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“The Never-Ending Hillary Clinton Story”: Up With The Strongman, Down With The Bitch!

Although nobody sensible would choose to do it this way, America’s political fate has become captive to the TV news media’s never-ending quest for ratings. Months before the earliest votes are cast, the 2016 presidential contest has turned into a “reality TV” melodrama.

The themes are broad and simple: Donald Trump is cast as the Nationalist Strongman and Hillary Clinton as the National Bitch. Up with the Strongman, down with the Bitch! Yes, 20 other candidates are vying for attention, and somebody else could assume a starring role should these narratives lose momentum.

Even the supposedly left-wing MSNBC broadcasts Trump’s speeches live, giving the billionaire braggart free publicity that even he might not be able to afford. Whatever you can say about Trump, he gives good TV — that is, if professional wrestling extravaganzas are your idea of family entertainment.

Also, it’s always been clear that no Democratic woman, and certainly not one named Clinton, can be elected President of the United States without being designated a brass-plated bitch. Having failed to entomb Bill Clinton and drive a wooden stake through his heart, wrecking Clinton’s candidacy has become the Washington press clique’s overriding goal.

And yet the geniuses running her campaign act as if they don’t know it. Consider reporter Amy Chozick’s remarkable piece in the September 8 issue of The New York Times: “Hillary Clinton to Show More Humor and Heart, Aides Say.” According to “extensive interviews” with “top strategists” at the campaign’s Brooklyn headquarters, Chozick wrote, Mrs. Clinton would be urged to exhibit empathy and humor on the campaign trail.

Such as when she recently joked, apropos of Trump’s insistence that he didn’t buy that orange thing on his head from Hair Club for Men, that her own “hair is real,” though “the color isn’t.”

Well, it seems here that everybody in Clinton’s Brooklyn office involved in the Times exclusive ought to walk the plank. Voluntarily or otherwise. The Daily Caller‘s sarcastic headline summed things up perfectly: “Hillary Plans To Be More Spontaneous.”

The idea of Clinton as a kind of political Stepford Wife, calculating and “inauthentic” to use the cant term, is so deeply imprinted in the press clique’s standard narrative that they reacted pretty much the way your dog does when you rattle his leash.

Let Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank speak for them all: “And now comes the latest of many warm-and-fuzzy makeovers — perhaps the most transparent phoniness since Al Gore discovered earth tones.”

Never mind that the whole “earth tones” and “invented the Internet” fiascos were malicious inventions. Caricaturing Gore as a posturing phony made it possible for make-believe rancher George W. Bush to become president.

So how is it possible that Clinton’s communications director, Jennifer Palmieri, one of two staffers quoted in the Times by name, couldn’t see that coming?

Another Clinton staffer confided that although the candidate would emphasize income inequality, she’d be “scrapping the phrase ‘everyday Americans,’ which wasn’t resonating with voters.” One mocked it as too much like Walmart’s “Everyday low prices.”

Presumably, the campaign will choose a more tasteful slogan from Tiffany & Co. or Bergdorf Goodman.

Esquire‘s always understated Charles P. Pierce calls Clinton staffers “a writhing ball of faithless snakes,” more concerned with advancing themselves than electing her. Do they not grasp that wrecking her candidacy is Priority One at the New York Times?

Indeed, no sooner had Clinton made a rote apology for the manufactured email “scandal” than staffers “who insisted on anonymity to discuss private conversations,” hurried to the same Times reporter to emphasize that they’d been urging her to kiss the news media’s collective feet for weeks.

Supposedly, Bill had resisted the idea on the grounds that she hadn’t done anything wrong. Supposedly too, he urged staffers to try harder to make that clear.

Based solely on her appearance on Chris Hayes’ MSNBC program, I’d say the aforementioned Palmieri — President Obama’s former communications director — couldn’t explain how to pour sand out of a boot with the instructions printed on the heel. Her speech mannerisms make her difficult to follow, and she talks in circles.

The Clinton campaign needs to send out more spokespeople like former governors Howard Dean and Jennifer Granholm, who are capable of clarity and forcefulness. Here we are months into this pointless debacle and it’s left to the Justice Department to state that Clinton’s email arrangements were legal, proper, and presumably known to everybody in the Obama administration who sent her a message.

And, oh yeah, that business about how Clinton’s obsessive secrecy caused her computer’s server to be wiped of all data? That was false also, as Bill Clinton apparently wanted the campaign to say all along.

So spooks in places like the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (seriously) now say emails sent in 2010 should be made Top Secret in 2015?

