Monday Reads

tumblr_m67aobjzkN1rxkmgxo1_500Good Morning!

I’m still really tired and quite removed from the total weirdness of the current Beltway antics.  From my groggy eyes, it seems like some odd, abstract dance done to music with an oft-repeated, dissonant theme. I’m very much lost in a world of books and games right now and catching up with things around the house.  Oh, and sleep.  I just can’t seem to get enough of that.  Who invited all these tacky people and why hasn’t some one taught them how to behave properly at a national cotillion?

So, the journalistic dance theatrics orchestrated by the right wing appear to be spinning out there in a place that no one cares much about.  However, it should be noted that while no one real seems to care, the press is still tap dancing to the jingoism.  Have the little republican boyz cried wolf so many times that only the villagers listen and no one else? Cue the polls and the pols,

President Barack Obama comes out of what was arguably the worst week of his presidency with his approval rating holding steady, according to a new national poll. But a CNN/ORC International survey released Sunday morning also indicates that congressional Republicans are not overplaying their hand when it comes to their reaction to the three controversies that have consumed the nation’s capital over the past week and a half. And the poll finds that a majority of Americans take all three issues seriously.

“That two-point difference is well within the poll’s sampling error, so it is a mistake to characterize it as a gain for the president,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “Nonetheless, an approval rating that has not dropped and remains over 50% will probably be taken as good news by Democrats after the events of the last week.”

The CNN poll is in-line with Gallup, which also indicated a very slight rise in Obama’s approval rating over the same time period. And Gallup’s daily tracking poll also indicated a slight upward movement of Obama’s approval rating over the past week. But as with the CNN poll, it was within that survey’s sampling error.

More than seven in 10 in the CNN poll say that the targeting by the Internal Revenue Service of tea party and other conservative groups that were applying for tax exempt status was unacceptable. While the White House and both parties in Congress are criticizing the IRS actions, congressional Republicans are depicting the controversy as a case of the federal government gone wild.

But more than six in 10 say that the president’s statements about the IRS scandal are completely or mostly true, with 35% not agreeing with Obama’s characterizations. And 55% say that IRS acted on its own, with 37% saying that White House ordered the IRS to target tea party and other conservative groups.

It’s nice to see that a lot of real folks are not taking all these conspiracy theories very seriously.  How can any one take them seriously with idiots like Senator  Aqua Buddha pushing them?  Why does any one give this whackadoodle air time? Not every US senator deserves national face time.  This one should be placed in a carnival sideshow in a Scheherazade costume. However, this crackpot may try to take on Hillary Clinton for the presidency next time out so it’s a way for the press to rattle the Clinton cage. Rand Paul’s trying to spin his little tail and tale into something credible.  Good luck with that!! It all come off as fundraising theatrics to me. A little snake oil music from the maestro please!!!

Sen. Rand Paul continued with his charges from earlier this week that former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton had “her fingerprints all over these talking points” on the Benghazi attack and claims that she never “really accepted culpability” because she failed to resign shortly after the tragedy. When CNN’s Candy Crowley asked Paul if he was worried about appearing to politicize the controversy by making his remarks in Iowa and other presidential battleground states, Paul dismissed the notion that his remarks were based on politics.

It’s laughable that anyone expects us to believe that Republicans care one iota about this trumped up Benghazi story for any other reason than to muddy up Hillary Clinton, because they all assume she’s going to be the front-runner for the next presidential election.

And I’d say it’s safe to assume Rand Paul is going to take up his father’s mantle and make a career out of perpetually running for president as a fundraising scheme. It worked out pretty well for his dad and the press is already propping him up because of it — with this being the latest example — so why not?

Meanwhile, the choreography of the supposed liberal bias in the press came apart when ABC’s Jonathan Karl was caught telling right wing narcissewhoppers and had to apologize.   Actually, he kinda sorta, sashayed towards an apology. Here’s his anti-mea culpa. Oh, and you gotta laugh about exactly who got to read it on air yesterday!!!

Jonathan Karl, chief White House correspondent for ABC News, addressed criticism of his reporting on the Benghazi talking points controversy, saying in a statement to CNN that he regrets the inaccuracy of his report.

“Clearly, I regret the email was quoted incorrectly and I regret that it’s become a distraction from the story, which still entirely stands. I should have been clearer about the attribution. We updated our story immediately,” he said in the statement to Howard Kurtz, host of CNN’s “Reliable Sources.”

Earlier this month, Karl reported that he obtained emails by White House staff that indicated they had a dramatic role in altering the talking points that were later used by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice on Sunday morning talk shows to explain the attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya.

