Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Journalism 101: How Not to Get Played

Let's say that you have to cover one serious presidential candidate who wants to talk about the possibility, validated by history, that economic growth can co-exist with reducing inequality.  Let's say you also have to cover a fourth-rate insult comic whose current shtick is supposedly also running for President.  Let's say that you are America's most distinguished newspaper.  How do you keep the insult comic from changing the subject away from fostering economic growth and towards some low-rent character assassination?

Not like this:

Of course if one other person, say an unreadable Republican columnist, wants tendentiously to change this subject, that's all the cover you need!

2015 Conventional Wisdom Losers of the Year

[Editors' Note: It's almost 2016, and not a minute too soon.  All of the hacks are on vacation, so they've turned over their pages and sites to their wretched interns, with instructions to come up with some lame-o year in review content, preferably in clickbait-list form.  The Spy is proud to contribute our own list to this annual tradition.]

By: Diane the Unpaid Intern to David Bloviator, Political Editor

Conventional Wisdom has had a rough year, with virtually all of its memes and confidently asserted predictions exploding, like a Jeff Bezos rocket, on the launch pad.  It took us literally minutes to sift through hundreds of disastrous utterances to come up with this list of Conventional Wisdom Losers of 2015.  Don't worry – if your empty generalization didn't make the list this year, we're sure you'll have better luck in 2016, especially if you pontificate for The Washington Post, Politico or MSNBC.

1.  Hillary is doomed by her e-mail scandal.  Or Benghazi. Or something.  All year long, the Hillary Hellhounds confidently predicted that her e-mail "scandal" would be her doom.  First, it was asserted that her actions were criminal.  Then they were violations of vital national security regulations.  Then when it turned out that none of the above was true, they were held to be signs that she was "paranoid."  (Politico was still pushing this non-story as recently as yesterday.)  Thought experiment: imagine you're Hillary Clinton.  You are worried that your political adversaries want to destroy you and your husband and you respond by protecting your personal information.  Paranoia?  Here on Planet Earth, we'd call it prudence.

2.  You can't attack John McCain/Fox News/the Union-Leader and get away with it.  Smear  immigrants as murderers and rapists?  No problem with the Republican base.  But supposedly the campaign of Trumpo the Clown was doomed the minute he unleashed his fourth-rate insult comedy on John McCain the War Hero, Megan Kelly of Fox News, and the fact-free Manchester Union-Leader.  But nobody told the GOP mouth-breathers.  They still love the act.  And why not?  It's the best show in the Republican Party since the Carson Granaries of the Gods revival meeting folded its tents and went back to selling snake oil.

3.  Bernie Sanders, extremist.  He's a Senator with decades in office who thinks that government and society should not be run by the rich and powerful for their exclusive benefit.  This according to Conventional Wisdom makes him an unelectable madman.  According to anyone who knows any history, it kinda makes him the Brooklyn version of Teddy Roosevelt, who is not generally thought to be a member of the Comintern.   By contrast, the sages continue to weigh the electoral chances of a gang of goons who want to hand over trillions in unpaid tax cuts to the richest 1%, force 13-year-old girls to bear their rapists' children, and camp out with their machine guns around the coal stove while the East Coast slips under the sea.  These are known to Conventional Wisdom as "mainstream Republicans."  (See #4 infra).

4.  The Unstoppable Jeb Bush.  It would be generous to call the Bush family a political version of the Kardashians, although their lack of genuine achievement, appeal, and inability to generate a coherent sentence are certainly suggestive parallels.  But the Kardashians never hurt anyone, other than the intelligence of the viewing public.  Contrast that with the record of death, devastation, wreckage, and Clarence Thomas bequeathed to us by the grandees of Kennebunkport.  Unnoticed by Conventional Wisdom (and unlike the Kardashians), though, the Bushes can no longer draw the suckers.  Remember Jeb Bush, the experienced conservative with tons of dough?  He was supposedly the smart one.  Now he's whining about taking the primary away from New Hampshire if they don't do what the peons are supposed to do, which is vote for a Bush.  That'll work great.