Isn’t that like getting a traffic ticket in the mail from a town you drove through last month because they dropped the speed limit last week?

And if it really is as absurd as that, then shouldn’t somebody say so?

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, Featured Post, September 16, 2015

September 20, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Election 2016, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Badly Misleading And Dangerous”: About Those Rising Murder Rates: Not So Fast

Are the increases in murders in major cities like Chicago, Milwaukee, and New York City indicative of a broader trend in American cities? That’s the conclusion encouraged by a front-page New York Times article, Murder Rates Rising Sharply in Many U.S. Cities. It’s a scary story, conjuring images of the high-crime 1990s and fueling speculation about an ostensible “Ferguson Effect” — the unsubstantiated notion that, as The Times put it, “less aggressive policing has emboldened criminals.” This is badly misleading and, at a time when criminal justice reform is making notable bipartisan advances, it’s also dangerous.

Of course, The Times isn’t an academic journal, and its story wasn’t meant to be a rigorous analysis of a big database; it was a glimpse into a current conversation with some new numbers. Still, it’s worth taking a closer look at those numbers.

My own analysis of publically available homicide statistics for a broader selection of cities yields conclusions that are rather different from those stated or implied in the Times article. The differences are related to how cities were selected and the way the data were interpreted.

City Selection

It is not clear how the cities examined by the Times were chosen. The article included ten cities with populations ranging from over 8 million (New York) to just over 317,000 (St. Louis). But there are 60 U.S. cities with estimated 2014 populations in that range. The Times included only four of the 20 most populous U.S. cities. The authors do not explain how those cities were chosen, leaving readers to assume that the findings presented are representative of a broader increase in homicides across U.S. cities. That does not appear to be the case.

In just a few hours, I was able to locate publically available data to support similar analyses for 16 of the 20 most populous cities, and the results, summarized below, suggest a much less pervasive increase than one might infer from the Times analysis.

Interpretation of Statistics

First, not all of the increases cited by the Times are statistically reliable; that is, some of them are small increases, or are based on small numbers of cases, such that the observed increases could have occurred by chance alone. Among the 16 top-20 cities for which I found publically available data, only three experienced statistically reliable increases. Only one of the top-20 cities included in the Times’ sample, Chicago, experienced an increase that was statistically significant. Five of the smaller cities included by the Times did experience statistically reliable increases, but what of the other 35 cities with populations in that range?

Even where a statistically reliable increase has been experienced, a single year-to-year increase does not necessarily imply a meaningful trend. Often, such changes fall within the range of normal year-to-year fluctuations. For example, I was able to obtain historical data on year-to-year changes in homicide counts for Chicago, the only top-20 city in the Times analysis that had a statistically significant increase from 2014 to 2015. From 2009 to 2010, homicides increased 5.1 percent. The next year, however, there was a 13.1 percent decrease. The year after that, a 28.5 percent increase, and then decreases of 16.4 and 3.4 percent in 2013 and 2014, before homicides climbed back up 11.3 percent in 2015. Looked at over a longer time period, the numbers do not demonstrate a stable trend.

Thus, neither the Times analysis nor my own yields compelling evidence that there has been a pervasive increase in homicides that is substantively meaningful. It seems premature to be discussing broad explanations and long-term solutions for what may not be a broad or long-term phenomenon. And yet the spike in a few cities has already prompted speculation that the numbers reflect the increased availability of guns, or the demoralization of police.

Of course, the lack of compelling evidence of a broad-based increase does not prove that no such increase is occurring. Trends in homicide rates (and crime rates generally) are extremely important topics that warrant further investigation. But before we begin to speculate about causes and potential remedies, we need a more comprehensive understanding of the prevalence and location of increases in homicide rates that actually depart from normal fluctuations. This suggests a need for analyses that span several years, for as many medium- and large-sized jurisdictions as possible. It would also be useful to undertake such analyses for related crimes, such as non-fatal shootings, non-fatal stabbings, and aggravated assaults, since the difference between those and homicides may often be a matter of random luck, the type of weapon readily available, or the distance to the nearest emergency room.

Only then will we be in a position to undertake rigorous efforts to explain the problem and explore potential remedies.