From those talking points, she said the attack spurred from a spontaneous demonstration outside the compound, while the Obama administration later stated the violence came from a premeditated terror attack.

Questions soon arose over how the error took place, as reports showed that initial drafts of those talking points included references to extremists but were later changed to attribute the incident to protests over an anti-Islam film.

Karl reported on May 10 that, based on summaries of the emails, the White House had a leading role in the editing process and had scrubbed vital information from the talking points.

But CNN Chief Washington Correspondent Jake Tapper, host of CNN’s “The Lead,” reported days later that the actual e-mail from then-Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes told a different story.

Yea.  Right. He regrets he got caught spreading propaganda more like it.  Karl’s done it before.  He has done it a lot actually.

Karl’s high profile at ABC demonstrates that conservative messages can find a comfortable home inside the so-called “liberal” media. Karl channeled former ABC corporate cheerleader John Stossel with a segment (3/5/11) complaining that regulation of the egg and poultry industries was “almost embarrassing,” since different government agencies regulate different aspects of the industries. “Got that?” Karl asked. “Fifteen separate agencies have responsibility for food safety.”

During the rollout of Paul Ryan’s budget plan, Karl (1/26/11) gushed that the Republican media darling was “a little like the guy in the movie Dave, the accidental president who sets out to fix the budget, line by line.” And while Democrats were saying Ryan “is a villain,” Karl was clear about which side he was on: “Ryan knows what he sees…. Paul Ryan is on a mission, determined to do the seemingly impossible: Actually balance the federal budget.” (Actually, even with its draconian spending cuts and absurdly optimistic economic assumptions, the Ryan plan still foresees a cumulative deficit of $62 trillion over the next half century—Congressional Budget Office, 1/27/10.)

On a This Week roundtable (2/20/11), Karl declared that state budget debates were “the Tea Party’s moment” and “also the Chris Christie phenomenon. Will politicians be rewarded for making tough choices—again, something I don’t think we’ve ever seen happen?” Of course, it’s hard not to conclude that the “tough choices” made by Christie and other Republicans are the ones that ought to be rewarded.

And in one World News segment (2/14/11), Karl likened the federal budget to stacks of pennies in order to demonstrate that deeper spending cuts would be necessary in order to balance the budget. Karl concluded that “the bottom line, Diane, is unless you’re willing to talk about cutting entitlements or defense or both, really, there’s no way you can even think about balancing the budget.” This is not actually true—one could raise revenues by increasing taxes on the wealthy—but it is how Republicans want to frame the budget debate.

costume-design-for-scheherazade-1910Just think of how horrible things are going to get when the Koch Brothers take over media outlets.  Eric Alterman–writing for The Nation–things that they could make Rupert Murdoch look good.   May the wisdom beings protect us all!!  Talk about your odd dance partners!!  Could Murdoch actually step in to take over the Trib and could that make us all actually breathe easier?  Well, not really.

But chill out for a minute and consider the following: should they enter the newspaper publishing business, the Koch brothers would be King Midas in reverse. Their commitment to producing disinformation designed to defame liberals, moderates and, indeed, all manner of sane individuals would result in the destruction of the professional purpose of their purchase. A Los Angeles Times or a Chicago Tribune answerable to Koch ownership would soon lose most of its serious journalists and all of its credibility with readers. This would vaporize the value of their investment and leave them with extremely expensive propaganda sheets to publish and loads of legacy costs to assume. Other publications would jump in to fill the vacuum, though it’s unlikely that any of them would be able even to approach the scope and reach of what will be lost. Ideally, the Koch brothers will soon recognize the folly of their ambitions and withdraw.

The scenario that should truly alarm and depress the rest of us is the one that many have posed as the salvation of these papers: a Tribune Company takeover by Rupert Murdoch. While one group of Los Angeles businessmen is interested in buying the LA Times, they have no interest in the package of eight. That leaves Murdoch. And while resistance to a Koch purchase among editors and reporters is strong enough to convince the new owners that they might be buying an empty shell, the attitude toward a Murdoch takeover is quite the opposite. When, during a meeting of the entire staff, LA Times columnist Steve Lopez asked those assembled to “raise your hand if you would quit if the paper was bought by Rupert Murdoch,” only a handful reportedly did so (compared with about half of the staff when the Koch purchase was proposed). Similarly, one member of the Baltimore Sun staff wrote Jim Romenesko that “Murdoch, at least, is a newsman,” a view that was echoed nearly word for word by a Chicago Tribune journalist: “Murdoch, for all his flaws, is a newspaper man.”

