Those are two keys words in federal open records law, as Hillary Clinton was apparently using a personal email server while conducting the nation’s business as secretary of state. According to this story from the Associated Press, Clinton retains ownership of the emails that are on her personal account, even though they should be subject to the Freedom of Information Act:
In theory but not in practice, Clinton’s official emails would be accessible to anyone who requested copies under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act. Under the law, citizens and foreigners can compel the government to turn over copies of federal records for zero or little cost. Since Clinton effectively retained control over emails in her private account even after she resigned in 2013, the government would have to negotiate with Clinton to turn over messages it can’t already retrieve from the inboxes of federal employees she emailed.
The AP has waited more than a year under the open records law for the State Department to turn over some emails covering Clinton’s tenure as the nation’s top diplomat, although the agency has never suggested that it didn’t possess all her emails.
As the AP report also mentions, President Barack Obama signed a bill into law last year that prohibited government officials from using private email accounts to conduct business “unless they retain copies of messages in their official account or forward copies to their government accounts within 20 days.” Although the measure didn’t actually become law until after Clinton left office, this seems to beg the question: Why were government officials allowed to use private email accounts for work in the first place? It shouldn’t matter if a government official claims to be forwarding all business emails to a public account from a private email address. This provides too many opportunities for abuse. Federal employees and officials should have been conducting public business with government email accounts the whole time. The Internet is not exactly a new thing. Where was this legislation 20 years ago?
The Dallas Morning News is dictating that its reporters have at least 1,000 Twitter followers apiece. Apparently, it doesn’t matter if 25 of those come from within the office, if half the reporters don’t even use Twitter or if they are just empty, meaningless follows.
Here is what long-time reporter Jeffrey Weiss wrote, ironically enough, on Facebook:
I’m shamelessly trolling here for Twitter followers. The DMN has set a goal of 1K per person. I’m not there. I like FB a lot better than Twitter. But when the company sets a goal, to hear is to obey. I’m a sporadic Tweeter. I don’t post much just to kibbitz. Curated, if you will. So I won’t fill up your Tweet stream. If you have a mind, I’m at @jeffreyweissdmn
This is apparently what leadership in journalism at some news outfits looks like in 2015. Hopeful though I might be, thanks to social media, Buzz Feed, smartphones and the continuing “merger” of print and dumbed-down, lowest common denominator broadcast media, real journalism requiring competent reporting and editing — and folks with the work ethic, diligence, focus and brain power to pull it off — could be a relic 10 years from now.
I can’t say that I’m surprised by the news that, according to a recently completed Justice Department report, city of Ferguson, Mo., police engaged in racially-driven profiling apparently with the goal of ramping up citations and arresting black folks, which, as a happy consequence, helped boost the city’s coffers. After all, next to sales tax, traffic and court fines are the largest source of revenue for the city, according to the report. The city will likely either settle with the Justice Department or face civil litigation.
A police force that is disproportionately white “protecting and serving” a population that is 63 percent black makes perfect sense if the aim is to keep the city’s bank accounts in the black, so to speak:
Blacks accounted for 86 percent of traffic stops in 2013 but make up 63 percent of the population, according to the most recent data published by the Missouri attorney general. And once they were stopped, black drivers were twice as likely to be searched, even though searches of white drivers were more likely to turn up contraband.
For people in Ferguson who cannot afford to pay their tickets, routine traffic stops can become yearslong ordeals, with repeated imprisonments because of mounting fines. Such fines are the city’s second-largest source of revenue after sales tax. Federal investigators say that has provided a financial incentive to continue law enforcement policies that unfairly target African-Americans.
