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Whoops, I Did It Again!

[ 0 ] June 7, 2007 |

An absolute must-read piece by Eric Boehlert on “journalist” Jeff Gerth and the “reporting” that ended up with a President being impeached. His primary strategy is to blame many of the countless errors in his allegations about the Whitewater non-scandal on his colleagues, throwing the editors who inexplicably defended him under the bus. How about the crucial claim that Bill Clinton protected James McDougal’s S&L from being shut down? Funny story:

Yet reading Her Way, which details Whitewater at great length, there is no reference to Bassett Schaffer, and there is no reference to the allegation that the Arkansas regulator turned a blind eye to Madison’s woes in order to help out Clinton’s savings and loan chum. The entire premise of the Times’ early Whitewater reporting has simply disappeared.

Why? Because Gerth’s reporting on Bassett Schaffer was categorically false. Arkansas regulators had no authority to independently shut down failing, federally insured savings and loans. That task was up to the federal regulators, who, during the mid-1980s, were excruciatingly slow in acting against teetering savings and loans nationwide. More important, Bassett Schaffer, cast by the Times as a hack who did Clinton’s bidding, had written urgent letters to federal regulators beseeching them to take action against McDougal’s savings and loan, which they eventually did. (In 1997, McDougal was convicted of 18 counts of fraud and conspiracy stemming from bad loans made by Madison in the late 1980s. The charges were unrelated to Whitewater.)

What’s absolutely extraordinary is that Bassett Schaffer detailed all the pertinent background information for Gerth in a 20-page memo prior to the publication of Gerth’s accusatory articles. Gerth and the newspaper simply chose to ignore the inconvenient truth.

What’s even more amazing is that Gerth, having ginned up an entirely phony pseudo-scandal with massive historical consequences, was allowed to remain in the employ of the New York Times to help ruin somebody else’s life with his ineptitude. And has now been given a contract to write a heavily promoted book about a subject he has a rather extensive history of getting wrong. How can anybody take anything Gerth says seriously? And why is he still being given a major platform? It would be a better use of corporate money for Paris Hilton to get another record deal, and she may well be capable of doing more competent reporting about the Clintons.

Shoot Me Now

[ 0 ] June 6, 2007 |

I’m not sure what’s more embarrassing–Politico chief political columnist Roger Simon ignoring Romney’s basic ignorance (or rank dishonesty) about a massively important issue, or skipping that boring stuff to discuss how he “has shoulders you could land a 737 on.” I think you can see why they would write a fawning profile of Ann Althouse. More from Digby.

More than a year left. Ye gods. [HT: Atrios]


[ 0 ] June 6, 2007 |

Steve Gillard’s Times obituary. (Via Shakes.)

Discrimination Double Standards

[ 0 ] June 6, 2007 |

Speaking of Judge Southwick and peremptory challenges, this is interesting. Apparently he (along with a majority of his colleagues in Mississippi) is sometimes sympathetic to claims of racial discrimination. If they’re made by a white person:

Judge Southwick has participated in numerous cases involving challenges to the racial makeup of a jury under Batson v. Kentucky, in which the United States Supreme Court held that peremptory challenges to jurors cannot be used in a racially discriminatory manner. In 59 of the 70 Batson cases reviewed for this report, the defendants challenged their convictions on the ground that the prosecution had used peremptory challenges to strike African- American jurors. Judge Southwick, voting with a majority of the Court in every case, voted to uphold the convictions in all but five of these cases.

In 10 of these 70 Batson cases, the defendants challenged their convictions on the ground that the prosecution had unfairly prevented them from using their peremptory challenges to exclude white jurors (in one case the juror whom defendant sought to strike was Asian American). Defendants, with Judge Southwick again joining the majority of the Court in every case, lost all ten of these challenges. In the final case, the defendant challenged his conviction on both grounds and lost on both grounds, with Judge Southwick again in the majority.

In other words, Judge Southwick and a majority of the judges on the Court of Appeals routinely rebuffed allegations of prosecutorial racism against African Americans in jury selection while upholding allegations of anti-white discrimination levied against defendants.

Again, the point here is not that Southwick is racist in his personal beliefs; I have no idea if he is. As the previous Chief Justice made clear, you can be consistently hostile to civil rights without being a bigot, and the public positions matter more than subjective beliefs. Obviously, there are probably other elements of reactionary statist judging involved here: one set of discrimination claims would benefit defendants, and one would benefit the state. And, depressingly, it is also true that creating standards that make it virtually impossible for black defendants to prove racial discrimination doesn’t make Southwick unique; it makes him an all-too-common reactionary, the kind of judge George W. Bush held up as his model (and appointed to the Supreme Court when he had the chance.) That’s the point. We don’t need more of them on the federal courts.

Serious Political Journamalism

[ 0 ] June 6, 2007 |

I suppose it’s not exactly shocking that the internet’s premier source for political haircut news would uncritically endorse the “look–boobies!!!!” story about an entirely banal group photo (with an egregious mischaracterization of the book written by the woman being demeaned in the bargain!) Still, what I don’t understand is if they’re going to uncritically endorse Althouse’s crackpot interpretations, why not go all the way? How about a good conspiracy theory about the Clenis (TM), perhaps something about how Jessica was a plant meant to throw investigators who were about to arrest Clinton for his role in the slaying of Vince Foster off the scent? Or perhaps a sidebar asking why Hillary Clinton would endorse a site that’s “clearly” about particular sexual practices? Some creativity, please! (Christ, I hope they don’t take this as a challenge.)

