they will zone out or they will change the station. Complexities are difficult to sell."

With his infectious grin and golly-gee demeanor, Hemmer exudes boyish enthusiasm both on and off the air. He is quick to sing the praises of his network, his colleagues, Chairman Roger Ailes (a fellow Ohioan), even the Sixth Avenue lobby for its mix of visitors. Has he ever said anything on the air that he regrets? "Knock wood, I think I've been lucky to, as my mother would say, be careful before you speak," says Hemmer, his eyes occasionally wandering to his four television monitors in what he admits is a Pavlovian response.

As for his other assets, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Patricia Sheridan once asked him: "Do you think being a good-looking guy helped move your career along?" (Hemmer didn't deny it.)

"He's a wholesome reporter, he's from Ohio, he grew up in a large family, he has an innate curiosity and he's likable," says Fox Senior Vice President Michael Clemente. "He's almost an Everyman, a decent guy."

Hemmer's only overt act of rebellion took place at age 26. Having paid his dues at as a local Cincinnati producer by logging every Reds pitch and Bengals play, Hemmer was working as a sports reporter for WCPO -- an experience he still regards as valuable: "A sportscaster is taught at an early age how to marry images and thoughts in your mind and translate it into words on the screen."

But he grew bored and resigned to backpack around the world, spending a year in countries from Vietnam to India to Egypt. When Hemmer returned, WCPO made him a local reporter. Two years after that, in 1995, Hemmer jumped to CNN. He gained a bit of national attention during the 2000 election recount, when he spent 37 days in Tallahassee and was nicknamed the "Chad Lad."

Hemmer is diplomatic in describing his departure from CNN, where was co-anchoring "American Morning" with Soledad O'Brien. "I think they saw a better opportunity for me in Washington," he says, but "I loved New York City." It's true that CNN executives offered Hemmer a White House correspondent's job, but that was after they decided to remove him from the morning show. Two months later, he signed with the competition. "What struck me about Fox from afar is they seemed to have such energy and vibrance that others had lacked," Hemmer says.

Hurricane Katrina struck the day after he started, and Hemmer spent weeks in Louisiana. A nimble performer in the field, he has also reported from Iraq and the earthquake in Haiti, showcasing the tragedies rather than his emotions.

Closer to home, he spends weekends at his house in a woodsy area of Sag Harbor. Sounding like a man who missed something on life's checklist, Hemmer notes that his four siblings are married and he has 11 nieces and nephews. "The next chapter has got to be children," he says.

Hemmer says his staff is smaller than at CNN, with a dozen people helping him and MacCallum get on the air. The program dominates its time period, averaging 1.3 million viewers this year, more than the combined audience for CNN, MSNBC and HLN.

A turning point, in Hemmer's view, came during the health care debate in the summer of 2009: "We covered those town-hall meetings with greater vigor than our competition, and we were rewarded with viewers. It was better television."

Another view is that Fox seized upon the footage of angry constituents shouting at Democratic members of Congress because it undermined the president's health-care push. Hemmer begs to differ. "I don't think it was anger toward the Obama administration," he says. "It was an honest insecurity on the part of average Americans."

Immigration is a major issue on Fox, and "America's Newsroom" covers it almost daily, as illustrated by the repeated booking of Pearce, the lawmaker who pushed for the tough Arizona immigration law that the Justice Department has sued to invalidate. As Hemmer, who uses the preferred Fox shorthand "illegals," recently told Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.): "We talk about this story an awful lot." One Democrat who appeared twice recently, Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, opposes the White House stance on immigration.

Hemmer also feels strongly about federal spending, a constant topic on the show. "The deficit is staggering," he says. His lead-off commentator is often Fox business anchor Stuart Varney, who rarely misses an opportunity to criticize the administration's fiscal policies. "The president has demonized all kinds of industries," Varney said on another Fox show. Another frequent commentator on the program is former judge Andrew Napolitano, whose book "Lies the Government Told You" has a foreword by Ron Paul.

On July 2, two Republican congressmen, Michigan's Pete Hoekstra and Texas's John Culberson, appeared in the first half hour.

Hemmer insists he is not concerned by the ideological nature of the bookings as long as his interviews are "even-handed." He is unfailingly polite with his guests, and says Democratic members of Congress "are welcome with open arms."

At times his Midwestern upbringing is all too evident. During the recent airing of a much-bleeped audiotape from the trial of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, Hemmer visibly blanched and looked embarrassed about the excised expletives.

Unlike media mavens whom he sees as being "locked in the Manhattan world," he remains conscious of his Ohio roots. "I hear from the folks back home all the time," Hemmer says. "Too often in our industry we forget about the rest of the country."

War and the GOP

After falling out with National Review several years ago, Ann Coulter is now taking on the editor of the Weekly Standard. She is supporting Michael Steele's criticism of the Afghan war and taking on Bill Kristol for slamming Steele:

"Our troops are the most magnificent in the world, but they're not the ones setting military policy. The president is -- and he's basing his war strategy on the chants of cretins.

Nonetheless, Bill Kristol and Liz Cheney have demanded that Steele resign as head of the RNC for saying Afghanistan "was a war of Obama's choosing" -- and a badly thought-out one at that. (Didn't liberals warn us that neoconservatives want permanent war?). I thought the irreducible requirements of Republicanism were being for life, small government and a strong national defense, but I guess permanent war is on the platter now, too. . . .

"Inasmuch as demanding resignations is another new Republican position, here's mine: Bill Kristol and Liz Cheney must resign immediately."

No way, says Kristol. And what exactly would Liz Cheney resign from? Her family?

At Politics Daily, Matt Lewis sees an important schism on the right?