5.  Bombs Away.  When terrorists strike, voters turn to the Republicans, according to Conventional Wisdom.  Why?  Because Republicans are stronger on national security.  Who says so?  Republicans!  And they can prove it, with innovations like targeted carpet bombing (kinda like a married bachelor).  Also according to Conventional Wisdom, the party whose President sent Osama bin Laden to the bottom of the Indian Ocean and is currently waging between four and five wars in the Middle East (depending on who's counting) is weak and pathetic because it was not able to wipe out ISIS by halftime.  The Kenyan Socialist President won't even punch Putin in the face, or twist King Hussein's arm to get actual living people to fight our wars (possibly because said arm would come off in Obama's hand).

6.  Yes King Coal.  The Conventional Wisdom has long deprecated the looming catastrophe of global warming, both as a matter of fact and as a political issue.  As a matter of fact, the problem is real and indisputable regardless of what poor addled George Will thinks or what coverage the Koch Brothers buy; as a matter of politics, it's a major issue among the electorate.  You'd never know it from headlines like this one from Politico:

Over 60% of those pooled think that global warming is a serious threat?  Wow.  Of course, since some other poll a couple of years ago put the number slightly higher that must mean Conventional Wisdom can safely ignore the crisis.  And it's so cozy around the anthracite fire at energy lobby boondoggles, uh, conferences in Aspen!  Nothing to see here people, although if you're planing to drive around Miami, better keep the windows rolled up.

(Bonus Journalism Tip for Beginners!  Rewrite headline: “Large Majorities Continue to Regard Global Warming as a Serious Threat.")

We could go on to the Honorably Mentioned, like the Conventional Wisdom's disregard for the continuing massacre of blacks by white police, the perversion of the American electoral system by Republican money and John Roberts '76's contempt for basic principles of Constitutional jurisprudence, the continuing immiseration of formerly middle-class workers, the violence and threats against women seeking their Constitutionally-protected right to health care, or the gruesome violations of law and morality taking place every day at Guantanamo, but David said I could leave by noon if I posted something, so 'bye!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

How about "The College of Paul Smith and Two Rich Douchebags"?

"But one place that will not bear their name is on the campus of Paul Smith’s College, in upstate New York, close to where the couple owns a home. For a brief spell this last year, the school was on the verge of being named Joan Weill-Paul Smith’s College, courtesy of a promised $20 million donation from the Weills.

. . . .

Things there hit a snag. The college was created with money and land bequeathed by its founder, Phelps Smith, to honor his father, a local hotelier. When Phelps died in 1937, his will stipulated that the school be built on the site of the former Paul Smith’s Hotel. The will also required that the institution be “forever known” as Paul Smith’s College of Arts and Sciences.

The college, which has a student body of about 1,000, argued that it was so financially strapped (operating at a loss as recently as 2013) that it needed to be released from this restriction in order to safeguard its future.

While some people immediately objected to the name change, Cathy S. Dove, the college’s president, posted an open letter on the college website, praising the Weills and arguing for the name change.
“Joan and Sandy are presenting us with an opportunity to solidify the long-term financial health of our school,” Dr. Dove wrote. “Joan and Sandy are held in high esteem among the world’s most generous philanthropic and educational circles, and her name will bring us new opportunities to introduce our school to other supporters of higher education.”

But in October, a judge ruled that the college had not offered enough evidence to prove it could not survive financially without a name change and blocked the agreement to do so. A few weeks later, the college announced that the Weills would no longer donate the $20 million.

“It was a naming gift, so without the court allowing us to go forward, there was no money,” said Bob Bennett, Paul Smith’s spokesman. “That was the deal, right from the beginning.”

 . . . .

 “I think it’s unfortunate that the Weills are not going to give the money,” Mark Schneider, a lawyer who represented alumni who opposed the name change, told The New York Times after the offer was rescinded. “If they really wanted to give a gift to the school, it shouldn’t be contingent on something as self-glorifying as naming the school after Mrs. Weill. They could have named something else.”"

