Monday, February 28, 2011

Three FOK News Channel posts for this date.
Click to go directly to:
New York Times Punk'd By Anti-Union Plant
Snappy Answers to Stupid Headlines
Worst Persons of the Day
Worst Persons Of The Day: February 28, 2011
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The bronze: State Troopers in Massachusetts who arrested ESPN's Howard Bryant on charges of assaulting his wife and a police officer. Howard is a friend of mine, a great reporter and a great intellect, and I'm proud to say he and I were both in Ken Burns' "Tenth Inning" PBS Baseball update last year. I may have to eat these words; anything is possible and when I first worked in L.A. and knew O.J. Simpson to be a violent sleazebag who sent some buddy of his named "A.C." into crowds to proposition women for him, many of his friends swore he was a saint and to this day can't process his guilt.

But when the police say they have five witnesses who say they saw him choking his wife, but none of the "witnesses" are identified by name or even by anonymous quote, while the supposed victim in question insists he never touched her let alone choked her and another witness has already come forth publicly to say he saw the whole thing and Howard Bryant's version is correct – the rule of "innocent until proved guilty" would seem to apply even more than usual.

Why would police in rural Massachusetts have abused an innocent man who was merely arguing with his wife in a car outside a pizza joint? Howard is black and his wife is white and before you dismiss that let me recount something from my own experience that still rattles me, 27 years later. I was delighted to take a young African-American woman out to dinner, here in the uber-liberal anything-goes Manhattan of the '80s, at a restaurant at which I dined often. We found the place nearly deserted, only one other table filled. I noted they sat us far away from the other couple, but so what? Then another couple came in: black guy, white woman. They were seated virtually next to us. But, again, so what? The laws of space demanded that they had to be sitting either closer to us or closer to the white couple.

It was when the fourth couple came in that my jaw dropped. It was another white guy with a black woman, and they were seated over in our now crowded corner (three mixed couples over here; one white couple way over there). I asked my date if this was really happening and she said it was. "In New York?" She nodded. "In 1984?" She smiled. "Every damn day," she said, sweetly.

Ever since, I have been less quick to dismiss charges of racism. Like anything else, they can be a heinous crutch and a pitiful excuse for intolerable conduct and though from what I know of him I really doubt it, even Howard Bryant could be using it to escape justice. But that doesn't mean it doesn't happen.

The runner-up: JP Morgan Chase. Its digital investment fund is reportedly exploring buying a minority stake in...Twitter.

You know how this turns out, right? One day you and I will find out that everything we've written on Twitter has just been sold to AOL for $315,000,000.

But our winner, the increasingly hapless Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, who has now reportedly gone into the office remodeling business.

There are two accounts of why workers were seen altering windows at the Capitol in Madison this morning. The first is that many of the windows in the building's public space have been damaged by protesters and the "locking mechanisms" are being repaired. An alternate view originates at the AFL-CIO blog which insists those aren't repairs, they're welds or bolts designed to make it impossible to pass food or other supplies from outside the Capitol through the windows into the hands of those who have made this protest the most effective American political sit-in in decades, maybe since Vietnam.

Either story could be true – Hell, they both could. Independent reporting seems to be too scarce yet to be decisive. (Update: pay no attention to this photo of the bolted window frame, with the head sawed off, courtesy of Tweeter @weezmgk)

Prevents breakage. Or escape. Probably not a union job.

But Governor Walker (and I hate to insult Paul, but, are you with me on this? Paul F. Tompkins to play him in the movie?) still wins this contest because new polling suggests that if last November's election were held anew today, the state would reject the ham-handed Koch-head and elect Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. The interior number of the biggest note: 3% of Republicans surveyed said they had voted for Barrett instead of Walker. Now 10% of Republicans say they would cross party lines. Support for Barrett over Walker in families with union members was only 14% last year; it would be 31% now. In short, Governor Walker has managed to chase a lot of union members out of the Republican Party. This is the unintended silver lining of awakening, which can be summed up by a line attributed to Harry Truman during the 1948 Presidential Election: "How many times do you have to get hit over the head before you figure out who's hitting you?"
Snappy Answers To Stupid Headlines For February 28, 2011

RW Site "Conservapedia" Writes: "Wonder why you're hearing so little about the Oscar winners? Because the conservative film The King's Speech destroyed the liberal Facebook movie about the gossip site that lowers academic performance and breaks up marriages."

Oh, Sweet Jesus on Hockey Skates. The conservative film "The King's Speech"? How do we break it to them? Newly-minted Oscar winning Colin Firth was not only, I'm proud to say, a regular viewer of Countdown, but he also served as the guest editor of a BBC 4 Radio program late last year. He asked its staff to conduct scientific studies on whether political point-of-view was influenced by the specific physical structure of a person's brain. Or, to put it in his blunter personal style: "I just decided to find out what was biologically wrong with people who don't agree with me."

In short, he was trying to figure out what's wrong with conservatives.