…see the video of Jessica on Colbert here.

Peremptory Challanges

[ 0 ] June 5, 2007 |

I reiterate my opposition here.

Bush’s Idea of a Fair Judge

[ 0 ] June 5, 2007 |

Via Matt, an excellent summary of the record of Leslie Southwick, the latest Bush Circuit Court nominee whose primary qualification is a slavish devotion to business interests. Particularly remarkable is the case of Richmond v. Mississippi Dep’t of Human Services, in which the Court of Appeals of Mississippi (in an opinion joined by Southwick) upheld the state’s decision to overrule the Department of Human Services’s decision to fire an employee who used a racial slur against another employee. The state’s decision is subject to review, and cannot be “arbitrary or capricious.” So what were the findings that justified overriding the decision of DHS? As the dissent notes, here was the argument:

(1) DHS overreacted;

(2) the remark was made in an open meeting with an atmosphere of give and take;

(3) the term “good ole nigger” was not a racial slur;

(4) calling Varrie Richmond a “good ole nigger” was equivalent to calling her “teacher’s pet.”

Arguing that these justifications for overriding the DHS’ decision to fire the employee strain credulity is the least that can be said. (“Teacher’s pet?”) They were, however, good enough for Southwick, despite his typical position that employers should normally have the virtually unlimited discretion to fire employees. Southwick is not good enough for a seat on the federal circuit courts, and the Democrats should not consider even letting him out of committee. Although Supreme Court appointments get the vast bulk of the attention, other federal appointments matter a great deal, and the more appointments Bush gets to make the more ambiguous Supreme Court precedents that will be applied by judges who make John Roberts look like Thurgood Marshall.

States’ Rights!

[ 0 ] June 4, 2007 |

Welcome to Crazy Nino’s House of Federalism! We guarantee that any characterization of facts by a state court, even if it’s so tendentious or transparently false that even a conservative darling circuit court judge can see through it, will be accepted!* Don’t worry about pesky Constitutional rights–make up whatever crap you need to and string ‘em up!

*Note: guarantee void if it may prevent a Republican President from being elected.

It’s Alright Mr. Kennedy, My Uterus Is Only Bleeding

[ 0 ] June 4, 2007 |

Marty Lederman points us to an interesting WaPo article, in which a few members of America’s tiny minority of serious, principled “pro-lifers” have come to see that “Partial Birth” bans are silly, irrational laws whose primary purpose is to separate money from their wallets and funnel it to the Republican Party. Focus on the Family, however, maintains that the bans do have an upside: the law does increase the “danger of internal bleeding from a perforated uterus.” If you don’t believe me that most of the American forced pregnancy lobby cares a great deal more about punishing women for sexual choices they don’t approve of than protecting fetal life, well, I say we take their word for it.

And, again, this explains the sexism in Kennedy’s opinion; you take it away, and the legislation has no connection with a legitimate state interest at all. As you can see, most anti-choicers (despite the bad faith Congressional findings that 2+2=171) don’t really think that these bans on a safer procedure protect women’s physical health. They simply believe that women can’t be trusted to make judgments about their own lives, and if this causes some women to be seriously injured that’s a feature, not a bug. It’s almost impossible to overstate how disgusting this legislation is, and how deeply entwined outright misogyny is with the American “pro-life” movement.

Off the Canvas

[ 0 ] June 4, 2007 |

The Red Sox, I suppose did the job they needed to do for themselves; they’re still pretty much in command of the division. But although mitigated by Saturday’s enjoyable victory–with Pasta Diving turning in such a wretched defensive performance that (after some hilarious straining: “Lowell got in his eyes! And then the moons of Saturn!”) even McCarver had to stop making excuses–with respect to the more important question of knocking the Yankees out of the playoffs they failed once again. The Yankees are only 7 out of the wildcard, and they’re certainly capable of making that up. You can’t say they’re favored–the Tigers and Indians are both pretty good–but they have a very serious chance. I still think they’ll score the most runs in the league, their rotation will be OK, and Rivera’s clearly back. (A lot of the undue optimism about the Yankees seems to revolve around Slappy’s alleged lack of clutchiosity and Jetertude, which as we saw once again last night are regrettably unfounded.) Although I like the Red Sox more as a team, it must be said that the Angels did their job while the Red Sox have now let them hang around by losing 4 out of 6 when they were down.

Having said that, I was probably wrong about the Red Sox not winning the division and certainly wrong about them not signing Damon. I still don’t like Crisp at all as an offensive player–he’s a singles hitter with no plate discipline–but he’s not only been better than Damon in the field but actually good period, and if the Red Sox sign Jones or Ichiro! they’ll obviously win the gamble easily. But the Yankees will be in the playoff hunt in September.

You may have also heard that Clemens was scratched today with a “fatigued groin.” Rumors that he was following the Slappy Tour of Manhattan are unconfirmed at press time.

Not That!

[ 0 ] June 3, 2007 |

Shorter Verbatim Rudy Giuliani: “[Letting Bush’s upper class tax cuts expire] would be an astounding, staggering tax increase. She wants to go back to the 1990s.”

What a nightmare that would be!

A preview of the 2008 Republican platform is here.


[ 0 ] June 2, 2007 |

Steve Gilliard has passed away. It seems inconceivable to me, and he will be missed sorely by all who knew him. Condolences to his friends and family, who provided such staunch support throughout his illness.

…Jane has a remarkably eloquent tribute.

Julia, TPNH, and the Talking Dog remember. Jill offers a reader’s perspective. Kevin has a terrific post with a comprehensive roundup of links.

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