[remaining 29 grafs of emesis-inducing fawning over two rich people omitted]

The New York Times, Style Section, December 18, 2015

Friday, December 18, 2015

Affirmative action devastates those it would benefit, journalists say

By A.J. Liebling
Media Editor

Affirmative action has had a devastating effect on some of America’s most important institutions, not to mention many unqualified op-ed columnists.  That’s the claim made by an increasing number of young liberal journalists who have been rejected by the op-ed pages of some of the largest newspapers in the country in favor of incompetent “diversity” hires.

“Time and time again, we have seen highly qualified writers and editors held back because major newspapers have chosen to promote less competent reactionary ‘journalists’ to fulfill the newspaper’s goal of ‘diversity’ in its columnists,” said Rachel Weinstein, a columnist at the Attleboro Sun.

Ms. Weinstein pointed to the otherwise inexplicable success of third-rate hacks such as Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe.  “His most recent column was simply a mindless rehash of an amicus brief filed in the Fisher case, which was utterly discredited by an opposing brief filed on behalf of real social scientists,” she said. 
Poor Jeff Jacoby shows the effects of affirmative action hiring by elite institutions

“Even five minutes’ perusal of the opposing brief would have persuaded any moderately competent journalist that in fact minorities are not held back by affirmative action,” she said.  “But Jeff was apparently too lazy and shiftless to do the work needed to produce a first- or even second-rate column.”

The “diversity” craze is plaguing other great newspapers as well.  Eli Rosenbaum, assistant editorial page editor of the Albany Times-Union, said that he had been turned down three times by the New York Times, in favor of unqualified “diversity” hires like Ross Douthat.

“Ross might be qualified to write editorials for the Syracuse Diocesan Newsletter,” said Rosenbaum. “But come on, he’s got no business appearing on the same page as Gail Collins and Paul Krugman.  Even Tom Friedman must be embarrassed by this guy.”

Echoing a concern expressed by Justice Nino Scalia, Rosenbaum said promoting weak lazy writers like Douthat beyond their level of competence leads to a “mismatch”: “He’d be a lot better off at a less-selective newspaper, where he wouldn’t burdened by competing with the legacy of Tom Wicker and Tony Lewis.  I’m sure he would agree that he’d be happier at the Poughkeepsie Journal.”

Weinstein had a similar suggestion for Jacoby:  “He’d really do better and feel more at home at a lesser paper like the Boston Herald, where he would surrounded by fellow hack reactionaries with nothing original to say.”

“Actually, you know where he would really fit in?  I hear they are hiring at the Athol Daily News.  No mismatch there.”

Thursday, December 17, 2015


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Vegas Hayom, your only logical choice for news in Nevada

Monday, December 14, 2015

Why We Fight: Know Our Heroic Allies

"The American intervention in Helmand [Province, Afghanistan] is accelerating amid growing reports of demoralized or trapped Afghan security forces and alarm at the amount of territory the Taliban have been able to seize in Helmand this year. If the insurgents are able to sweep away the tenuous government presence in district centers and the capital, Lashkar Gah, it would be a dire setback for the Afghan government, and would give the Taliban a strong foothold in southern Afghanistan.

. . . .

 “The security situation is really bad,” said Toofan Waziri, a Helmand politician and prominent television commentator. Without more foreign air support, he added, “the entire province would probably fall to the Taliban in three days.”

. . . .

“The appearance of the Americans rallied the local police forces in both Marja and Lashkar Gah,” he said. “I think the province would have been lost without them. And the neighboring provinces would then have come under pressure, too.”

Even so, on Sunday, officials in Marja reported that the district center was once again on the verge of falling to the insurgents. And in the strategic district of Sangin, the only territory remaining to government forces was one half of the government center, with officials worried on Sunday that even that toehold could soon fall. “If our problems are not heard by provincial authorities,” said Hajji Ghulam Jan, head of the district council in Sangin, “we will be surrendering to the Taliban.”

. . . . 