At least as disturbing, or possibly more so, is what seems to be happening in Clanton, Ala., where the city is accused in a lawsuit of essentially running an old-time debtors’ prison to foster a kind of revolving door culture in which poor people continually get locked up or have to remain in jail because they can’t afford to pay the fines, with bail amounts allegedly based solely on the crime, not on a defendant’s “individual circumstances:”
“If Clanton’s bail system indeed fixes bond amounts based solely on the arrest charge, and does not take individual circumstances into account, the court should find this system to be unconstitutional. Not only are such schemes offensive to equal protection principles, they also constitute bad policy,” the Justice Department argued in the filing. …
Friday’s (Feb. 13) Justice Department filing argues that setting fixed dollar values on bail for certain crimes is unfair to poor people who may not be able to pay, and therefore remain in jail while others accused of the same crime, but who have money to pay bail, are free while they await a decision on their case.
“Bail practices that are indifferent to an individual’s ability to pay are incompatible with our Constitution and contrary to our values,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.
A lawyer for Clanton didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.
Since 1966, the federal court system has required judges to consider a variety of factors in setting bail or bond amounts–most important the level of danger a defendant poses or their likelihood they will flee. State court systems vary widely, and the Justice Department argues in its court filing that a number of different bail systems are acceptable, but that one which sets specific dollar charges for specific crimes without regard to a defendant’s ability to pay isn’t.
Here is the venerable Sen. Jim Inhofe from Oklahoma disproving climate change with coldness:
And just like the snowball in his bag, his IQ seems to be inexorably melting and evaporating before our eyes. I wonder if, in his mind, these other historic snow events also provide compelling evidence against climate change, even though many of them took place before all the mass “hysteria” about climate change erupted.
I also wonder about the series of events leading up to this speech. Did he gather the snow in the bag himself, or did he get a staffer to do it? If the latter, did the staffer gathering the snow feel more like a tool than usual? Did Inhofe worry that the snow would melt before he got his chance to deliver the decisive blow to climate change on the floor of the Senate? And if it did melt, did he worry that this fact would have dealt a serious blow to his own argument? Given my hypothesis about the disintegrating IQ, I would guess not.
PolitiFact has provided links to fact-checks for The Daily Show’s “50 Fox News lies in 6 seconds” Vine video. I wish PolitiFact had provided some analysis as it usually does, but by my count, the video includes 49 outright mistruths — blatant or otherwise — one incorrectly aired video and an admission of error from Sean Hannity and a gaffe and clarification.
Is it just me, or does the man in the artwork for CNN’s upcoming series “Finding Jesus” cut a striking resemblance to WWE’s Seth Rollins? Just an observation.
In any case, the Shroud of Turin, which is the subject of the first episode, supposedly depicts the image of a crucified man that some claim might have been used in the burial of Jesus. Despite the fact that we have no idea what Jesus of Nazareth looked like — if he existed in the first place — and despite the fact that untold numbers of men, probably many of them bearing beards, long hair and pre-crucifixion wounds were crucified in 1st century Palestine, some apparently seem to think that the shroud still has some modicum of legitimacy, thus giving rise to what will no doubt be another sham show and rating grab perpetrating the myth that Jesus must have left some ancient clues to his true nature and existence if we are only willing to dig hard enough to find them.
Three observations from this new report on religion in the United States:
- The ranks of the “unaffiliated” were at 22 percent and the most populated group in 13 states. Predictably, most of the “unaffiliated” people reside in the Pacific Northwest and New England, the de facto centers of progress and enlightenment in the United States, in addition to parts of California and Massachusetts, which no doubt came in with slightly higher numbers of religious people because of the Catholic demographic in both states (see map 1).
- White evangelical Protestants still dominate the Southeast and parts of the Midwest. Although the white Protestant leaders and lawmakers in the South have rarely had their best interests at heart down through the generations, black Protestants also are still mainly prevalent in the Southeast, with both groups still under the delusion that god is on their side, even though the two “sides” have been, nearly at all times, mutually exclusive.
- White Catholics have been for decades and still are mostly pervasive in the Midwest and the Northeast (and California, due largely to the Hispanic population). Among their number are so-called religious moderates and social liberals. In contrast to evangelicals in the South, these are supposedly the more humanitarian-minded, learned religious folks in America, although among their number are people who believe in the literal transubstantiation of the Eucharist into the body of Christ, the sainthood of Mary, the divinely inspired word and authority of the Pope and a whole host of rituals, all of which have not led to any kind of meaningful change in the U.S. or the world for centuries.