CNN Re-Tools Parker-Spitzer

So do I understand the format of the new CNN 8 PM show correctly? It's Governor Spitzer with a different woman every night who is paid to spend an hour with him?

Why does this sound so familiar?

Newt Gingrich To Decide Within Two Weeks Whether Or Not To Finish 10th Among Would-Be Republican Presidential Candidates

At the very start of my career in television politics – literally not two months after the Clinton-Lewinsky story broke – I was honored by an invitation from The Washington Post to sit at its main table at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. There I heard the then-Speaker, just before his latest crisis, his latest woman, his latest crash, drone on and on about stuff that could have come right out of the court of Louis XVI. I turned to the ex-New York Congressman seated next to me and said "I don't agree with a word this man is saying, but at least he believes it." The ex-Congressman spat a profanity. "The hell he does. Newt believes in focus groups. He's 100% focus groups and internal polls. If a focus group told him to dress up like a donkey to get elected, he'd do it."

In just the time since, Gingrich has talked about narrowing the First Amendment (how does that work for you, Tea Partiers and Strict Constitutionalists?) and stage-managed an impeachment that left the presidential victim more popular than ever, and managed to oust from office, only himself. This has made him extremely popular with lunatics.

As the old joke goes: For people who like this sort of stuff, this is the kind of stuff they like.

Run for President? Jeez, Newt, that donkey suit is probably still around somewhere.
New York Times Punk'd By Anti-Union Plant (Updated)

Few news stories better spoke to the destruction of union solidarity and the realization that even those public employees collectively bargaining in Wisconsin were going to have to give something back, than the New York Times' piece a week ago tomorrow titled "Union Bonds In Wisconsin Begin To Fray."

The by-line was shared by no less than Arthur G. Sulzberger, the son of the publisher and official carrier of the Times' family name. The piece ran prominently on the front page. Sulzberger himself interviewed the main 'get' in the piece. Beyond the mere reporting was the symbolism of the Times - even the sainted liberal media Times – throwing in the towel on the inviolability of unions, conceding that an American state could renege with impunity on a good faith contract with anybody, and that maybe the Right is right every once in awhile.

Problem is, A.G. Sulzberger's featured disillusioned unionist interviewee...wasn't in a union.

JANESVILLE, Wis. — Rich Hahan worked at the General Motors plant here until it closed about two years ago. He moved to Detroit to take another G.M. job while his wife and children stayed here, but then the automaker cut more jobs. So Mr. Hahan, 50, found himself back in Janesville, collecting unemployment for a time, and watching as the city's industrial base seemed to crumble away.

Among the top five employers here are the county, the schools and the city. And that was enough to make Mr. Hahan, a union man from a union town, a supporter of Gov. Scott Walker's sweeping proposal to cut the benefits and collective-bargaining rights of public workers in Wisconsin, a plan that has set off a firestorm of debate and protests at the state Capitol. He says he still believes in unions, but thinks those in the public sector lead to wasteful spending because of what he sees as lavish benefits and endless negotiations.

"Something needs to be done," he said, "and quickly."

Compelling, damning, overwhelming words, and from such a source!

Except the source, Rick Hahn, now admits that while he worked in union factories, he was never, you know, in a union per se. So why did the Diogenes of the Times, Mr. Sulzberger, believe he had found his honest union man? Because Hahn "described himself to a reporter as a 'union guy.'"

And yes, Hahan/Hahn's deception, intentional or accidental (and if you noticed the multiple spelling, yes, Mr. Sulzberger of the Times also got the guy's name wrong) sat out there in the alleged newspaper of record for four days, during which nobody bothered to correct the sloppy, destructive reporting of the Family Heir. When they finally did, editors buried it inside.

'Buried it inside' is newspaper lingo, in case A.G. Sulzberger isn't familiar with it.

We know about this Times disaster from last Tuesday because the paper finally got around to correcting it in Saturday's edition. The mistake got page 1A. The correction got a little box "below the fold" (somebody explain that term to Mr. Sulzberger, too) on 2A, which is read about as thoroughly as the drug interaction warnings that come with aspirin:

A front-page article on Tuesday about reaction among private-sector workers in Wisconsin to Gov. Scott Walker's effort to cut benefits and collective-bargaining rights for unionized public employees referred incorrectly to the work history of one person quoted, and also misspelled his surname. While the man, Rich Hahn (not Hahan) described himself to a reporter as a "union guy," he now says that he has worked at unionized factories, but was not himself a union member. (The Times contacted Mr. Hahn again to review his background after a United Auto Workers official said the union had no record of his membership.)