"Until now, there has been somewhat of an unspoken rule, adhered to by most on the right, that conservative Republicans would vigorously oppose Obama's liberal domestic policies while supporting his efforts to win in Afghanistan. After all, Republicans had staunchly backed George W. Bush when he made the case for fighting al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Changing course now would seem craven -- playing politics with national security. . . .

"Is Coulter's position a less high-minded one? After a decade of defending Bush's actions, and getting beat up for it, are Republicans now saying it's time for a Democratic president to get the Bush treatment?"

It's ironic that Steele, who was initially savaged for his gaffe in calling Afghanistan a war of Obama's choosing, is now being credited with sparking a serious debate.

In the New Republic, Andrew Bacevich skewers the president as a non-believer:

"Much as Iraq was Bush's war, Afghanistan has become Obama's war. Yet the president clearly wants nothing more than to rid himself of his war. Obama has prolonged and escalated a conflict in which he himself manifestly does not believe. When after months of deliberation (or delay) he unveiled his Afghan 'surge' in December 2009, the presidential trumpet blew charge and recall simultaneously. Even as Obama ordered more troops into combat, he announced their planned withdrawal 'because the nation that I'm most interested in building is our own'. . . .

"Today, when they look at Washington, Americans see a cool, dispassionate, calculating president whose administration lacks a moral core. For prosecution exhibit number one, we need look no further than the meandering course of Obama's war, its casualties and costs mounting without discernible purpose. . . .

"The question demands to be asked: Who is more deserving of contempt? The commander-in-chief who sends young Americans to die for a cause, however misguided, in which he sincerely believes? Or the commander-in-chief who sends young Americans to die for a cause in which he manifestly does not believe and yet refuses to forsake?"

A more charitable view is that Obama is trying to prevail in what is now a nine-year-old war while acutely aware of the eroding political support at home.

Sympathy for Palin

The Dave Weigel story is being kept alive by . . . Dave Weigel. In an Esquire piece, the former Washington Post blogger says:

"The Drudge Report ran the story. Millions of people knew I was a mean, snarky, stab-your-back punk behind the scenes. . . . I felt terrible, but at some level I knew I could handle it. I prepared for the deluge of calls and e-mails asking me to comment.

"The surprise: I didn't get many calls. Some people asked for interviews: the Post's ombudsman Andy Alexander, media critic Howard Kurtz, blogger Greg Sargent, Michael Calderone of Yahoo! News, and Keach Hagey of Politico. Later, Daniel Foster of National Review, David Carr of the New York Times, John Aaron of Maryland's WTOP, Mitch Berg of Minnesota's AM1280, and a producer for Good Morning America. (I politely no-commented -- something I hated when it was done to me -- until I apologized for the e-mails on As far as attempts to get comments went, that was it. If it sounds like a lot, try a Google News search for my name; you'll find more than five hundred articles about what happened. Approximately 1 percent reflect any attempt to contact me. . . .

"Over the first churning forty-eight hours of this whole mess, I resisted -- and then accepted -- a new sympathy for a politician I'd never pretended to admire much: Sarah Palin. A political celebrity who raises money and appears on TV needs the media in a way that a reporter doesn't. But damn if I didn't feel sorry for the way every utterance Palin ever makes is taffy-pulled and inspected for lies."

The LeBron circus

That ESPN special is still getting panned -- you can see my interview with Mike Wilbon here -- with the likes of James Rainey calling the network LeBron James's "chief enabler" in the LAT. But Daily Beast writer Bryan Curtis says the sports channel should be judged by a different standard.

"ESPN isn't a pure-as-driven-snow news network the way that CNN is. ESPN pays hundreds of millions of dollars for the rights to televise sports events like Major League Baseball, NASCAR, college basketball, college football, Monday Night Football, and the NBA. (Example: ESPN recently paid a reported $500 million for the right to televise four college-football bowl games over a period of four years.) So from the jump, the network is in business with its subjects in the way CNN would never be with, say, Barack Obama.

"At the same time, thanks to its swashbuckling executive editor John Walsh, a veteran of Rolling Stone and U.S. News & World Report, ESPN has a very robust, fairly old-school newsgathering operation. The network's reporters -- many of them print veterans -- try to break news about athletes that athletes would rather not have broken. . . .

"Don't blame LeBron James, who has already been demonized, for his star turn. ESPN has been televising James' games since he was in high school; you can hardly blame him for coming back to it when he needed a time slot. 'We created this monster, and he's just playing along,' Jackie MacMullan, yet another ESPN basketball reporter, commented on ESPNews, yet another ESPN outlet, the other day."

Atlantic's Marc Ambinder examines the process through a political lens:

"For things like this, single-topic exclusive interview programs almost never go well. When was the last time that a politician, or, anyone, really, gave an exclusive interview where they revealed their decision and it didn't come off as self-indulgent? Using the Boys and Girls Club as a backdrop looked cynical when it was announced, and it looks like LeBron used the good folks there as a prop. . . .

"The media always makes the story about themselves, somehow. ESPN's lugubrious and unnecessary prime-time special is getting as much attention from the sports media as the decision itself. . . .

"Forget, for a moment, that the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers was recently in favor of moving his team to Oklahoma. His churlish, arrogant, and parochial response to LeBron's decision was beneath his dignity. It may make Clevelanders (Clevelagonians) feel better about themselves for a few days, but it makes no sense."

Back together

After a rough period that also included his decision to leave his CNN show, Larry King's divorce is off. TMZ reports that King and his wife have withdrawn the papers as part of their reconciliation.

Howard Kurtz also works for CNN and hosts its weekly media program, "Reliable Sources."