This article from The Atlantic is certainly worth a read, but without any hard data, I think I can offer some quick answers as to why America doesn’t have more conservative satire. In short:
Reason 1 − Conservatives by and large don’t “get” or appreciate irony in quite the same way as their liberal counterparts.
Reason 2 − Liberals and progressives tend to be more irreverent, even toward leaders in their own camp. This itself is ironic because conservatives, who spend a lot of time railing against government overreach and corruption, should be the ones giving leaders the hardest time.
Reason 3 − Conservatives take themselves and their party and politics and life too seriously.
Reason 4 − Even when conservatives try to “do” comedy, it just comes off as preachy and forced for reasons inherent number three.
Perhaps Jon Stewart was partially responding to Jamelle Bouie’s recent article in Slate, “Why Jon Stewart Was Bad for the Liberals Who Loved Him,” which referred to Stewart and his show as if he didn’t have months left to go as the 17-year host of “The Daily Show,” when, during the episode after the announcement that he was stepping down, Stewart asked, “Did I die“?
In any case, as someone who says he “grew up with” “The Daily Show,” attended Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear and watched the show on a “semi-regular” basis for the better part of a decade, Bouie speaks as someone who has a profound misunderstanding of Stewart, his shtick and, indeed, for political satire in general and the continued need for heavy doses of it in modern political America.
Bouie’s main gripe about Stewart seems to be this:
The emblematic Stewart posture isn’t a joke or a witticism, it’s a sneer—or if we’re feeling kind, a gentle barb—coupled with a protest: I’m just a comedian.
… His protests to the contrary, Stewart is a pundit, and like many pundits, he’s wed to a kind of anti-politics, where genuine difference doesn’t exist (or isn’t as relevant as we think) and political problem-solving is mostly a matter of will, knowledge, and technocratic know-how.
Bouie here is replying to Stewart’s assertion that he is not, as some would label him, an influential political thinker, but “just a comedian” who is, at the end of the day, solely interested in making people laugh and not being, well, influential. When pressed, this has often been the answer Stewart himself has given whenever he runs the risk of being cast as something more than a comedian, and it may sound like he is failing to own up to what he really is — a comedian and a political satirist — but what other answer could he really give? His show is on a comedy network that is, in its most basic form, geared to generate laughter.
That said, no serious person who has actually paid attention to “The Daily Show” can conclude that Stewart completely separates his comedy on the show from ideology, that he just cracks jokes and “throws spitballs,” as he once said, in a vacuum, or that the show conveys the message that “government is only hypocrisy and dysfunction,” as Bouie contends. The latter is a job and a message for members of the far right, not a left of center liberal like Stewart, who, I would guess, thinks government has a role to play in people’s lives, and as such, it should function as efficiency and logically as possible. That it does not is deeply troubling, and this no doubt provides plenty of fodder for the show.
Bouie also argues that Stewart’s brand of liberalism, or at least the one he conveys on the air, is cynical all the way to the core and has no real substance, and is thus, a bad example for fellow liberals. Bouie’s example of this, his only example, comes not from Stewart’s own show, but from Stewart’s famous interview on “Crossfire” from 2004:
Take his Crossfire appearance. Lurking in his media criticism was a larger idea about the pointlessness of ideological combat. “To do a debate would be great,” he said, responding to protests from the hosts. “But that’s like saying pro wrestling is a show about athletic competition.” In the context of Begala and Carlson, this was a fair point. But in the larger world, it’s off. No, you’re not going to find sophisticated arguments on cable news, and to the extent that places like CNN are vehicles for nonsense and quasi-dadaist performance art, Stewart is right to mock and ridicule.