 

By: Bruce Frederick, Senior Research Fellow at the Vera Institute of Justice, The Marshall Project, Brennan Center for Justice, September 4, 2015

September 16, 2015 Posted by | Crime Rates, Homocide, Law Enforcement | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Fairness And Accuracy, Not Loyalty To Any Politician”: Vendetta Or Paranoia? The ‘Times,’ The ‘Beast,’ And The Clintons

When Lloyd Grove of The Daily Beast showed up in my email yesterday, asking me to talk about the New York Times and the Clintons, I should have known what to expect. I’m sure Grove did his best (and I appreciate the link to our new e-book, The Hunting of Hillary), but his post left much to be desired.

Grove’s fundamental mistake is to skew the discussion of alleged Times bias against the Clintons as Pulitzer-winning Times editors and staffers versus “diehard Clinton loyalists” and “allies.” Evidently, anyone who criticizes media coverage of Bill and Hillary Clinton falls in that latter category — and so he condescends to describe me as such. Whatever my views about the Clintons, however, my concern is fairness and accuracy, not loyalty to any politician. Are James Fallows, Rachel Maddow, Jay Rosen, and Margaret Sullivan, the paper’s public editor — all of whom have lamented evidence of Times bias against Hlllary Clinton — also “loyalists”? I don’t think so.

In my 2008 columns on the Democratic presidential primary for Salon and The New York Observer, Hillary Clinton suffered much tougher treatment than Barack Obama. It isn’t hard to look them up. I also assigned tough stories about her campaign, notably a major exposé of Mark Penn’s anti-union consulting. None of that was the work of a “Clinton loyalist.” Now I edit The National Memo, and Hillary Clinton has received no special dispensation here, either.

As for the question of bias in today’s Times, I sent Grove an email listing specific examples that he naturally ignored:

When Gene Lyons and I wrote The Hunting of the President in 2000, we showed how Times reporting on Whitewater had been slanted and woefully inaccurate from the beginning. Our viewpoint about that “scandal” was thoroughly vindicated. But unlike some other prominent journalists who were once obsessed with Whitewater, the Times editors never acknowledged its central role in that fiasco.

Over the years since, the paper’s coverage of the Clintons has veered back and forth, sometimes wildly — and particularly whenever Hillary Clinton is or appears to be a presidential candidate. Anybody looking for a Times bias can cite several glaring examples: the inaccurate front-page story about the Clinton Foundation’s supposedly shaky financing; the first inaccurate story about foundation donor Frank Giustra and Kazakhstan; the second highly misleading story about Giustra, Kazakhstan, and Uranium One; the peculiar “deal” that the paper did with Clinton Cash author Peter Schweizer; and the series of stories about Hillary Clinton’s emails, based on leaks from the Republicans on the House Select Committee on Benghazi — which culminated in the embarrassingly wrong “criminal referral” story.

Reviewing the Times’ role in promoting the Whitewater “scandal,” Grove is more misleading than revealing — and prefers assertions to basic facts. On the Pillsbury reports that exonerated the Clintons, for instance, he links to a tendentious article by Jeff Gerth and Stephen Engelberg claiming that James McDougal, the Clintons’ crooked and deranged Whitewater partner, somehow “protected” them from a financial loss. Actually, McDougal swindled the Clintons and secretly disposed of Whitewater assets for his own benefit.

Indeed, Times editors and reporters repeatedly sought to minimize the exculpatory findings of the Pillsbury report. They also failed to correct the false suggestion at the heart of Gerth’s original “exposé” — namely that Bill Clinton’s banking appointees somehow protected McDougal and his bankrupt Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan, when in truth Clinton’s state government did everything in its power to shut him down.

In an email to Grove, Gene Lyons pointed to this crucial problem, noting “the fact, which I think has NEVER been reported by the NYT, that [Arkansas] regulators removed McDougal from his own [Madison Guaranty] S & L and urged the Feds to shut it down long before they did.”

On the upside, I was amused by Gerth’s pompous assertion that his Whitewater reporting has withstood “the test of time.” (Equally comical is a quote from disgraced former Times editor Howell Raines praising Gerth as “one of the best investigative reporters ever.” Now there’s a reliable source!)

The test of time? A conservative estimate of the amount of taxpayer treasure wasted on “investigating” Whitewater – a money-losing venture that ended years before Bill Clinton ran for president – is around $100 million. Which doesn’t include the huge opportunity costs for the country, Congress, and the president, as well as the damage inflicted on many innocent people in Arkansas and elsewhere.

That enormous waste of time and money spent probing a defunct real estate deal is Gerth’s principal legacy to American journalism.