The official end of American combat operations in Afghanistan left Afghan forces to defend the province, but corruption, incessant attacks and an ineffectual government response have sapped the security forces’ fighting spirit, according to accounts by local soldiers and officials. Many Afghan soldiers and police officers have laid down their weapons and left the battle.

Mr. Waziri said police units in the province were mysteriously understaffed, and that he had seen evidence of widespread selling of weapons and military equipment on the black market — material that was likely to end up with the Taliban or drug traffickers. Communications and coordination between army and police units is a shambles, he said.

. . . . 

Most of northern Helmand is already in the hands of the insurgents; only the Kajaki and Sangin Districts are still held by the government. The Taliban this year took back control of Musa Qala and Nawzad Districts, regions that had been turned back over to the government by American and British forces. Baghran District, in the far north of the province, has been under Taliban rule for a decade."

—   The New York Times, December 14, 2015

Sunday, December 13, 2015

GOP trash talk terrifies Kremlin

[Editors' Note:  Readers will recall that unlike most media organizations (hello, McClatchy!), the Spy maintains an extensive network of foreign correspondents to keep you abreast of vital overseas news, like which Grade B celebrities sat in the front row at some fashion show, or, like this one, the always crucial issue of What Those Foreigners Think of Us.]

By Natasha Badenova
Moscow Bureau Chief

MOSCOW, Russian Federation – Sources close to the Kremlin report that the inner circle around Russian President for Life Vladimir Putin is growing increasingly apprehensive about the massive buildup of Cold War trash talk in the rhetorical arsenals of GOP presidential candidates.

"Putin is worried about having to negotiate with a President who managed to stiff his casino creditors four times and still persuades white people that he is a brilliant, ruthless businessman," one Kremlin insider told the Spy.  "What if President Trump tries to borrow billions from us?  How would we ever get it back?"

These insiders also told the Spy that the bald Putin is reportedly envious of Donald Trump's full head of lustrous, lifelike hair.  "Best hair wins.  That's how the world works," Putin is reported to have told his inner circle.

Putin: scared shirtless?

Other GOP candidates are having a similar in terrorem effect on the normally unflappable Russian supremo.  He is known to be especially concerned by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, only partly due to Christie's endorsement by a New Hampshire newspaper closely read in the Russian capital.  "Putin's plan to build a bridge to connect Crimea to the Russian mainland might be in jeopardy," warned one source close to the Russian leader.

"What if Christie does to Putin what he did to the mayor of Fort Lee?  Christie could airdrop orange cones and create havoc for weeks or longer.  We would be defenseless."

But some Russian Government sources say that the GOP candidate most feared in the Kremlin is Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.  "I mean, the guy is such an a****** that Putin couldn't stand to be in the same room with him.  One minute into their first summit, it would be like take whatever you want but get me the f*** out of here," said a close Putin ally.

Cruz's election would be especially galling to Putin, who has carefully cultivated his image as the most insufferable head of state in the world.  "But come on, President Cruz?  No contest."

Although most reliable sources firmly believe that Putin is terrified about the GOP field, a few dissidents tell a different story.  According to Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev, every time Putin sees a GOP contender on television, he "starts laughing his ass off."

Saturday, December 12, 2015

From the Archives: Crude putz runs for President, terrifies Establishment

[Devoted readers of the Spy will recall that one of the advantages of a 275-year publication history is the ability to pad out our offerings with old stuff dredged up from our archives.  Somehow our thoughts turned to a distant time when an ignorant race-baiting demagogue attracted the attention of stupid white people.  Let's go back to 1968 and give thanks that such things can't happen anymore  – The Editors]


By David Bloviator
Political Editor
with additional material from Walter Rugaber and Ben A. Franklin 
New York Times News Service

WORCESTER, Mass.  -- Independent Presidential candidate George C. Wallace spoke yesterday on the street here to a largely adoring crowd in this vibrant Central Massachusetts metropolis.  Although his grasp of the complex domestic and foreign issues facing the United States proved ephemeral at best, Wallace stirred the crowd with fervent if simplistic attacks on student protesters and urban rioters, which the almost entirely white audience understood to be code for Negroes.