Cable, however, isn’t the only forum for debate, and most political conversations aren’t as shallow as the ones you see on TV. On op-ed pages and around dinner tables, Americans have substantive conversations about politics. And while the facts aren’t always right, the discussion is often valuable. Stewart gives short shrift to that kind of talk. Instead, in the world of The Daily Show, the only politics is cable politics, where venality rules, serious disputes are obscured, and cynicism is the only response that works.
Again, to say such a thing about Stewart’s show indicates that either Bouie has actually not watched much of “The Daily Show” — by his own admission, he was finishing up high school in 2004 — or he either does not appreciate or understand Stewart’s brand of satire. Although Bouie didn’t think it was important to provide any actual examples from “The Daily Show” to support his case, I’ll point out some segments from Stewart’s show — out of scores that I could select — that demonstrate that Stewart’s show goes beyond just sneering cynicism.
Sure, Stewart spends a lot of time mocking public officials and cable news channels, since there is so much idiocy that’s worthy of mocking, but to say that is all “The Daily Show” is, is just as short-sighted as the legions of lawmakers and pundits Stewart has hacked up these last 17 years.
In this clip, Stewart takes Obama to task and makes the point that although the president’s campaign was a well-oiled machine, Obama couldn’t seem to bring that level of efficiency to solving real problems after he entered the White House, namely streamlining the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs:
Here is Stewart speaking candidly about the Eric Garner injustice, which belies Stewart’s supposed choking cynicism:
And then there’s this:
The above clips show Stewart at his most sharp, most critical and decidedly least anticynical.
Bouie concludes with this:
The natural response to all of this is a version of Stewart’s protest—He’s just a comedian—and a refrain from The Dark Knight: Why so serious? The answer is easy: He’s influential. And for a generation of young liberals, his chief influence has been to make outrage, cynicism, and condescension the language of the left. As a comedian and talk show host, Jon Stewart has been pretty funny. But as a pundit and player in our politics, he’s been a problem. And while I wish him luck in his next move, I’m glad he’s stepping from the stage.
How exactly has Stewart been a problem? We don’t really know since Bouie didn’t give us any concrete examples, other than to say the show is too harsh on government and expound on “The Daily Show’s” overt cynicism in somehow not engendering political discussion around the dinner table and in the op-ed pages. Would Bouie have felt better about the show if The Washington Post and The New York Times were buzzing every week with opinion pieces on Stewart’s latest shot across the bow? Probably not, but what “The Daily Show” has given us was an unrelenting and fearless critique of the people who are charged with leading this nation, both in theory and in practice, and commentary on the farce that is TV “journalism,” all by cutting through the dishonesty, disigenuity and obscurantism that is pervasive in both. And for these contributions alone Stewart, whenever he decides to vacate the chair, will leave an indelible gap in the national discourse, one that his successor will not easily fill.
Back in the fall, Gannett made the decision to cut its copy editors from The Cincinnati Enquirer staff. Forward three months, and here is editor Carolyn Washburn complaining about “sloppy copy” from her staff. What a surprise.
Just a reminder that clean and accurate copy starts with each reporter and photographer sending clean and accurate copy along to their producer or coach… then that producer or coach reviewing to make sure it’s all good before sending it along to digital publication or the Studio.
I’ve been communicating one/one as I see things, especially things that can still be fixed.
I know we aren’t at full staff. I know our workflow is different.
But I need to share these examples with you now and ask each of you to take full ownership of your own clean copy.
I know none of you want this either. So the only way to fix it is for each one of us — me included — to pay special attention to our own work. (I even made myself spellcheck this email.)
She then listed many errors that any copy editor worth his or her weight in salt should have caught. With “newsroom leaders” having silly titles like storytelling coaches and strategists, it’s no wonder mistakes are falling through the cracks. How can they not? The simple fact is that not all reporters, and I would say only a limited few, are equipped to even begin to try to edit their own work, and even the most steely-eyed editors need a second person checking behind them. Pick your metaphor. Reporters editing their own content is like building contractors performing their own building inspections and then issuing the permits. In no scenario does the work come off looking polished, much less professional.