This clear picture of a bunch of agendas happily coinciding – 'Sulzberger! Find me a Wisconsin union guy who agrees with the Governor!' – and to hell with the facts or the fact-checking or the spelling, with the truth coming to light only from – gasp! – an actual union guy (from the devil UAW itself!), has been reduced to a "PS, the publisher's kid kinda screwed up on the most important domestic news story of the moment" instead of serving as the springboard for something fair, or even useful – maybe a front-page piece about the disinformation war being waged by Governor Walker and the Koch Brothers and the Tea Party in Wisconsin and whether or not this Hahan/Hahn was part of it, intentionally or inadvertently.

Fortunately the Times fulfilled its literal journalistic obligation. The "Mr. Hahan, a union man from a union town" of the original piece, is now safely corrected for all time (except in all the versions that ran in the Times and other papers like The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) into "Mr. Hahn, a man who has worked at unionized factories."

This is as if an article about whistle-blowing at Fox News was predicated on quotes from me and erroneously identified me as a former Fox News host, but had been corrected to 'Mr. Olbermann, the news commentator who has worked at Fox.' It is literally true. I used to work at Fox. Fox Sports. I went to visit a friend in the Fox News basement bunker once, in 1999.

I am not just injecting myself gratuitously into this important flagging of the Times for getting hosed by a union guy who never belonged to the union. I read recently in the same paper that early in my career I had been fired by UPI Television. I never worked for UPI Television. If you read the first of these essays you know I also wasn't fired by UPI Anything (although a drunken boss tried – and was – Oh, Irony! – stopped by the union). The best part is that until I read the piece, I don't think I'd ever heard of "UPI Television."

The obvious point about Sulzberger's story is that, at best, the Times made a terrible mistake rendering fraudulent a featured piece on imperiled American freedom in the middle of an info-war over that freedom by a reporter whose name is synonymous with its power structure and then tried to whitewash itself (or, at worst, it wasn't an amazing coincidence, and the Times got played like the proverbial three-dollar banjo and then tried to whitewash itself).

Seems to me the Times could start with finding out exactly who Mr. Hahan/Hahn is. There appears to be a "Rich Hahn" involved with "staffing and recruiting" for a company called "PSI" in the "Janesville/Beloit area" in Wisconsin. Is that Mr. Sulzberger's "union guy"? I'd try to tell you before, but that shred of possibly irrelevant information required me to expend nearly one entire calorie of brain heat performing a google search that kept me hopping for 30 seconds. I just did more research than the Times did and I need a nap.

Maybe they could talk to Gabrielle Union. She must have an important point of view on organized labor. Man, what if she liked Walker's proposals! That'd be some story, huh? That'd get the Right Wing off our backs for eight seconds? Am I right? Sulzberger? Sulzberger? Hello?

But the larger issue here is that while the Times and the supposed other members of the liberal media plot to turn the America of 2011 into, I dunno, the America of 1976, are flooding resources into stories in Libya and Oman – vital stories to be sure, but hardly likely to be as resonant with and impacting of generations of middle class Americans yet unborn – they can't be bothered to assign a fact-checker back in the newsroom in New York just to make sure Arthur G. Sulzberger can separate the 'guys who are members of a union' from the self-proclaimed 'union guys who are expressing a philosophical attitude towards unionism that may or may not be deliberately misleading.'

A million dollars to decide how to spell Gaddafi, Khaddafy, or Qadafi – but not a penny to make a call about Rick Hahan. Or Hahn. Fitting that they added the extra "a" in Hahn's name, isn't? Read the original first sentence aloud and you can put enough spin on the syllables to pronounce it "Hah!-an."

To prove true to the premise of equal pub for corrections, that penultimate sentence originally read "fitting that they added the extra 'h' in Hahn's name, isn't?" I corrected it when a reader pointed out how dim my bulb was during the composition of that sentence and how it got past my copy editor and research team (me).


I am reminded by a colleague that this story had already spilled over into real world consequences long before the Times' malfeasance was identified. Courtesy Michael Moore's website: Governor Walker had already clipped and saved the story of the phony union man Hahn – and even boasted about it to the guy he thought was his puppet-master David Koch:

SCOTT WALKER: The New York Times, of all things—I don't normally tell people to read the New York Times, but the front page of the New York Times, they've got a great story—one of these unbelievable moments of true journalism—what it's supposed to be, objective journalism—they got out of the capital and went down one county south of the capital, to Janesville, to Rock County, that's where the General Motors plant once was.

FAKE DAVID KOCH: Right, right.

SCOTT WALKER: They moved out two years ago. The lead on this story's about a guy who was laid off two years ago, he'd been laid off twice by GM, who points out that everybody else in his town has had to sacrifice except for all these public employees, and it's about damn time they do and he supports me. And they had a bartender, they had—every stereotypical blue collar worker-type, they interviewed, and the only ones who weren't with us were ones who were either a public employee or married to a public employee. It's an unbelievable—so I went through and called all these, uh, a handful, a dozen or so lawmakers I worry about each day, and said to them, everyone, get that story and print it out and send it to anybody giving you grief.

This is the first time I've agreed with Governor Walker: An unbelievable? Indeed, it is an unbelievable!