The arch segregationist knew enough to eschew the racist rhetoric that had propelled his political rise in Alabama, while getting his message of intolerance and hate across in a way that would be palatable to working-class Northern whites.  Styling himself as their spokesman and protector, Wallace told the crowd that the Washington establishment wasn't looking out for their interests.

Claiming wildly that there wasn't a "dime's worth" of difference between the Republican and Democratic Parties, Wallace said he would send 30,000 heavily armed Federal troops into the streets if necessary to restore "law and order."  

"It's a sad commentary when you can't talk about law and order in the streets without some liberal left-winger saying you're a racist and I resent it."

Later his staff said that Wallace had raised over $1 million in small contributions and qualified for the Presidential ballot in 25 states.

Reaction from audience members varied.  Mrs. Kathleen Burke of Webster, Mass. said she supported Wallace because he stood up for people like her.  "What have the liberal Democrats ever done for me?" she asked.  When asked whether she had benefited from the new Medicare law, she said she was paying for that already.

Behind her a slight balding middle aged man who gave his name only as "Whitey" said: "I like the cut of his jib."

The fervent support of Northern and Southern white voters has caused the Washington political establishment to take notice of Wallace, whom they once dismissed as a crude buffoon with bad hair.  Recent Gallup Polls show Wallace with between 14 and 17% of the popular vote and leading or competitive in states representing 100 electoral votes.  "Wallace has read the thoughts of the American people pretty well," said Texas Gov. John Connally.

But Wallace also attracted a number of skeptics and outright opponents.  Hillary Rodham, a student at prestigious Wellesley College, peered over her purple-tinted spectacles and said: "Can you imagine choosing among Humphrey, Nixon, and Wallace?  I could do a better job than any of them!"

Others expressed no interest in the Wallace phenomenon.  Donald Tromp [sic - Ed.], a visiting student from Queens, N.Y., claimed never to have heard of Wallace.  "Are you kidding?  I've got a heavy date with a hot Croatian exchange student from Holy Cross.  You know what that means: in an hour I'll be b**** deep in top p****!  Now get out of my way or my dad will beat you up."

Friday, December 11, 2015

Now they tell us

"Mosul's strategic importance made it seem a necessary addition to Iraq, and the strong probability that it contained valuable oilfields made it a desirable one, but it was part of what was supposed to have been Kurdistan; and [Indian Army Captain] Arnold Wilson argued that the warlike Kurds  . . . 'will never accept an Arab ruler.'

"A fundamental problem, as Wilson saw it, was that the almost two million Shi'ite Moslems in Mesopotamia would not accept domination by the minority Sunni Moslem community, yet 'no form of Government has yet been envisaged, which does not involve Sunni domination.'  The bitterness between the two communities was highlighted when each produced a rival Arab nationalist society.  Also to be considered was the large Jewish community, which dominated the commercial life of Baghdad, and the substantial Christian community that included the Nestorian-Chaldean refugees from Turkey who had gathered in the are of Mosul.

"Seventy-five percent of the population of Iraq was tribal, Wilson told London, 'with no previous tradition of obedience to any government.'"

-- D. Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace, 1989 at 450 (describing British Government cables of 1920)


When we decided to suspend our publication in 2012, we thought we had left you in reasonably good shape.  Three years later, it is clear that, having made a hash of everything at home and abroad, you are once more in desperate straits.  Thus we have returned, with our crack team of editors and reporters but in a new format that, not to put too fine a point on it, requires even less work than before. 

As a result of the new format we were able to flog off our magnificent headquarters and printing plant and are now subleasing space in a former Ames Department Store in Old Sludgebury, Mass., but hey if it's good enough for the Washington Post and the Boston Globe, it's good enough for us.  Unlike the current owner of the Post, we have provided fully functional windows for our staff in an effort to reduce the incidence of summer heatstroke.

-- The Editors