True, but by the same logic, Jack the Ripper was a lover of the ladies. Murdoch may be a “newspaper man,” but he is surely not a man who respects honest journalism or even the laws of society as they apply to it (or much else, for that matter). Just in the past few weeks, Murdoch has been making news in the following ways:

He paid out $139 million to settle a class-action suit by News Corp. shareholders, who accused the board of directors of putting the Murdoch family’s interests above those of the company with regard to both the British phone-hacking episode—one of the most egregious criminal scandals in the history of journalism—and News Corp.’s sweetheart acquisition of his daughter Elizabeth’s television production company. The lawsuit alleged that the board “disregarded its fiduciary duties” and allowed Murdoch to run News Corp. as his “own personal fiefdom.”

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So, want the worst example?  Guess who was on MTP yesterday?  Dancing Dave managed to embarrass the entire journalistic bordello in one short hour.

GREGORY: And we’re back. For our remaining moments, joining me now, author of the new book Rumsfeld’s Rules: Leadership Lessons in Business, Politics, War, and Life, the Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Mister Secretary, welcome back. You have such an interesting distinction here because I remember President Bush who I covered called you a matinee idol and now you’re soon to be a great grandfather. That’s a pretty good combination.

MR. DONALD RUMSFELD (Former Secretary of Defense/Author, Rumsfeld’s Rules): Think of that. It’s exciting.

GREGORY: I want to ask you first about a very disturbing subject within the military that of course you’ve worked over for so long and that is sexual assaults in the military. Some of the reported cases going back to when you were Defense Secretary and reported and then the estimates is that much larger number and the alarming rise between 2010 and 2012. And the issue at hand here is what should the military do about it? Does it have to change the way these crimes are reported at the chain of command and go outside of that to a special prosecutor? What would you do?

MR. RUMSFELD: Well, I don’t know that a special prosecutor is the answer, but there is an argument that can be made for handling them in a way different than they’re being handled because they’re serious. And– and I would suspect that an awful lot of them don’t even get reported.

GREGORY: Mm-Hm.

MR. RUMSFELD: And– and that’s probably true in the public sector, in private citizens as well as in the military.

GREGORY: Right.

MR. RUMSFELD: But– but it’s a terrible thing. There has to be zero tolerance. And it– it appears that– that something different is going to have to be done and I wish I knew what the answer was. I don’t. But– but it had– people have simply got to not tolerate it.

GREGORY: What about the culture in the military? Is that a part of what’s contributing to this? Is it a major part of what’s contributing to it?

MR. RUMSFELD: Well, people talk about that. The military– they talk about athletic teams and– and male environments. I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t think– there’s certainly nothing about the military that would contribute to it in terms of– of the purpose of the armed forces. The– but I don’t know the answer. I– and I think they better– they better really land all over people that are engaged in any kind of abuse of that nature.

GREGORY: There’s so much happening in Washington and you are a veteran of so much controversy as even in your most recent incarnation as defense secretary in the Bush administration. You write this from the book, Rumsfeld’s Rules, “If you foul up, tell the boss and correct it fast. Mistakes can usually be corrected if the adminis– the organization’s leaders are made aware of them and they are caught up early enough and faced honestly. Bad news doesn’t get better with time. If you have fouled something up, it’s best to tell the boss first.”

MR. RUMSFELD: That’s true.

GREGORY: Accountability. Whether it’s IRS or the questions about Benghazi, who is accountable? How do you assess that in these cases?

MR. RUMSFELD: Well, in these cases, I don’t think they know yet. Clearly, the president and in the case of Benghazi, the Secretary of State. That’s the way life works. But what bothers me about it is that two things really concern me. One, you think of a manager, a leader. When something like that happens, you call people in, you sit them down and you let them know that you intend to find ground truth fast. And he seems not to have done that. The other thing that’s worrisome is, as they say, truth leaves on horseback and returns on foot. What’s happening to the president is incrementally trust is being eroded because of the different messages coming out. You know, it’s important that you avoid the early reports because they’re often wrong, and you have to get people in, find ground truth, and then communicate that as fast as you can to the extent information goes out that’s– proves not to be accurate. Presidents and leaders lead by persuasion and for persuasion to work, they don’t lead by command. You have to be trusted. And to the extent trust is eroded, as it is when stories get changed and something more is learned and– and it kind of incrementally destroys your credibility, I think that clearly is a problem. I was worried, for example, I came back from being ambassador of NATO when President Nixon had resigned and President Ford was in office. And the reservoir of trust had just been drained during the– that– that experience that we went through.

Yes. I saved the best for last.  Dancing Dave asked Donald Rumsfeld about how to hold the federal government accountable for made up scandals.  Hasn’t this man been put in jail for crimes against humanity yet?  And, aren’t you glad I didn’t quote the rest of the damn panel?

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?