Interested readers can find a thorough accounting of media errors in covering Whitewater – and the troubling way that Republican lawyers and businessmen used both Gerth and the Times – in The Hunting of Hillary. It’s a funny story, if you appreciate dark humor. And it’s still available, free.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editors Blog, Featured Post, September 2, 2015

September 4, 2015 Posted by | Bill and Hillary Clinton, Clinton Emails, Clinton Foundation | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Shaky Allegation Unsupported By Facts”: The Media Chase Hillary, Time And ‘Times’ Again

At the expense of pedantry, here’s how a serious newspaper covers an important story: “Tom Brady hearing transcript details judge’s comments to NFL, NFLPA,” reads the Boston Globe headline.

Datelined New York, the August 21 article states that Judge Richard M. Berman “put immense pressure on the NFL.” It quotes him telling the league its punishment of the Patriots quarterback in “Deflategate” constitutes a “quantum leap” from the evidence.

The byline establishes that Globe reporters were there in the courtroom. Indeed, the online version contains a link to the full hearing transcript.

(As an aside, this column’s readers can’t say nobody warned them about the shaky evidence and shoddy reasoning behind this overblown affair.)

Now then: Let’s move to the apparently far less significant question of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s fabled email account. I say that because a recent New York Times account of a different federal judge’s statement supposedly about that account bears few indicators of real journalism.

Indeed, if one were of a low and suspicious nature regarding the Times’ historically inept Washington bureau, one might suspect yet another example of the “Clinton Rules” — that is, a shaky allegation unsupported by facts.

Like a recent wildly inaccurate Times article on the same topic, the story carried Michael Schmidt’s byline. The headline of Schmidt’s original July 23 piece was “Criminal Inquiry Sought In Clinton’s Use of Email.”

Except, oops, there was no criminal investigation, nor was Hillary Clinton directly involved in what amounted to an argument between the CIA and State Department over retroactively classifying information — to wit, how many Clinton emails the State Department planned to release needed to be withheld from public scrutiny under today’s circumstances.

After being forced to retract virtually the entire article in a piecemeal process its own public editor, Margaret Sullivan, characterized as “to put it mildly, a mess,” Times editors pinned the blame on anonymous sources they wouldn’t identify. They vowed to be more cautious.

“Losing the story to another news outlet would have been a far, far better outcome,” Sullivan wrote “than publishing an unfair story and damaging the Times’ reputation for accuracy.”

Soon afterward, the public editor said she agreed with a reader who argued that the newspaper needed to make “a promise to readers going forward that Hillary is not going to be treated unfairly as she so often is by the media.”

Fast forward to another Schmidt opus that moved on the wire at 3:36 AM on the night of August 21. I read it in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette under the headline: “Judge: Clinton Didn’t Heed Email Policies.”

Datelined “Washington,” the story claimed that U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan “said of Hillary Clinton’s email use that ‘we wouldn’t be here today if the employee had followed government policy,’ according to two people who attended the hearing.”

Two anonymous sources, that is.

The article quoted Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch, a right-wing group suing the State Department for access to Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s private emails, chastising Hillary. It didn’t stipulate how the former Secretary, not a party to the lawsuit, came to be mentioned. Schmidt added that Judge Sullivan was appointed by President Bill Clinton — although a glance at Wikipedia shows that he was initially a Reagan protégé later promoted by George H.W. Bush.

It’s not supposed to matter.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the hard copy New York Times later that morning. Schmidt’s story underwent significant editorial changes. Two anonymous sources were replaced by no sources. “A federal judge on Thursday said,” the story began. The Judicial Watch guy disappeared. Judge Sullivan was no longer a Clinton appointee.

More significantly, the “Washington” dateline was replaced by no dateline.

Basically, the Times told us the judge said something, but contrary to Journalism 101, didn’t say how they knew it or why he said it. Pretending that a reporter attended the hearing when he didn’t, however, would be far worse. Hence, I suspect, the disappearing dateline.

We’re to take it on faith.

Sorry, no sale. As Huckleberry Finn said, “I been there before.”

Actually, “the employee” would be an odd way for a federal judge to refer to the Secretary of State — a cabinet appointee and fourth in line for the presidency — not to mention that everybody from The Wall Street Journal, to Newsweek, CNN and, yes, The New York Times have reported that Clinton’s private email setup was consistent with State Department rules.

So I’m thinking former Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) got it right on Fox News Sunday. “Judge Sullivan’s extraneous remark was about something completely different,” she said “and it was about something going on with somebody else, an employee.”

So it looks like another big hurry, another big screwup.

If the presidential race is as important as the Super Bowl, maybe the Times should show us the transcript.

 

By: Gene Lyons, Featured Post, The National Memo, August 26, 2015

August 27, 2015 Posted by | Clinton Emails, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The National Bitch Hunt Is Definitely On”: Why Hillary Clinton Drives Her Enemies Crazy

Same as it ever was. Once again, according to pundits on the influential Washington, D.C. cocktail party circuit, Hillary Clinton is in deep trouble. The National Bitch Hunt is definitely on. Surely you didn’t think we could have a female presidential candidate without one?

Rolling down the highway, listening to Diane Rehm’s NPR talk show last week, I wondered if I hadn’t driven into some kind of weird political time warp.

In a sense, I had.

“Someone said the other day that Washington may now have reached the state-of-the-art point of having a cover-up without a crime,” pronounced the Washington Post. By failing to come clean, Hillary had managed “to make it appear as if the Clintons had something to hide.”

“These clumsy efforts at suppression are feckless and self-defeating,” thundered the New York Times. Hillary’s actions, the newspaper continued, “are swiftly draining away public trust in [her] integrity.”

OK, I’m teasing. Both editorials appeared over 21 years ago, in January 1994. They expressed outrage at Hillary Clinton’s decision to turn over Whitewater documents to federal investigators rather than to the press, which had conjured a make-believe scandal out of bogus reporting of a kind that’s since grown too familiar in American journalism.  (Interested readers are referred to Joe Conason’s and my e-book The Hunting of Hillary, available from The National Memo.)

However, by failing to roll over and bare her throat, Hillary Clinton only “continued to contribute to the perception that she has something to hide.”

Another joke. That last quote was actually The Atlantic’s Molly Ball on the Diane Rehm program just last Friday. It’s the same old song, except that Ball was complaining about Hillary’s turning her email server over to investigators looking into a dispute between the State Department and the CIA about which documents should have been classified, and when.

She should have turned the gadget over six months ago, Ball opined.

Ah, but to whom? There wasn’t a State Department vs. CIA dispute back then.

No cage filled with parrots could have recited the list of familiar anti-Hillary talking points more efficiently than Rehm’s guests.

The email flap, opined the Times’ Sheryl Gay Stolberg, “creates and feeds into this narrative about the Clintons and Mrs. Clinton that the rules are different for them, that she’s not one of us.”

Most Americans, she added indignantly, “don’t have access to a private email server.”

Actually, most Americans don’t know what a server is, or why the hardware is supposed to matter. Then, too, most Americans have never been Secretary of State, aren’t married to a former president, and don’t enjoy Secret Service protection at home.

Stolberg saw a perception problem too. Nobody was rude enough to ask her about the perception caused by the Times’ public editor’s conclusion that her own newspaper appeared to have an axe to grind against the Clintons after it falsely reported that the emails were the object of a criminal investigation.

They are not.

Stolberg also complained that both Clintons “play by a separate set of rules, [and] that the normal standards don’t apply.”

Which normal standards? According to, yes, the New York Times:  “When [Clinton] took office in 2009…the State Department allowed the use of home computers as long as they were secure…There appears to have been no prohibition on the exclusive use of a private server; it does not appear to be an option anyone had thought about.”

So why are we talking about this at all? No Secretary of State previous to Clinton had a government email account.

Bottom line: when they start talking about narratives and perceptions, these would-be insiders, they’re talking about themselves.

But leave it to the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, who’s written about little else lately, to sum it all up with classic wifebeater logic. Hillary’s emails, he told NPR’s audience, “remind [voters] of the things they don’t like, the secretiveness, the paranoia, the sort of distrust….And then I also think it just feeds the perception that she is a candidate of the past. Do you really want to go back to this? Yes, the Clintons bring many good things. But they also bring this sort of baggage, this stuff that always follows them.”

See, if Hillary would just quit fighting for herself and her issues, they could quit ganging up on the bitch. Meanwhile, this has to be at least the fourth time the same crowd has predicted her imminent demise, if not indictment and conviction. All based upon partisan leaks (this Trey Gowdy joker is nothing compared to Kenneth Starr’s leak-o-matic prosecutors) and upon presumed evidence in documents nobody’s yet seen.

From the Rose Law Firm billing records to Benghazi, it’s the same old story. Because when the evidence finally emerges, it turns out that Hillary has been diligently coloring inside the lines all along.

And that’s because she’s smarter and tougher than her enemies — the very qualities that drive them crazy.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, August 19, 2015

August 20, 2015 Posted by | Clinton Emails, Hillary Clinton, Media | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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